MARTINS?FERRY - Former Gov. Ted Strickland contacted the Times Leader Tuesday to weigh in on the presidential race. He contrasted the candidates and stated why he believes the current president is the best choice for the state and the nation this Election Day.
Both candidates will be campaigning in Ohio.
"In my mind, the president has been on the side of regular working people," Strickland said. "Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have ideas that are not going to be good for all of Ohio, and certainly not good for Eastern Ohio."
Strickland took issue with the widely circulated "War on Coal", stating that both coal employment and coal production have increased under the president's term. He said Barack Obama has also invested into research in safe and more environmentally-friendly uses of coal.
"Mr. Romney has been disingenuous in this issue."
Strickland noted that Romney has meanwhile downplayed a prior antipathy toward the coal industry.
"He's had an election year conversion," he said.
Prior to his governorship, Strickland served with the Governor's Office of Appalachia.
"The Appalachian area has some very special needs," he said, pointing out Ryan's budget, which was passed through the House and praised by Romney, and which includes cuts to the Appalachian Regional Commission and to Medicaid.
"These are differences that are important to people who live along the Ohio River and the eastern part of our state."
He commented on the economic future of the state.
"Ohio and especially Eastern Ohio is very fortunate that it has such rich natural resources," he said, noting the importance of ensuring local benefits as outside interests invest in the area. "The natural gas industry is going to grow and create jobs. I think it's important that landowners be protected and communities be protected.
"The president's benefit plan is an all-of-the-above energy plan," he said, adding that options include coal, gas, biofuels, and nuclear capacity in energy output. "I think that's very good for Southern and Eastern Ohio."
On the national front, Strickland also laid out a comparison of the candidates and found Obama a favorable choice. He said Obama has brought more unfair trade charges against China in the past four years than George W. Bush did in his eight.
"Has stood up strongly against China," he said, stating that the president has helped to create hundreds of jobs in the tire industry through complaints to the trade organizations. "There are people working right now in the tire industry who would likely be unemployed if the president hadn't done that."
He added that the administration has also recently lodged a complaint against China regarding imported auto parts.
Strickland contrasted this to Romney, saying that the candidate has outsourced jobs through Bain Capital and has investments in Chinese companies.
"Now Romney is complaining about China when right today, Romney has investments in Chinese companies through his Bain Capital investments. He has part of his wealth invested in Chinese companies right now, as a candidate for president. I think he's being a little hypocritical."
Strickland said that the president has also proven himself as commander in chief. He referenced Obama's Tuesday speech at the United Nations in the wake of aggressive Iranian rhetoric. The president stated that Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would not be tolerated.
"He was crystal clear on that issue," Strickland said.
"Osama bin Laden is dead and President Obama made the very difficult decision to have our troops go in and take him out. The president has decimated al-Qaida. He has used drone attacks more than President Bush ever did. He has killed the major leadership in the al-Qaida organization. Al-Qaida is much weaker today than when President Obama took office. The president has really shown strength."
Strickland said Romney has not appeared favorable by comparison. He referenced the candidate's premature criticism of the president during the attack on the US Libyan embassy.
"That was a shameful thing for him to have done. A political cheap shot," Strickland said, criticizing what he sees as political opportunism. "It shows that Mitt Romney cannot qualify as mature and stable enough to qualify as commander and chief."
He added that other issues also surround Romney's tax returns.
"He pays 14.1 percent in fed income taxes," he said. "The average Ohioan pays 20.1 percent in federal income tax. It's not fair for a super wealthy person to have a lower tax rate than a regular breadwinner."
Strickland said in the last tax return Romney did not take credit for his charitable contributions since he had publicly stated he paid 13 percent. Strickland said if Romney had taken full credit, the rate would have been closer to nine percent.
Moreover, the public does not know what Romney's returns were in years prior.
"There has to be a reason he will not release his tax returns," Strickland said, noting that Romney required Ryan to release 10 years of tax returns. "I think there's something in his past tax return that would disqualify him in the eyes of the American people."
Campaigning for the president has taken Strickland to Dayton, Columbus and Toledo. He commented on the energy and enthusiasm of the Democratic campaign.
"I believe the momentum is with the president at this time," he said. "The president and vice president are feeling hopeful and optimistic, but they're not taking anything for granted."
He reinforced the importance of this state in the election.
"I'm so proud of Ohio. Ohio is not being taken in by these false accusations and in some cases out-and-out lies. If President Obama wins Ohio, I don't think there's any way Governor Romney can be elected," he said.
"I think Ohio will be the firewall for President Obama," he said. "As a consequence, we will not see Social Security privatized and we will not see Medicare voucherized. Those vital programs will be protected if President Obama is reelected."
He voiced agreement with a recent statement by the president that Washington could not be changed from within. Strickland said public pressure was the incentive to the Republican leadership in the House and Senate to cease obstructing the president and begin to cooperate.
"The only way to cure Washington is to have the grass roots people throughout this country say 'enough is enough'."
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