All roads to the White House appear to lead through Ohio, which explains why the campaigns for President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney are spending so much time squabbling about the auto-industry bailout that affected hundreds of thousands of workers in the swing state.
In the latest volley, Obama campaign officials are pushing back on a claim Republican nominee Romney made last week during a stump speech that Chrysler would be moving Jeep manufacturing to China. Based on a news story by Bloomberg, Romney's take was misleading enough for Jeep to issue a clarification on its website.
"Let's set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China," wrote Gualberto Ranieri, Jeep's senior vice president of corporate communications.
"It's simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world's largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments."
But the pushback on the veracity of Romney's dubious claim did not prevent the campaign from launching a television commercial in the Toledo, Ohio, media market doubling-down on Romney's claim. The ad also claims Romney has a plan to save the auto industry, though he famously penned an op-ed titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" when it was teetering on the edge of extinction.
Reporters have requested copies of Romney's plan, but the campaign has failed to produce them. Meanwhile, Obama's largest strength in the manufacturing heavy Buckeye State has been his stewardship of the auto-industry bailout, seen as widely successful.
During a campaign conference call with reporters on Monday, top Obama officials said Romney's attempt to scare voters into thinking Jeep jobs are being shifted overseas shows he is losing the key state.
"[Romney] released an ad in Toledo that everyone in America knows is flat-out false; it reeks of desperation because that's what it is," said Jim Messina, Obama's campaign manager. "The fact that Romney has decided to run this ad tells you a lot about him and where he stands in Ohio."
The Romney campaign, however, issued an Ohio state-of-the-race memo on Monday, claiming they are poised to win the state's 18 electoral votes.
"We see momentum in five key areas: polling, grassroots voter contact, newspaper endorsements, events, and early-voting statistics," wrote Scott Jennings, the Romney campaign's Ohio state director. "The ticket is barnstorming critical places in Ohio where pumping up the margin of victory is key to recapturing the state. Judging by the crowd sizes, there's no lack of enthusiasm anywhere in Ohio for Romney and Ryan."
No Republican has successfully won the White House without also winning Ohio, a fact that will likely remain true this election as well. Even if Romney beats Obama in Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia, he still doesn't tally the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidency without Ohio.
David Axelrod, Obama campaign senior adviser, acknowledged the gamesmanship that goes into the last week of the election, but said his team is confident they will win.
"You are going to get spun and spun and spun in the next week and what I would urge you to do is focus on the facts, focus on the data, focus on the trends in the state," he said during the conference call. "In eight days we'll know who was bluffing and who wasn't."
- Photos: Chowing Down on the Campaign Trail
- In Ohio, It's All About Getting Supporters to the Polls
- Ohio Sees Fierce Fight Over Voter Roles
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at email@example.com.