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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Improving economy complicates Republican message but outlook still tough for Obama



YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Mitt Romney stood in an industrial manufacturing plant attacking President Barack Obama.

"He's a nice guy, but he's in over his head," Romney said. "We need to have a president who understands the economy if we're going to fix the economy."

The campaign arranged for plant employees to sit behind Romney, stagecraft that would play well on TV a day before Ohio's crucial Republican presidential primary this month. But the workers provided a different script. "Times were tough around here," 35-year-old Chris Marrone said in an interview. "Everybody was nervous, but we're starting to see orders coming in."

A slow but measurable economic comeback — from lower unemployment to a soaring stock market, higher auto sales and daily improvement in battered areas like Youngstown — is complicating the Republican game plan.

Unemployment, still dangerously high at 8.3 percent, and the economy remain voters' top concerns and Obama's chief re-election obstacle, but the issue is less of a wedge. "It's a jump ball," said Republican economist Doug Holtz-Eakin. (story here)

[Last modified: Monday, March 19, 2012 12:21am]


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