Romney poked fun at the popular television personality, joking Rowe was "a guy who has made a name for himself doing things other people don't want to do. Really ugly, dirty jobs — like standing with a politician."
Rowe also joked about the prospect of appearing at a political rally, recalling the last time he was in Ohio, it was to film an episode of his show with the state's roadkill removal squad.
"I've been assured by the governor and his team that today will not be anywhere near as bloody or smelly as the last time I was in Ohio," Rowe quipped.
But the television host said that if he had learned anything during his travels, "it's opportunity and training aren't enough. You also need desire."
Romney used that point to jump into a critique of the Obama administration, arguing the president "has made it harder for entrepreneurs and businesses to make a decision to create more jobs."
Romney again hit the president on his trade policies with China, telling a woman who had to have her products manufactured overseas that American companies were being put out of business by Chinese currency manipulation.
"You can't find someone here who can manufacture it," Romney said.
And the Republican nominee added that speaking to business owners across the country, concerns about "uncertainty" were restricting job growth.
"They're concerned about the direction of the country. They don't believe the policies of the last four years leads them to invest more in America," Romney said.
The Obama campaign punched back in a statement issued later Wednesday.
“In Cleveland, Mitt Romney talked a lot about manufacturing in China, and complained about companies doing business overseas," Obama spokesman Danny Kanner said. "But, he knows plenty about both from experience. As a corporate buyout specialist, he invested in companies that were outsourcing ‘pioneers,’ shipping jobs to low-wage countries like China, and invested in a Chinese company known for its low labor costs and low tax liabilities."
As Romney wrapped up his remarks, Romney's campaign circulated an opinion piece submitted to the local Cleveland Plain Dealer by the candidate declaring the president's jobs plan "simply hadn't worked."
"Clearly, current education and job-training programs aren't working to bridge the divide between the skills potential employees have and the skills employers want," Romney writes. "And the way to fix the problem isn't to spend more taxpayer money on existing, failing programs."
The focus on jobs — and, by extension, blue-collar manufacturing workers who will swing Ohio in November — made obvious the Romney campaign's need to gain ground in the state. The candidate himself admitted as much toward the end of his remarks, asking supporters to help him at the polls.
"I need it in a big way. Cuyahoga County — come on guys, I need you to come through," Romney said.
From Cleveland, Romney will travel to Toledo for a rally later this afternoon.