The Obama campaign wants to draw Ohio voters' attention to the fact that, under Romney's leadership, the private equity firm Bain Capital aggressively shipped jobs overseas to improve U.S. companies' bottom lines. But both campaigns have largely sidestepped the policy differences between the candidates on issues like free trade. Brown says they exist -- and implied that if Obama followed Romney's prescriptions, Ohio would be in worse shape today.
"Much of this growth -- the reason our unemployment rate has shrunk faster than the national average comes out of the auto rescue, and comes out of trade law enforcement," Brown said, citing two issues on which Obama and Romney differ. "I don't know if anybody can quite quantify that, I suppose somebody could. But it's clear -- those are the industries that are doing better."
Brown doesn't give Obama a pass on everything. But he also said he doesn't believe Romney when he claims he'll take actions on behalf of working-class voters in manufacturing states.
"It would help if [Obama would] label China a currency manipulator, which apparently his advisers don't want him to do," Brown said. "Romney has said he's going to do something along those lines his first day, his first week in office. I don't have any belief at all that Mitt Romney is serious about improving our trade relationship with China to our advantage. ... That's not who he is, that's not what he is, it's not what his contributors want, it's not what his advisers will say. There's nothing except raw politics for him to do his little bit of China bashing."