Romney assails Obama economy at shuttered factory

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at the closed National Gypsum drywall factory in Lorain, Ohio, Thursday, April 19, 2012.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
(CBS News) LORAIN, Ohio - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney used the backdrop of a shuttered drywall manufacturing facility here to denounce President Obama's economic policies, which he said made it impossible for the plant to reopen.

The National Gypsum plant closed in 2008 during the height of the recession in President George W. Bush's administration. "Had President Obama's plans worked, it would be open by now," Romney said. "But it's still empty and it underscores the failures of this president's policies in regards to getting the economy going again."

A day earlier, Obama had campaigned less than 10 minutes away at a community college, calling for more government-funded job training programs. Romney's appearance was part of his campaign's new "bracketing" strategy to go wherever the president goes to offer Romney's rebuttal and alternative policy vision.

Check out CBS News political director John Dickerson's "Hotsheet Live" Reporters Roundtable on Obama, Romney and the economy in the video to the left.

Four years ago, in February 2008, Obama had campaigned at the National Gypsum factory, then still in operation. But the business struggled during the recession, going from a seven-day work week to five, and then closing within four months. A senior Romney aide acknowledged that the business closed during Bush's second term, but called it a "testament to the failed leadership of this president" that it had been unable to reopen in the past three years.

Speaking to a crowd of several hundred people seated on folding chairs in the dusty space, Romney argued that Obama's vision for the country had failed, leading to "lost jobs, lost homes, lost dreams."

Unemployment in Ohio, an important swing state, was 8.6 percent when Obama took office in January 2009, and peaked at 10.6 percent from July 2009 to January 2010. It fell to 7.6 percent in February 2012.

Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement, "Mitt Romney actually didn't tell the truth about President Obama's record and his own failed record in Massachusetts -- all while blaming the president for a plant closing that occurred before he took office.

" ... Contrary to Romney's rhetoric today, under President Obama's leadership, every working American has received a tax cut, fewer new regulations have been approved than under President Bush, and we've gone from losing 750,000 jobs a month when he took office to creating over 4 million private sector jobs in the last 25 months. On the other hand, Mitt Romney's record in Massachusetts was one of fewer jobs, higher taxes, more debt, and bigger government."

Republican Gov. John Kasich has been touting his state's recent successes in lowering the unemployment rate, telling Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto on April 2, "We were the No. 1 job creator in America in February, and we are now the No. 4 job creator in the last year."

Kasich, who had held off endorsing a candidate in the Republican primary, announced his support for Romney on Thursday. In a statement distributed by the campaign, Kasich acknowledged the economic improvements in his state and blamed Obama for slowing their progress.

"The progress we've made in Ohio is hampered by a White House that can't make up its mind and which can't set the right course for our economy," Kasich said. "Mitt Romney's got what it takes to get us back on track, and I look forward to working with him to make his campaign in Ohio and across the country a success."

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    Sarah Huisenga is covering the Mitt Romney campaign for CBS News and National Journal.