Lancaster, Ohio – The Romney-Ryan campaign has seized on Vice President Joe Biden's assertion during Thursday's debate that Ohio-made M1 Abrams tanks are no longer needed. The GOP ticket began running radio ads and making automated phone calls in Ohio on Friday featuring the vice president's quote, according to Republican state communications director Chris Maloney.
"The military says we need a smaller, leaner Army. We need more special forces. ...We don’t need more M1 tanks. What we need is more UAVs,” Biden said while he sat opposite of Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, at the debate in Lexington, Ky. The vice president's words, which broke no new policy ground, were a reminder of the Pentagon's decision this year to halt the production line from 2014 to 2017 as the vehicle is redesigned.
Ohio is home to the only tank production site in the country, and M1 tanks were spotlighted during Ryan's first joint appearance with Mitt Romney after the vice presidential debate.
"When you say it's OK to impose these devastating cuts on our military…that we don't need any more Lima-built M1 tanks, what we are doing is we're projecting weakness, and when we project weakness abroad our enemies become more brazen," Ryan said to a crowd of thousands in the town of Lancaster. The critique, made in conjunction with more blistering remarks about President Obama's handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, tied Ohio jobs with U.S. foreign policy.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who introduced the two candidates, made M1 tanks the central focus of his remarks.
"Joe Biden said a lot of interesting things, one was at a time of increasing danger all around the world," he said. "He said we ought to be cutting our military. Specifically, he said that we don't need any more M1 tanks. Did you hear that? Guess where those tanks are made, folks -- right here in the state of Ohio. We need M1 tanks because they're part of the greatest military on the face of the earth. They will ensure that we have a military second to none so that we can keep the peace. We need M1 tanks."
When Ryan campaigned in Lima, Ohio, in September, he called the Pentagon's tank proposal a "budget gimmick." The military has calculated that idling the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center would save up to $3 billion, but General Dynamics Corp. and Ohio members of Congress say it would cost more money to idle production than to keep it going at a slow click. House and Senate committees have passed measures to restore funding but critics accuse lawmakers of falling prey to political donations, pointing to the thousands of tanks being stored in California and their vulnerability to IED attacks.