YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain told an economically ailing Ohio city on Tuesday that lost steel jobs are not coming back but with proper training, workers can rebound just like his once-dead campaign.
“I can’t tell you that these jobs are ever coming back to this magnificent part of the country,” McCain said at Youngstown State University. “But I will commit to giving these workers a second chance. They need it, they deserve it.”
McCain came to Ohio, a key battleground state that is important to both parties in November’s presidential election, while Democrats Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton were busy with Pennsylvania’s primary on
McCain, on a tour of “forgotten places in America” where economic prosperity has been elusive, visited a shuttered steel fabrication plant.
He is trying this week to appeal to moderate voters with his “Time for Action” tour that took him to Alabama’s rural “Black Belt” on Monday, an area that voted Democratic in 2004 although the state overall strongly backed President George W. Bush in that election.
In an Ohio town-hall meeting on Tuesday, McCain returned to a theme that hurt him in January in Michigan, when he said lost auto jobs there were not coming back.
The Arizona senator said he believes Americans need to take advantage of opportunities of a new economy, not cling to the old economy.
“I know that’s small comfort to you, but I can’t look you in the eye and tell you that those steel mills are coming back,” he said.
McCain was asked what he would do if elected in November to slow what the questioner called the dumping of cheap imported steel from China and other countries.
He said he would retool the country’s unemployment insurance program to improve job and education training for workers and that they could emerge stronger just like he did when his campaign was on life support last summer.
“As I recall, a few pollsters even declared my campaign a hopeless cause, and there was no margin of error to soften the blow,” McCain said. “But a person learns along the way that if you hold on, if you don’t quit no matter what the odds, sometimes life will surprise you. Sometimes you get a second chance.”
McCain is biding his time waiting for either Clinton or Obama to win the Democratic nomination. He told reporters he had no preference whom he would rather face in the general election. “I’ve stayed absolutely neutral,” McCain said.
Earlier, standing in front of a faded steel plant, McCain urged Americans to resist the temptation to erect barriers to free trade, an issue that framed the debate of the Democratic vote in Ohio earlier this year.
Editing by Cynthia Osterman