Pairing a two-state bus tour with the launch of a new swing-state television advertisement, President Barack Obama is hoping to break through the summertime doldrums with voters in America's rust belt.
The new ad is set to air in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia and builds on a campaign theme Vice President Joe Biden trumpeted in campaign events in Iowa last week--that Republican rival Mitt Romney sought to outsource American jobs for the sake of profits while at the helm of the investment firm Bain Capital whereas the Obama administration has invested in renewing U.S. manufacturing by bailing out the major auto companies.
"Mitt Romney's companies were pioneers in outsourcing U.S. jobs to low-wage countries," a voiceover says in the new ad. "President Obama believes in in-sourcing. He fought to save the U.S. auto industry."
Romney, whose time at Bain has been scrutinized by media reports detailing the practices the firm used to turn around the struggling companies it invested in, has maintained that his job was to build profits. It's a point top Obama advisers agree with Romney on, and have said they aren't criticizing Romney's success. They do claim, however, that the business he was in reflects his values, something that should be relevant to the presidential race--particularly when Romney claimed to be a job creator in his time at Bain.
The advertisement also comes at a time when the Obama administration is coping with new reports that the manufacturing industry is struggling, with production dropping for the first time in three years. A new Gallup survey also shows Americans' confidence in the economy taking a dip from the previous month, with confidence falling more sharply among households earning at least $60,000 a year than among poorer families.
Political observers have long been saying the economy will be the defining issue of the so-far close election, with Obama desperately in need of a positive upswing in order to secure re-election. By focusing on the industrial Midwest on his bus tour, which is launching on Thursday and scheduled to make stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Obama hopes to highlight the positive efforts of his administration in the key region. For more than 50 years, whichever candidate has won two of the following three states--Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida--has won the election.
"The president is rebuilding an economy meant to last, one that restores middle class security by investing in education, energy, innovation and infrastructure and reforms the tax code," said an Obama campaign release accompanying the bus tour details.
Romney's campaign, meanwhile, continues to pair with the Republican National Committee and pound the president for broken promises. On Monday, the focus was on Obama's failure to live up to promises made on healthcare, and on Tuesday it was on the economy and jobs.
"When President Obama first took office, he promised that his stimulus would help rescue the economy. He even commissioned a report that showed it would lower the unemployment rate to 5.6 percent by mid-2012, saying it showed 'exactly' what the plan would mean for America," said Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman in a statement. "By his own standard, President Obama has failed and middle-class families have suffered the consequences. If President Obama had kept his promise, over eight million more Americans would have jobs today."
Both campaigns are making noise on a week most Americans are tuned out of politics, thanks the Fourth of July holiday. In fact, both men are currently on vacation themselves--Obama and family are at Camp David and Romney and his family are at their home in New Hampshire, though Obama is scrapping his usual August vacation on Martha's Vineyard, according to the Boston Globe. But in a deadlocked race--recent national polling shows the two within three percentage points of each other--neither campaign can afford to rest.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.