GM still owes the government about $25 billion. But many workers in Ohio and elsewhere consider the auto bailout a success.
It affected thousands of businesses, some of them fairly small, that make products that go into vehicles, new and used. Jeff Gase, a UAW union member who introduced Obama at a Columbus rally last week, credited the president with saving the paint company where he works. "Mom and pop body shops" buy the paint, Gase said, and now his plant is running "full steam ahead."
Romney notes that many Ohio car dealerships went out of business during the industry reorganization.
But he is having trouble connecting with middle-class Ohioans, said Tony Tenorio, who hears political conversations in his job as an Applebee's restaurant manager. In June, when he worked in Elyria, Tenorio said many Ohio residents seemed ready to bail on Obama. Now, working at an Applebee's in the more affluent town of West Lake, Tenorio says those same people seem unmoved by Romney.
The Washington Post poll showed that 36 percent of all Ohio voters said they had been contacted by the Obama campaign, and 29 percent said they had heard from Romney's camp.
Romney campaign political director Rich Beeson told reporters Tuesday that Romney's campaign has 40 offices in Ohio to Obama's 100, but he said Republicans are keeping pace.
"We have an equal number of contacts on the ground," Beeson said. He urged reporters and others to "take into account the quality of the contacts, the number of contacts, not just the staff and offices."
Beeson said Romney has one pitch for all of Ohio's voters: America can't afford four more years of Obama. "We don't have to go in and package a message to different groups," Beeson said.
Pro-Romney TV ads, however, target voters in the coal-rich eastern part of the state with spots criticizing Obama's environmental regulations affecting coal-fired power plants. And other Ohio working-class voters are courted in GOP ads saying Obama hasn't been tough enough on China's protection of its exporters.
Obama is airing ads disputing both claims.
Babington reported from Washington.
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