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The state where Romney campaigned yesterday was decisive in at least one recent election and is always considered crucial. Romney was in Ohio, and also near the border with Michigan and other swing states. NPR's Ari Shapiro watched as Romney campaigned outside the city of Toledo.
ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: At the Bowling Green Community Center, a raucous, fiery crowd greeted Mitt Romney. They shouted and held up signs. Romney seemed surprised and delighted by the posters.
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MITT ROMNEY: Let's see: more Obama equals less job creation. These are fun. I created my business, not the government. These are fun. These are fun signs, here. You guys in back can't see them. But those who made those signs, thank you for reminding us who it is in America that creates jobs.
SHAPIRO: Those who made those signs were actually Romney campaign staffers. The campaign distributed the handwritten posters to people coming into the event. People in the audience clearly shared the sentiment, though. One woman asking Romney a question referred to the president this way...
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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's all because of what this monster has done to this country. We have to have you as president.
ROMNEY: That's not a term I would use, but I...
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I can. I'm an angry mom.
SHAPIRO: Romney focused mostly on a statement President Obama recently made. The president said if you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. In context, he was talking about the role that government plays creating infrastructure and other conditions necessary for businesses to thrive. Romney said the remark demeans entrepreneurs.
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ROMNEY: We all, of course, recognize the power of all of us working together. We're a united nation. He divides us. He tries to divide America, tear America apart. He tries to diminish those who have been successful in one walk of life or another. It's simply wrong.
SHAPIRO: And Romney continued to hit the theme of crony capitalism, amplified by a new TV ad from his campaign.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Where did all the Obama stimulus money go? Friends, donors, campaign supporters, special interest groups.
SHAPIRO: Romney's no longer simply defending himself against attacks from the Obama camp. In the last few days, the Republican has staged a counteroffensive. This debate all revolves around who's best equipped to restore the economy and the role of government in doing it. This part of the country is actually doing relatively well economically. Unemployment has dropped from double digits to well below the national average in Ohio. Across town, at Shorty's True American Roadhouse, Michelle Maziarz has seen that improvement. She and her husband are taking their two young kids out for barbeque.
MICHELLE MAZIARZ: Around here, a lot of people work at the auto plant. Both my parents worked for Jeep. And I can tell you, like, a year ago from today, no one was getting overtime or anything like that. And now, like, you're starting to see, like, third shift come back.
SHAPIRO: Business is picking up at the mall where she works, but she doesn't give this president credit.
MAZIARZ: I give that to our city. That credit goes to our city. That's our people and our community.
SHAPIRO: She does not think Barack Obama will get her vote again.
MAZIARZ: Just because I'm a Democrat doesn't mean I'm always going to vote that way.
SHAPIRO: She says she doesn't know much about Romney. At a coffee shop across town, Democrat and self-described political nut Jude Aubrey has paid close attention to the election, and he still doesn't know what Romney stands for, either.
JUDE AUBREY: He isn't registering with the common, independent voter that will make the difference. I don't think he sells well.
SHAPIRO: And do you think Obama's registering with independent voters?
AUBREY: I think he has a better chance, because he's likable. His likability overcomes the economy.
SHAPIRO: Independent voter Robert Rodriguez is not looking for likable.
ROBERT RODRIGUEZ: I want someone who's brilliant. You know, I don't want, you know, the guy who can put on a pair of jeans and have a beer with you. That's - you know what? I can get that around the corner.
SHAPIRO: He voted for Barack Obama the last time, but thinks the magic has worn off. Rodriguez moved to Toledo about a year ago and had a hard time finding work. Now he has a job at the casino, and he says the economy still doesn't feel solid.
RODRIGUEZ: I don't think it's on the mend. I think it's just kind of, like, treading water.
SHAPIRO: Like the other undecided voter, he has not exactly fallen in love with Mitt Romney yet. He's just fallen out of love with Barack Obama. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the Romney campaign.
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