- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2012

MANSFIELD, Ohio — Seeking to regain the offense in the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney on Monday said President Obama is to blame for the automatic defense-spending cuts looming at the beginning of next year and that those reductions will devastate communities in Ohio and other key political states.

The Republican presidential nominee said Mr. Obama has refused to specify exactly where he will cut both defense and domestic spending — details he is required to give by legislation he signed this summer.

Those cuts, or “sequesters” as they are known in budget-speak, are the result of last year’s bipartisan debt deal that raised the government’s borrowing ceiling while trying to limit future spending.

“This sequestration idea emanated from the White House, and it will result in the loss of thousands and thousands and hundreds of thousands of jobs across this country, Mr. Romney said, eliciting boos from more than 1,000 people at a rally in a warehouse here. “Once it goes forward, it would also be bad for our national security.”

Trailing in polls after both party conventions, Mr. Romney is hoping to convince voters that lower government spending, particularly on defense, will cost jobs in their communities.

Earlier this year, Congress passed and Mr. Obama signed legislation that requires him to lay out where the cuts will come, which Republican leaders hoped would highlight just where those communities are.

The deadline for that report has passed, but White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the report will be sent over by “the end of the week.”

Mr. Carney also took exception to the claim that the sequesters were the president’s idea. He said if Mr. Obama had had his way, the automatic changes would have included tax increases instead.

“So the sequester, as it exists, reflects not the president’s principles, but the insistence by Republicans that no revenue be included in it — which again goes back to the fundamental conflict that they would rather have deep cuts in the military budget, they would rather have deep cuts in education, in border patrol, in innovation, in infrastructure, and we know in Medicare, than accept the idea that everyone ought to do their fair share,” Mr. Carney said.

Indeed, the budget deal earned bipartisan support, including that of Mr. Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican.

Both sides never intended for the automatic cuts to take place, hoping instead that last year’s deficit supercommittee could reach an agreement to replace the sequesters. But that panel failed, and the first set of cuts is slated for Jan. 2.

The cuts are split evenly between defense and domestic spending, though the military side has received the most attention.

On Monday, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, ratcheted up pressure by releasing excerpts of responses from 13 of the nation’s leading defense contractors, who said they’re concerned the cuts would hurt military readiness and cost jobs.

“Without a robust defense industry, our military will not have the equipment or training needed to fight and win in future conflicts,” Mr. McCain said. “I call again on the president to come to the negotiating table and work with Congress to avert these devastating impacts on our national security and American workers.”

Mr. Romney returned to the campaign trail after spending Sunday at church and preparing for his fall debate showdowns with Mr. Obama. His visit here in Ohio coincided with the news that, in August, for the first time in four months, Mr. Obama outraised Mr. Romney, $114 million to $111 million.

Several polls out Monday also included warning signs for Mr. Romney as he heads into the stretch run of the race. Gallup showed that Mr. Obama received a big post-convention bounce and expanded his lead in a daily tracking poll to 5 percentage points. CNN/ORC International also released a poll that showed Mr. Obama held a 52 percent to 46 percent lead over Mr. Romney among likely voters nationwide.

The Romney camp said it wasn’t worried.

“Don’t get worked up about the latest polling,” said Neil Newhouse, the campaign’s pollster. “While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly. The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama presidency, and Mitt Romney will win this race.”

With that as a backdrop, Mr. Romney tried some new material on the stump, including mocking Mr. Obama’s slogan, which Democrats used repeatedly at their convention.

“‘Forward’ is his campaign slogan,” Mr. Romney said. “I think ‘Forewarned’ is a better term.”

The Romney campaign also used the stop here to draw attention to Mr. Obama’s 2013 budget, which proposed eliminating the C-27J transport aircraft, several of which are housed with the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard.

“Unfortunately, President Obama made the decision to end the mission of the 179th,” said Sen. Rob Portman, who flew into Ohio aboard the Romney campaign plane after helping him prepare for debates this fall with the president. “Ladies and gentlemen, I will continue to fight that decision and fight for a commander in chief who believes we need a strong military in this country and we can’t afford those cuts.”