The White House announcement Tuesday that the United States has launched the beginning of a formal complaint over Beijing's hold on rare earth materials doesn't only take aim at China. Made just eight months before Election Day, the move has another high-profile target in mind: Mitt Romney.
The candidate most of Washington deems the inevitable GOP presidential nominee (even as he continues to slug through the primary season) has unexpectedly emerged as a China trade-hawk during his campaign. At times, he's sounded like a card-carrying union member urging a protectionist agenda, even promising to declare the world's second-largest economy a currency manipulator
The rhetoric, particularly for a candidate who sells himself as a businessman, has worried business groups and free-trade advocates
normally predisposed to back the ex-governor. But politically speaking, it could give him a useful cudgel against President Obama in the fall.