TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - President Barack Obama warned union workers in football-crazy Ohio on Monday that Republican Mitt Romney would guide the nation to a "losing season," imploring voters in the battleground state to take his opponent's plan and "punt it away."
Before a trip to Louisiana to view flood damage from Hurricane Isaac, Obama marked Labor Day by using a series of sports analogies to dismiss Romney, who told voters in Iowa last weekend that it was "time to get a new coach. It's time for America to see a winning season again, and we're going to bring it to them."
"I've got one piece of advice for you about the Romney-Ryan game plan: Punt it away. It won't work. It won't win the game," Obama said in Toledo. "You don't need that coach. That's a losing season."
Obama was mixing politics and presidential empathy on a holiday traditionally known as an election-year turning point, with summer closing and more voters paying attention to the race for the White House. The president was trying to win over voters in Ohio, one of the seven most contested states likely to decide the Nov. 6 election.
Speaking to members of the United Auto Workers and United Steelworkers, Obama noted his decision to rescue automakers General Motors and Chrysler in 2009, a move Romney opposed.
"If America had thrown in the towel like that, GM and Chrysler wouldn't exist today," Obama said. "The suppliers and the distributors that get their business from these companies would have died off too. Then even Ford could have gone down as well."
The recoveries of GM and Chrysler have been recurrent themes in Obama's re-election campaign, particularly in states such as Michigan and Ohio.
"These jobs are worth more than just a paycheck. They're a source of pride. They're a ticket into middle class life. These companies are worth more than just the cars that they build. They're a symbol of America's innovation," Obama said. "They're a source of our manufacturing might. If that is not worth fighting for, than what is?"
Romney's campaign noted that more than 23 million people were unemployed or underemployed on Labor Day. "President Obama has a record of zero and 23 million, and it's time to get a new coach. Americans aren't better off than they were four years ago and are longing for a winning season," said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg.
Obama's pitch to working families came as Democrats pressed labor unions for their support at rallies in Rust Belt states. In Detroit, Vice President Joe Biden told auto workers at a Labor Day rally that Romney had sidestepped the auto bailout at last week's GOP convention. "You didn't hear him talk about was his position to quote, 'Let Detroit go bankrupt,'" Biden said, pointing to an editorial Romney wrote arguing against government intervention in the auto industry.
Turning to Romney's weekend football metaphor, Obama offered a lengthy sports-infused rebuttal, telling the union workers that on first down, Romney would hike taxes by nearly $2,000 on an average family with children. "Sounds like unnecessary roughness to me," Obama said.
On second down, Obama said Romney "calls an audible" and gets rid of regulations. "And then on third down, he calls for a 'Hail Mary,'" Obama said, by proposing turning Medicare into a voucher-like system for future retirees. "But there's a flag on the play: Loss of up to an additional $6,400 a year for the same benefits you get now."
"That's their playbook. That's their economic plan," Obama said.
In Louisiana, Obama planned to visit one of the areas hardest by the hurricane, St. John the Baptist Parish, about 30 miles west of New Orleans. Obama was viewing the storm damage and assessing recovery efforts before addressing reporters. Romney visited the state Friday after accepting his party's presidential nomination one night earlier.
For both men, showing election-year concern for people recovering from a disaster without making an overt political event of their visit has been a priority. The White House offered no criticism when Romney, a private citizen determined to oust Obama from his job, drew attention to the needs of the people of Louisiana - and himself - with his visit to the state.
Obama too has been regularly calling state officials, mayors and other officials to show support and command of the federal response. He has done so while juggling campaign rallies in Iowa, Colorado and now Ohio and working on his convention speech while aboard Air Force One.
The Democratic National Convention begins Tuesday; Obama will speak on Thursday night. Days after Isaac passed, roughly 200,000 people across Louisiana still lack power, and thousands of evacuees were in shelters or staying with friends or relatives.
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas in Charlotte, N.C., contributed to this report.
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