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Why China Doesn't Matter Everywhere in Ohio

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Barack Obama and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns rolled out fresh criticisms Monday of each other about China as both candidates head to Ohio, but the message may not connect with all voters there.

In a state with a massive manufacturing base, China has been a scapegoat for some Ohioans who have looked to explain the woes that have plagued the state amid a poor economic recovery.

"The idea of international trade, particularly the sometimes unpopular Chinese right now -- 20 to 30 years ago it was the Japanese, it was somebody before that, and it will be somebody after China -- but right now China is both an important trading partner and a convenient whipping boy," said Doug Preisse, Franklin County Republican Party chairman.

Romney released an ad Monday morning that said the president had failed to stand up to China as the country stole American ideas and technology, while Obama's campaign countered the claim with a memo that called the GOP nominee's accusations false and criticized his investments in Chinese companies.

While voters who live in major Ohio manufacturing hubs like Cleveland, Toledo and Youngstown may be swayed by Obama's and Romney's platforms toward China, it may connect little with voters who aren't tied to the state's manufacturing industry.

"My sense of it is that's not an issue that's going to get a lot of traction, at least in this part of the state," said Caleb Faux, Hamilton County Democratic Party executive director. "I think the intent of that discussion, on the Romney campaign side, is to somehow begin to cut into the credit that Obama is getting for the auto industry bailout, and that's a big issue ... particularly in northern Ohio."

Last week, Romney's campaign repeatedly blamed the Obama administration for being too soft on China, and pointed to various press reports that suggested the president's policies had resulted in hundreds of thousands of American job losses to "low-wage countries."

But Ohio's unemployment rate, at 7.2% in August, has tracked below the national number, which, even in manufacturing-rich northeast Ohio, is favorably regarded by blue collar workers there.

"We have benefited handsomely by getting our auto companies, I mean we've got the Lordstown plant ... by General Motors (GM - Get Report) -- that plant they're making the [Chevy] Cruze vehicles," said Stuart Garson, Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chairman. "We've got 1 in 8 jobs here in Ohio that are directly related to the auto industry."

Part of Romney's strategy against the president's China policy may be to seek to blemish the positive perception of the auto bailouts in Ohio. GM and Chrysler have managed to shed the image of their pre-recession failures and returned to stable production -- a move Obama and Democrats have taken credit for.

Still, not all of Ohio is connected to manufacturing, and because of it, the China-manufacturing issue that Romney and Obama may continue to spar over, could end up on the cutting room floor for a lot of voters.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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