The Obama campaign is taking special exception to a new Romney TV ad that claims Obama has don’t enough to crack down on Chinese currency manipulation and support American manufacturing.
“It’s time to stand up to the cheaters and make sure we protect jobs for the American people,” Romney says in the ad, which is airing in the vote-rich swing state of Ohio (watch it here).
In response, the Obama team convened a conference call Friday with reporters during which former Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) assailed Romney for the investments his company Bain made in Asia under his watch.
“Governor Romney’s hypocrisy seems to know no ends,” Strickland said. “He claims to have stood up to China, but he has never done that, and I don’t think he ever will.”
Bain investments in the cheap labor markets of southeast Asia were the subject of a Washington Post report from this summer. “Mitt Romney’s financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India,” the Post wrote. “During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.”
That served as the spine to a new ad from the president’s campaign responding to the Romney spot:
Accusations of currency manipulation — that China purposefully undervalues its currency to make its exports cheaper than competing nations — has been a central theme for Romney in the Rust Belt, which has seen manufacturing jobs flee overseas for decades. Romney has repeated promised to make cracking down on “cheaters” like China a major priority. The Obama camp says the president has been tough with China by bringing twice the rate of trade enforcement cases against it.
Romney has also faced criticism on the currency issue specifically, occasionally from his own party. One of his primary opponents, former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, called Romney’s position “pandering.”
Democrats, especially in the manufacturing base of the Midwest, have also complained about China’s unfair play. Rep. Tim Ryan was the author of a bill meant to crack down on the currency issue. “The bottom line is this: we buy far more Chinese goods than the Chinese buy our goods,” Ryan wrote in an op-ed for The Hill in 2010. “Our American manufacturers cannot compete with undervalued goods, and must either lower costs, outsource jobs, or simply close their doors.”
But Ryan, an Obama supporter, echoed Stickland’s critique of Romney, saying the GOP nominee “has just been flipping around trying to score political points.”
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.