TOLEDO, Ohio — In a Labor Day address held before a crowd of about 3,100, President Barack Obama compared Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to a football coach with a plan “for a losing season” in areas of education and industry.

Before an audience largely comprised of union workers, Obama stressed the economic importance of receiving a college education, while showing his support for unions and discussing the importance of job creation. During his address at Scott High School here, he conceded his frustration with the Republican platform for ongoing inattentiveness to students and workers, particularly in light of recent GOP comments at the party’s convention last week.

Obama said Romney’s recent speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. wasn’t innovative enough to solve today’s economic problems.

“You might as well have watched it on black-and-white TV, with some rabbit ears on there,” Obama joked. “Should have been on ‘Nick-at-Nite.’”

The president continued, using football jargon to describe that Americans have already seen Romney’s flawed “economic playbook.” Obama said that from “first down” to “third down,” Romney’s plan favors wealthy Americans and big companies instead of helping the middle class and aiding impoverished Americans.

“It sounds like unnecessary roughness to me,” Obama said, noting that he would call a penalty “flag on the play,” since he claimed Romney’s health care plan would force Americans to pay $6,400 for benefits they already receive.

“You don’t need that coach,” Obama said.

When much of the crowd expressed displeasure with Romney by booing during mentions of the candidate, Obama urged them to show their discontent through voting, repeating this call to action throughout his speech.

The United Auto Workers distributed tickets for the event and UAW President Bob King, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis helped rile up the crowd before the president took the stage.

Obama used a frequent tactic in his own playbook to appeal to members of the auto industry, which has a large presence here — Toledo is home to Jeep

The president pointed out Romney’s previous opposition to the bailout of Chrysler, which owns Jeep, and General Motors.

“Just a few years ago, when the auto industry was flat-lining, what was in Governor Romney’s playbook?” Obama asked the crowd. “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”

Obama credited the survival of the American auto industry to opposing Romney’s advice and subsequently saving the jobs of autoworkers in Toledo and throughout the nation.

“If America had thrown in the towel like that, GM and Chrysler wouldn’t exist today,” Obama said. “The suppliers, and the distributors, that get their business from these companies would have died off, too. Then even Ford could have gone down as well.”

Obama said if the federal government had let the Detroit Three go bankrupt, it would have essentially spurred another Great Depression for many states in the Midwest, including Michigan.

Obama decried Republicans for what he said was an anti-union attitude, noting that unionized teachers, public safety employees and manufacturing workers have made some of the largest sacrifices of any profession in the United States.

“It’s a part of the same old ‘you’re-on-your-own, top-down’ policy that says we should just leave everybody to fend for themselves,” Obama said,

He added he’ll discuss labor rights in his address to delegates at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, when he is expected to accept the Democratic party’s nomination for president. Obama said he will offer a strong defense against Romney’s labor policies that are harmful to American unions.

Obama further criticized Romney for a remark he made in April during a speech at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio where he said young adults should “borrow money, if you have to, from their parents” in order to pay for college.

“That’s one approach. I’ve got a different approach,” Obama said. “Let’s make sure Americans once again lead the world in educating our kids and training our workers for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Obama continued, saying that American schools should hire more teachers in math and science, and urged individuals to attend community colleges to gain skills in advanced manufacturing.

“Some form of higher education, that’s not a luxury anymore,” Obama said. “That is an economic necessity.”

Speaking to the union members in the room, Obama said American unions have forged the expectation that American workers should be able to send their children to college.

“(That) if you work hard, if you’re responsible, then your work should be rewarded. That if you put in enough effort, you should be able to find a job that pays the bills,” Obama said. “… And, most importantly then, you can provide your children with an education, to make sure that they do even better than you did.”

Andrew Devore, a freshman at the University of Toledo and a son of union members, said his parents probably wouldn’t have been able to send him to his first year of college, let alone pay the rent at their current home, if the auto companies had gone under.

“I’m not sure if we could have made it past (the crisis) without President Obama’s help,” Devore said. “We might not have been able to afford our house, our cars, our education.”

Devore, who is majoring in education, said Romney’s anti-union attitude damages his rapport with middle-class Americans.

“It’s easy to blame it on unions when you don’t need a union and you’re above it all and you’ve already got money from your parents,” Devore said.

Jeanetta Mohlke-Hill, a senior at the University of Toledo and a local volunteer for the Obama campaign, said she appreciated Obama’s jab at Romney’s “borrow money from your parents” remark.

She said she couldn’t borrow money from her parents for her degree because her mother and father are still paying off their own student loans, and she will likely graduate from college with about $20,000 in student loan debt.

“My parents can’t give me money, so that struck right to the heart,” Mohlke-Hill said.

Like Devore, Mohlke-Hill said Romney doesn’t understand how difficult it is for the average American to pay for their children’s education.

“He just doesn’t understand that we can’t afford to go to college without some scholarships or student loans,” Mohlke-Hill said. “Our parents just aren’t privileged to enough to send us to any school we want.”

Mark Carter, a graduate student at the University of Toledo, said he worked for Obama’s campaign on campus in 2008. He said he will also probably leave college with debt, and expressed concern about Romney’s plans for student loan debt.

Carter added that there’s a significant push for federal assistance with student loan debt because, as he has experienced, sometimes an undergraduate degree isn’t sufficient in this economic climate.

“There are very few jobs around this country that you can get without a college education,” Carter said. “It’s not like the previous generation. It’s important.”

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