HILLIARD, Ohio (Reuters) - President Barack Obama blasted Republican rival Mitt Romney on Friday for running an ad that falsely suggested Jeep was moving production to China, accusing his opponent of stretching the truth to scare voters in the final days of the campaign.
Romney told a crowd last week in Defiance, Ohio, that he had read a news article that said Chrysler’s Jeep brand was considering moving “all production to China.”
His campaign aired an advertisement that did not repeat the assertion of a production move but said Chrysler was considering making Jeeps in China, which Chrysler has said previously.
Confusion over the issue prompted Chrysler Group LLC Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne on Tuesday to reaffirm that the company was not moving Jeep vehicle production out of the United States to China.
Obama’s campaign has roundly criticized the Romney ad. The Democratic incumbent’s auto industry rescue is seen as a key reason for the president’s slight but consistent lead in this state, where auto-related jobs are crucial to the economy.
Obama pressed the issue himself on Friday at the start of an all-day swing through Ohio, a battleground state that could determine who wins Tuesday’s election.
Obama said Romney’s ad had prompted workers to make calls asking whether their jobs were secure.
“I know we’re close to an election, but this isn’t a game. These are people’s jobs. These are people’s lives,” Obama said. “You don’t scare hard-working Americans just to scare up some votes. That’s not what being president’s is all about. That’s not leadership.”
Obama’s team has hammered Romney for authoring an editorial about Michigan-based car companies with the headline “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” but the Romney campaign counters that Obama mismanaged the industry rescue.
“The facts are clear: despite his false and misleading attacks, President Obama took the auto companies into bankruptcy. His mismanagement of the process has exposed taxpayers to a $25 billion loss,” said Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg.
“And these companies are expanding production overseas. Under President Obama, we have lost 586,000 manufacturing jobs and the unemployment rate is higher than when he took office.”
Data released on Friday showed the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in October. While U.S. employers stepped up hiring last month, more workers restarted their job hunts resulting in the slight increase.
Obama touched briefly on the jobs report during his remarks.
“This morning, we learned that companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months,” Obama said, before listing other foreign and domestic policy achievements of his administration. “We have made real progress.”
Additional reporting by Margaret Chadbourn in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell and Vicki Allen