As President Obama embarks on the Betting on America bus tour that will take him to various points in the battleground regions of eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, he is expected to elaborate on the complaint he filed with the World Trade Organization pertaining to tariffs against American-made cars in China.
The blue collar rust belt rallies will attempt to show that the President can be tough on China and that he will do his part to level the economic playing field:
The latest dispute centers on tariffs of 2 percent to more than 12 percent that China imposed on 92,000 larger U.S. cars and sport-utility vehicles exported from the United States in December. China argued that companies like GM were benefiting from government subsidies and selling their products at unfair prices in China.
The administration contends the fees unfairly burden General Motors and Chrysler, which produce the vehicles in plants near Toledo and Detroit. Vehicles slapped with the duties include Chrysler’s Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Grand Cherokee, GM’s Buick Enclave and Cadillac CTS, and the Acura TL.
“The duties disproportionately fall on General Motors and Chrysler products,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday morning. He noted that this is the seventh such action taken against China. “The previous six have all been successful.”
The U.S. Auto Industry is heavily invested in China. A majority of the American cars sold in China are being manufactured there but luxury cars and automobiles with engines 2.5 liters or greater are still built in the United States and shipped there. The sale of such vehicles brought in $3 billion last year.
“The key principle at stake is that China must play by the rules to which it agreed when it joined the WTO,” the White House said in a statement Thursday.
“If China would simply let the market work on its own, we’d have no objections,” Obama said in the Rose Garden that day. “But their policies currently are preventing that from happening. And they go against the very rules that China agreed to follow.”
The AFL-CIO has backed Obama’s position on this matter. Since the President pushed a federal loan through Congress that helped stabilize the auto industry in 2009, profits have soared and 233,700 jobs have been added. Republican candidate Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has publicly said he would have let the industry fail.
During his bus tour, Obama will share the spotlight with popular Democratic senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA). In stark contrast to the 2010 midterm election — when no politician facing reelection wanted the President anywhere near the stage — Obama is welcoming state faces with open arms to help shore up his administration’s standing among blue collar voters.
Both Ohio and Pennsylvania elected Republican governors in the 2010 elections and both victors have struggled with popularity ratings:
The new Republican governors in both states, John Kasich of Ohio and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, have endured brutal periods of trimming state budgets that left both men in poor political standing; 40 percent Ohio voters approve of Kasich’s performance, while 44 percent disapprove, and just 35 percent of Pennsylvanians approve of Corbett’s performance while half disapprove. In Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder had the job approval of just 41 percent of voters.
While Kasich has faced tough approval ratings since starting a fight with public sector unions in his first weeks on the job, Corbett’s drop has been more recent and steep. As the former state attorney general, Corbett became the lead public figure in the criminal case against former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and was viewed as helping usher legendary coach Joe Paterno into exile. Pennsylvanians supported their governor back then, with 47 percent approving of his job and 34 percent disapproving, a reversal of his current standing.
Gaining support in the rust belt region is a must for President Obama. The winner of Ohio has won the general election in the past 10 cycles. New Quinnipiac polling shows that Obama has a slight lead in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Since 1960, no candidate has taken the White House without winning two of those three states.