CLEVELAND, Ohio – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign is launching a new ad focusing on Republican President Donald Trump’s call for a boycott of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., seizing on a ready-made political opportunity they feel can help the Democratic nominee flip the state as the Nov. 3 election approaches.
The Biden campaign has been laying the groundwork to dig in on the economy for weeks, but the Goodyear ad marks a shift to a more offensive strategy for the Democrats, who plan to focus on the economic turmoil in the state, including the president’s attacks against a century-old company. The 30-second spot will run in the Cleveland market next week, timed to coincide with the Republican National Convention where Trump will officially accept the nomination.
“A company with a 122-year history in Akron, Ohio, thousands of American workers and competitors all over the world, and a sitting president who is spinning out of control would risk American jobs to try to save his own,” the narrator says in the ad.
The ad will also run in the Fayetteville, N.C., market, the site of a Goodyear facility and a pivotal swing state in this year’s election.
The Goodyear issue started last Wednesday when Trump tweeted to his 85 million followers that they should not buy Goodyear products, apparently upset at the company’s dress code that does not allow attire from political campaigns, including his trademark “MAGA” hats.
“Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES – They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS. Get better tires for far less! (This is what the Radical Left Democrats do. Two can play the same game, and we have to start playing it now!),” Trump tweeted.
The move befuddled political observers and enraged Democrats, union leaders and Akron city officials. Goodyear, the largest American tire manufacturer, employs 3,300 people in Ohio and is a cultural landmark for Akron, which is nicknamed “Rubber City” because of its long history of tire manufacturing.
Some Republicans, including Gov. Mike DeWine, said they disagreed with boycotting the company, though have declined to comment on if they thought it was appropriate for the president to use his platform to attempt to harm an Ohio-based company from the White House.
Goodyear has all the makings of a Goldilocks issue for the Biden campaign and Trump’s detractors: a localized selling point on a national issue of significance to voters. It has already been the subject of a television spot by The Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans, in Ohio.
Toni Webb, Biden’s Ohio campaign director, said they have no intention of letting up on Goodyear either. Both Biden and Trump have jockeyed for the title as more supportive of American jobs, including dueling “Made in America” tours earlier in August.
The campaign views the current state of the economy as an opening to try and put Ohio in Biden’s column for the presidential election. Trump won the state in 2016 by 8 percentage points, largely on an economic message denouncing trade deals. However, polling has consistently showed a toss-up race in 2020.
And the economy routinely sits atop voters’ list of most important issues. The country is currently gripped in a recession, with Ohio having lost 495,000 jobs – including nearly 43,000 manufacturing jobs – since the beginning of the year. Unemployment is improving from the 17.6% high in April, but remains elevated at 8.9%.
Part of that strategy will be laid out this week in a counter-programming effort on Tuesday for the Republican National Convention featuring Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Tim Ryan, both outspoken critics of Trump and his call for a Goodyear boycott. The two lawmakers plan to highlight what they view as Trump’s broken promises to workers, including the closure of General Motors’ Lordstown assembly plant.
“When Republicans gather this week, our campaign will be reminding them of exactly what they’re celebrating: Ohio continuing to shed manufacturing jobs and struggle due to Trump’s mismanaged pandemic response,” Webb said. “It’s more clear than ever that we need a president who will actually fight for workers, create millions of manufacturing and innovation jobs, and make the promise of made-in-America real. That’s Joe Biden — and that’s a message we’re going to take directly to voters in every part of Ohio straight through November.”
Democrats are hoping the issue provides a similar outcome to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s gaffe saying Jeep was moving all Ohio production to China, which was false. The claim dogged Romney through the campaign, with Democratic President Barack Obama carrying Ohio by 3 percentage points en route to re-election.
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