GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney would not commit specifically to maintaining the 179th Airlift Wing during a local television interview Monday, thereby undercutting a line of attack by Romney surrogate Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who has used the prospect of its elimination to hammer President Barack Obama.
The 179th Airlift Wing, which is part of the Ohio Air National Guard and is based at Ohio's Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport, flies the C-27J, a cargo plane that the U.S. Air Force wants to cut.
"Would you guarantee that that would stay active, that that plane and that mission would stay active?" asked Dana Jay from Columbus ABC 6 in an interview on the tarmac of Mansfield Lahm airport.
"Well, I don't want to go platform by platform and base by base and make guarantees as a lot of politicians do," replied Romney. He then promised to maintain a "military that's up to the task."
Portman has implored Obama not to cut the wing in a July Newsmax commentary and numerous press releases. "When President Obama lands at Mansfield Lahm Airport today, I hope he takes time to stop in and talk to the fine Airmen of the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard," Portman wrote in the Newsmax commentary. "He should ask them about their recent tour in Afghanistan and the award-winning support they provided to our most forward deployed soldiers -- that is, until his proposal brought the deployment to a premature end."
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has also lobbied the administration to save the aircraft and the 179th Airlift Wing.
The White House says it supports Pentagon cuts eliminating the plane but favors another mission for the unit. "As part of national security strategy, the president has supported cuts,” Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One as it landed at the airport in August. "There is a redundancy in terms of the aircraft that this National Guard air base is home to, but the president is committed to finding another mission for the National Guard unit at this particular air base."