Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump returned to familiar themes in the crucial battleground state of Ohio on Thursday with talk about how badly trade deals have hurt the industrial Midwest.
“As you stand here today, your executives are negotiating deals to move jobs out of Ohio to Mexico, we have nobody to protect our workers,” he said to a crowd of several thousand at the SeaGate Convention Center in Toledo. “Hillary wants TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal), which will kill the rest of auto industry jobs. But that will never be as bad as NAFTA.”
He said that auto production is suffering because of the trade deals. But the auto industry is on track to sell 17.3 million vehicles this year, which is just shy of the all-time record set in 2015.
The job loss numbers, however, touch a nerve in manufacturing-heavy states like Ohio and Michigan, where jobs have been lost because of trade deals.
Mexico now produces approximately 20% of the light vehicles made in North America by all automakers and has captured nine of the last 11 new North American assembly plants built since 2011, according to the Center for Automotive Research.
Ford is moving production of the Ford Focus and Ford C-Max from its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne to Mexico in 2018. Ford said in April it plans to invest $1.6 billion to build a new plant in Mexico and create 2,800 jobs to build small cars there. However, Ford also plans to replace the products it makes in Wayne with two new vehicles and has repeatedly said no jobs will be lost.
Trump repeated his promise to impose a 35% tariff on products made overseas and shipped back into the U.S., but that would require Congressional approval and a renegotiation of trade deals.
“I will stop TPP and I will bring auto jobs back to America and keep your remaining auto jobs in Ohio,” Trump said. “They may leave for a different state, don’t get mad at me, but we’ve got to keep them in our country.”
In speeches in both Springfield and Toledo on Thursday, he also touched upon the recent revelations that have come from WikiLeaks e-mails, which were stolen from Clinton staffers and have been released in batches over the last several weeks by hackers. The e-mails show the fund-raising practices of the Clinton Foundation.
“She put the office of secretary of state up for sale, and if she gets the chance, she’ll put the Oval Office up for sale too,” Trump said. “So when we win, we are going to Washington, D.C., and we’re going to drain the swamp. … That phrase started about a week ago and I didn’t like it at all and now it’s become one of the hottest phrases in the world. I like it.”
As polls in the state show a razor-thin lead for Trump, both presidential campaigns are returning to Ohio again and again.
Thursday's speech was Trump's third trip to Toledo since the Republican National Convention and follows a Saturday rally in Cleveland and events in three Ohio cities by vice presidential candidate Mike Pence on Tuesday.
Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine also was in Ohio on Thursday with speeches in Cleveland and Columbus. Hillary Clinton attended a rally in Cleveland on Friday and her husband, Bill Clinton, will be in Cleveland on Saturday.
The attention shows how crucial Ohio is for the campaigns. In the last 10 election cycles, the state has given victories to Republicans five times and Democrats five times. The state's voters have chosen the winning president in 35 of 40 elections.
And polls show the state is up for grabs. The Real Clear Politics average of polls taken in the state show Trump with a 1 percentage point advantage over Clinton, but recent individual polls have shown the race is either tied, Trump leading by up to 4 points or Clinton with a 2 percentage point advantage over Trump.
Michigan also remains important to the campaigns. Kaine will return to the state on Sunday with events at union halls in Taylor and Warren while Chelsea Clinton will make stops in Battle Creek and Muskegon on Saturday. Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a Detroit native who dropped out of the Republican presidential primary race and threw his support to Trump, will be in Grand Rapids on Saturday.
Ken Dressel came to Toledo from Ottawa Lake on Michigan's southern border to volunteer by directing people to early voting places and providing absentee ballots.
"He’s a successful man and if he did it in private industry, there’s a good chance that he should be able to duplicate it in the government," he said. "And besides, the other option is unacceptable."
Bridget Lundy of Adrian said she's most interested in Trump's position on immigration, especially since her daughter-in-law came to the country legally from Hungary.
"I have people in my family who came here legally and it cost them a lot of money and paperwork to do it," she said. "I just can’t imagine why it’s OK to let all these people in and then we can’t take care of veterans."
There were a few dozen protesters outside the Toledo convention center, including a flatbed truck hauling a huge blow-up villain with bared teeth wearing a "Make American Hate Again" T-shirt.
But Trump, who repeatedly corrected himself when he said "If I win the election," changing it to "When I win the election," both urged Ohioans to get out and vote and offered another suggestion for Nov. 8.
"We should just cancel the election and give it to Trump," he said. "Her policies are so bad."