Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) doesn’t see eye to eye with President Obama on all aspects of trade and manufacturing policy, but he says the differences between Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on issues like outsourcing and trade law are more than rhetorical — and those differences explain why Ohio’s economy is recovering more quickly than the nation as a whole.
“The president’s got a good record now on trade enforcement, better than any president of the last four,” Brown said Tuesday in an interview at TPM’s D.C. headquarters. “I think the president talks about how he’s enforced trade rules, he talks more about China gaming the system. I think you couple that with the auto rescue, with collective bargaining, from Issue 2 last year in 2011 where a whole bunch of police and [firefighters] who might have leaned Republican are not now. I think that’s a formula to win the state.”
The Obama campaign wants to draw Ohio voters’ attention to the fact that, under Romney’s leadership, the private equity firm Bain Capital aggressively shipped jobs overseas to improve U.S. companies’ bottom lines. But both campaigns have largely sidestepped the policy differences between the candidates on issues like free trade. Brown says they exist — and implied that if Obama followed Romney’s prescriptions, Ohio would be in worse shape today.
“Much of this growth — the reason our unemployment rate has shrunk faster than the national average comes out of the auto rescue, and comes out of trade law enforcement,” Brown said, citing two issues on which Obama and Romney differ. “I don’t know if anybody can quite quantify that, I suppose somebody could. But it’s clear — those are the industries that are doing better.”
Brown doesn’t give Obama a pass on everything. But he also said he doesn’t believe Romney when he claims he’ll take actions on behalf of working-class voters in manufacturing states.
“It would help if [Obama would] label China a currency manipulator, which apparently his advisers don’t want him to do,” Brown said. “Romney has said he’s going to do something along those lines his first day, his first week in office. I don’t have any belief at all that Mitt Romney is serious about improving our trade relationship with China to our advantage. … That’s not who he is, that’s not what he is, it’s not what his contributors want, it’s not what his advisers will say. There’s nothing except raw politics for him to do his little bit of China bashing.”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.