DAYTON, Ohio—The presidential debates are over, Election Day is two week away—and the gloves are officially off.
For weeks, President Barack Obama has criticized Republican nominee Mitt Romney for moderating his position on a range of issues throughout the campaign, but in a Tuesday afternoon rally here, he suggested that his challenger was not "trustworthy" enough to hold the nation's highest office.
"We joke about Gov. Romney being all over the map, but it speaks to something important. It speaks of trust. There's no more serious issue in a presidential campaign than trust. Trust matters," Obama said during his speech at a rally here. "You want to know that the person who is applying to be your president and commander in chief is trustworthy. That he means what he says. That he's not just making stuff up depending on whether it's convenient or not."
Obama added: "[Gov. Romney] is terrific at making presentations about stuff he thinks is wrong with America, but he sure can't give you an answer about what will make it right. And that's not leadership that you can trust."
The time and resources both campaigns are pouring into Ohio shows clearly that they consider the state a crucial component to reaching the 270 Electoral College votes needed to secure the presidency in November. While Romney has catered to the state by attacking Obama for federal regulations over the coal industry, Obama has hammered Romney for opposing the federal bailout of American auto companies on the brink of collapse four years ago.
About one in eight jobs in Ohio is tied to the auto industry, and the Obama campaign views the strategy as one that could help tip the state for the president. Both at the debate on Tuesday night and at the rally, Obama pointed to a 2008 op-ed Romney authored in the New York Times, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," that opposed offering federal funds to the struggling auto companies until they underwent a structure bailout, a move Obama contends could have forced those companies to go under completely.
"If Mitt Romney had been president when the auto industry was on the verge of collapse, we might not have an American auto industry today," Obama said. "We'd be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China. And you know how important that is to Ohio."
The race here remains a close one. A poll average of three state surveys released by CNN on Monday showed Obama leading Romney 48-45 percent, a sign that both campaigns still have a shot at securing the state's vital 18 Electoral College votes.