- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2012

Three days before Tuesday’s crucial second debate, an upbeat Mitt Romney acknowledged the larger crowds showing up at his rallies in Ohio and took another jab at President Obama over “Big Bird.”

“In times like this, what is [President Obama] talking about? Saving Big Bird,” the Republican presidential candidate told cheering supporters in Portsmouth, Ohio. “As I look around … his campaign is about smaller and smaller things. And our campaign is about bigger and bigger crowds fighting for a brighter future.”

While Mr. Obama was off the campaign trail Saturday working on preparation for Tuesday’s debate, the Rebublican ticket was busy criss-crossing swing-state Ohio on Saturday, with vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan leading a rally in Youngstown and Mr. Romney holding the event in Portsmouth and another in Lebanon.

Mr. Romney has been drawing huge crowds since last week’s debate with Mr. Obama – a debate that even the president’s supporters acknowledged did not go well for the incumbent. On Wednesday the former Massachusetts governor drew almost 10,000 supporters to an event in Sidney, Ohio, that officials originally thought would draw a crowd of about a thousand.

The GOP presidential nominee also told the Portsmouth crowd that on his first day in office, he’ll brand China a “currency manipulator” and slammed the Obama administration for failing to enforce fair trade practices. “It’s got to stop,” he said.

Mr. Ryan also zeroed in on trade relations with China, a sore spot with Ohioans who have seen a steady drain of manufacturing jobs out of the state.

“We can’t keep going down this path,”’ he said. “‘We can’t keep accepting this is the new normal.”

Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith quickly fired back: “Mitt Romney may think that improving economic security for the middle class, protecting a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions and strengthening Medicare are ‘small things’, but that’s what President Obama is fighting for. You see, Mitt Romney thinks these are ‘small things’ because he just doesn’t get it … These aren’t ‘small things’ – they’re central to our future.”

While the president was out of the spotlight for a day, he did take aim at Ohio’s blue-collar voters with his weekly prerecorded radio and Internet address, touting the recovery of the American auto industry, a key sector in the state.

The campaign also plans to redouble its efforts in the state next week, with first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen hitting the stump for Mr. Obama, who has his own Ohio event scheduled Wednesday in Athens.

Polls show Mr. Obama holds a slight edge over Mr. Romney in Ohio, which could hold the key to the election with its 18 electoral votes up for grabs.