(WASHINGTON) — One week before they meet face-to-face for the first time on a debate stage, President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will hold a split-screen duel in battleground Ohio on Wednesday.
Both candidates will be in the same state, at the same time, all day — sharing turf for the first time in roughly two months — for a pair of rallies, each scheduled for precisely the same time.
At 1:05 p.m. ET, President Obama will take the stage at Bowling Green State University. Meanwhile, 130 miles away on the opposite side of the state, Romney will host a business roundtable in Bedford Heights.
The candidates will then swap sides of the state, presumably passing each other mid-flight, with Romney holding a 5:30 p.m. ET event at the SeaGate Convention Center in Toledo while Obama stumps in Kent at Kent State University.
A new Washington Post poll shows Obama opening up an eight point lead over Romney in the Buckeye State, 52 to 44 percent, if the election were held today. Other recent independent polls have also given Obama a narrow edge. No Republican candidate has won the White House without carrying Ohio.
Expected to take center stage in Wednesday’s debate is U.S. trade policy toward China, which is widely seen as a threat to American workers in manufacturing heavy parts of the state.
Obama and Romney have already been saber rattling over the Asian power for weeks, running competing TV ads in Ohio that feature China. Romney says Obama has not been tough enough on abusive Chinese trade practices, while Obama has accused Romney of profiting off of China and the same behaviors he purports to decry.
The Obama campaign says it plans to double down on the attack against Romney, highlighting his investments in Chinese companies.
“Mitt Romney is attacking the ‘cheaters’ in China on the campaign trail, but a quick look at his investment portfolio makes clear he’s part of the problem,” said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt.
One of those investments — in the Chinese firm Global-Tech Appliances — will get particular scrutiny in the coming days, Obama aides say, following a new Boston Globe report that details how the firm marketed itself as a low-tax and low-wage labor opportunity.
President Obama is expected to rip Romney’s Chinese investments in his remarks, while continuing to tout the administration’s recent action against China at the World Trade Organization. When Obama visited Ohio last week, he announced a complaint against China over alleged illegal subsidies on autos and auto parts.
The Romney campaign says Gov. Romney will focus on the Obama administration’s imposition of tariffs on Chinese-made tires — tariffs which Republicans claim have cost “thousands of jobs.”
“President Obama’s failed economic policies have left small businesses and middle-class Americans struggling in Ohio and around the nation,” said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg. “Americans simply can’t afford four more years like the last four years. Mitt Romney will stand up to China to protect American workers and help create 12 million new jobs to jumpstart our economy.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Tom LoBianco, CNN
Scott Stuntz, Teton Valley News
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com