DES MOINES — The Obama for America campaign launched a new effort Friday aimed at highlighting Iowa manufacturing while criticizing Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s record.
The campaign named a manufacturing council to advise President Barack Obama’s re-election effort in the state, building on Vice President Joe Biden’s Hawkeye State tour last week during which Biden attacked Romney as “consistently wrong” on the issue.
In a conference call with media representatives, members of the new council praised the president and warned that a Romney presidency would send the industry into a tailspin.
“My job here at Alcoa has expanded,” said Dennis DeDecker, a machinist at Alcoa Davenport Works in Riverdale who also is active in the Scott County Democratic Party. “We’re in the middle of a $300 million expansion in Davenport. A couple of years ago, things were looking pretty bleak.”
He said Obama’s effort to prop up the automobile industry and his call for greater fuel efficiency for motor vehicles has increased the demand for light-weight metals such as aluminum to build automobiles.
“I am just so happy that President Obama has made these changes,” DeDecker said.
Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg responded to the news in an email.
“Perhaps his manufacturing council can tell him that his support for higher taxes, higher regulatory burdens and higher energy prices is the wrong course for the American economy and for the manufacturing sector in particular,” she wrote. “Governor Romney will create the conditions for manufacturers to thrive by cutting taxes, streamlining regulations and guaranteeing an affordable and reliable supply of energy.”
Iowa ranks sixth out of the 50 states in terms of the percentage of its gross domestic product that comes from manufacturing, according to the most recent figures available from Bureau of Economic Analysis. In 2010, manufacturing contributed $25.4 billion to the economy, or roughly 17.8 percent of the total GDP.
Chris Larimer, a political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa, said manufacturing could be a good issue for the Obama campaign in Iowa where the sector still is relatively strong compared to the rest of the country.
He said Romney may be vulnerable on issue, too.
“Only in the sense that he hasn’t really talked about it yet,” Larimer said. “Most of the primary has focused on social issues, who is more conservative and getting rid of Obamacare. In the general election, you can expect to see broader topics like manufacturing and education.”
But Friday at least, it was clear that Romney has a target on him.
“Mitt Romney has personally profited from outsourcing,” said Mark Rosenbury, retired chief operating officer of Terra Industries in Sioux City. “We want to keep manufacturing here.”