Before a crowd of 9,000 at the Shelby County Fairgrounds Wednesday, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney continued his string of Ohio appearances with a message that seems designed to pull in voters beyond his Republican base.
Riding a rising wave in the polls and pushing to make up ground in swing state Ohio, Romney — in his third Ohio stop of the day — painted a grim view of the present and an even more dire picture of the future if President Barack Obama is reelected.
Romney attacked the Democratic president’s economic policies and said that if Obama is re-elected taxes and gas prices would go up.
“There’s a high cost to re-electing President Obama,” Romney said.
He said Americans continue to struggle to find jobs and with low incomes and a high poverty rate.
Political scientists said Romney appears to be targeting moderate independent voters in the first debate and in recent speechs. Those voters are a critical voting bloc for any Republican hoping to win Ohio.
“What he is trying to accomplish is a move to the center,” said Nancy Martorano Miller, associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton. “He seems to be moving toward the middle because he needs to attract that small percentage of independent voters.”
“It is the difference between running in primary season and running in the General Election season,” she said. “You have to balance getting the base fired up as well as attract that group in the middle that’s more moderate.”
During his short speech in Sidney, Romney said his economic proposals would create jobs and boost trade with foreign countries. He said Obama had failed to sign any “new” trade agreements in four years.
However, media fact checkers have noted that Obama did negotiate three agreements and in 2011 signed those trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which had been stalled under President George W. Bush.
Romney said he wants to cut taxes for small businesses and to cut regulations.
He said, “the role of government is to protect our freedom, to make it easier for enterprisers to get out and begin their businesses and put people to work.”
“I want regulators to sees their job as creating regulations that make markets work, that don’t crush entrepreneurs,” Romney said.
Obama’s campaign was quick to criticize Romney’s speech.
“In Sidney tonight, Mitt Romney told a series of falsehoods about the President’s plan for rural America. Unsurprisingly, he failed to detail specific plans of his own,” said Jessica Kershaw, press secretary, Obama for America – Ohio. “He said he’d cut taxes, but to pay for his $250,000 tax cuts for multi-millionaires, he’d have to raise taxes on middle class families with kids by $2,000.”
Romney aiming for maximum turnout among Republicans
Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University, said Romney still needs to maximize turnout among Republicans, get them excited about voting for him and offset the advantage President Barack Obama has in large urban areas like Cleveland.
In an effort to energize Republicans - especially in Ohio - Romney has been campaigning heavily in the state. He had three events in the state on Wednesday, one on Tuesday and will return Saturday for an event in Lebanon outside of the Golden Lamb at 5:45 p.m. and another event in Portsmouth.
“According to the polls there are plenty of people who have reservations about President Obama, but Romney must provide a positive case for himself and his agenda,” Smith said. “If he does this in the moderate, optimistic tone of his last debate, he will increase his chances to carry Ohio in November.”
Polls show Romney gaining on Obama in the wake of the Oct. 3 first of three debates, a matchup most analysts thought Romney won.
According to the website RealClearPolitics.com, which aggregates poll results from a wide variety of agencies, Obama led Romney in 28 of the 30 national polls taken in September. But in the five polls taken so far in October, all of which were conducted either wholly or in part after the debate, Romney led in two, Obama led in one, and the other two were tied.
The same dynamic has taken place in Ohio. Until the debate, Obama led Romney in poll after poll. But the three polls public published since the debate show Ohio in a dead heat.
Sidney crowd estimated at 9,000
The crowd cheered and began shouting “USA! USA!” when Romney said, Obama “seems to be changing America in ways that many of us don’t recognize, making us more and more like Europe. I don’t want to become like Europe. Europe doesn’t work there. I want America to become more like America.”
People interviewed after the speech liked what they heard.
John and Marian Benson of Russia, the owners of a tree trimming company, said they were impressed with Romney’s economic plan.
“He supports the farmers and small businessman,” Marian Benson said.
In addition, John Benson said he likes that Romney is a churchgoer and anti-abortion.
“I thought it was very good,” he said of Romney’s speech. “I think it made a lot of sense.”
Nick and DeAnna Baughman of Sidney were equally impressed with what they heard.
Nick Baughman, the owner of a landscaping company, said the speech, particular Romney’s comments on energy, were inspiring.
“The most important thing is getting the cost of energy down because our business revolves around energy,” he said.
DeAnna Baughman, a mother of five children ranging from age 4 to age 19, said reducing the deficient is high on her priority list. She said the burden of the deficit should not be passed on to future generations.
Julie Tobias of Wapakoneta and her mother Rose Swiger of Sidney shook Romney’s hand.
They said people should pay more attention to the candidates’ plans than political spin.
“The people I work with listen to the ads and not what the president and Romney say,” said Tobias, a textile worker. “They need to listen to what they are going to do for the middle class.”
Staff writer Jeremy P. Kelley contributed to this report.