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Trade back-and-forth in OH

Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.

Clinton and Obama's showing in last night's Democratic debate gave us a few more glimpses into the candidates' plans for redirecting our trade policy. The highlight of the debate was both candidates' commitment to renegotiate or threaten to opt out of NAFTA. Though neither would commit to pulling out of NAFTA in the six month time frame, this is still a dramatic statement that we have not seen from either of the candidates previously. For more background on their stances, check out David Sirota's primer from yesterday.

This news will come as a great big sigh of relief for many Americans who have seen their lifestyles turned upside-down by our misguided trade policies - including NAFTA and almost a dozen clones that we've seen materialize since.

The CNN Political Ticker notes the moment and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown's reaction:

Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were asked if, as president, they would opt out of NAFTA in six months. Both candidates said they supported restructuring NAFTA and would use the threat of opting out of the agreement as a negotiating tool.

"They said it exactly right," Brown told CNN. "I want trade and more of it. I want it under different rules."

Brown voiced loud opposition to NAFTA during his 2006 Senate campaign, in which he unseated GOP incumbent Mike DeWine.

"If we say we want a different NAFTA," Brown continued, "they will negotiate, always with the threat of opting out if they don't, and that's exactly the right position. And I was thrilled, because I have not heard either of them specifically say that and they answered the question directly."

MLIVE, a Michigan news service, says that their state sympathizes with "Ohio's special beef":

Until now trade generally has been a low-profile issue in the long Democratic campaign. But Ohio has a special beef with U.S. trade policy, which union activists and many Democrats blame for a steep manufacturing decline.

Only Michigan has suffered a greater loss of manufacturing jobs than the 265,000 (23.7 percent) Ohio over the past seven years, mostly as a result of corporate outsourcing and plant closings. It's the worst jobs loss in Ohio "since the end of the Great Depression," according to the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, a manufacturers association.

"Trade is an issue here," said Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, an issue think tank, "and NAFTA is a proxy for trade. ... It may hurt Hillary Clinton."

The political consequences were made abundantly clear two years ago when Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown unseated Republican Sen. Mike DeWine handily, chiefly by denouncing U.S. trade policy.

The New York Times reported this morning from the famous Midwest stumping-ground:

“We’re sick and tired of the empty promises and the same old story line about Youngstown and the mills,” said Phil Kidd, 28, a blogger and community activist who has sold 10,000 T-shirts that shout “Defend Youngstown” over the image of a steelworker wielding a sledgehammer. “The problem is that this is a rubber-stamp Democratic area so they know it’s almost a guarantee they’re going to get our vote. We just have to hope that this time whoever wins won’t forget about us.”

Both Democratic candidates have promised to remember, kicking off their Ohio campaigns here with fiery populist speeches they hope will appeal to the 100,000 Democratic stalwarts who live up and down the Mahoning Valley, the cradle of the Ohio steel industry and a place that has been shedding union-wage manufacturing jobs for the last 30 years...

Mr. Obama has also honed his message to tap into the anger and despair heightened by growing unemployment and the foreclosures that have felled 79,000 homeowners in the state. In a speech at Youngstown State University, he told the crowd he would give generous tax breaks to the middle class, establish a $10 billion fund to help homeowners facing foreclosure and provide incentives to companies that invest in struggling cities.

“Everywhere I go — not just in Youngstown, but everywhere — you see people who have worked in a plant for 20 years, put their heart and soul into building profits for shareholders,” he said. “Suddenly, the rug’s pulled out from under them; the job’s shipped overseas. They don’t have health care. They don’t have a pension. They’re trying to compete with their teenage kids for a job paying seven bucks an hour at the local fast-food joint.”

If the after-work crowd at the Golden Dawn tavern is any guide, Mrs. Clinton still enjoys solid support from the men whose rough hands and plain-spoken ways put them in the coveted demographic that analysts say hold the key to winning Ohio next Tuesday.

Many of the men who were sitting at the bar and salting their goblets of beer had clearly absorbed Mrs. Clinton’s contention that her opponent is too inexperienced to be president.

From The Washington Post, an elaborate lie-detector scale:

You would not think so from the way they have been attacking each other, but Clinton and Obama are not all that far apart on NAFTA. They both believe in free trade, but they both contend that the United States has gotten a bad deal from the way NAFTA and other trade deals have been enforced. Both candidates have used quotes selectively to slam each other. Two Pinocchios apiece.

ONE PINOCCHIO: Some shading of the facts. TWO PINOCCHIOS: Significant omissions or exaggerations. THREE PINOCCHIOS: Significant factual errors. FOUR PINOCCHIOS: Real whoppers. THE GEPPETTO CHECK MARK: Statements and claims contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

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