With just eight days left until Election Day, the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have cranked up their campaign fury in Ohio to new heights. With the release of dozens of new polls each day, it requires a lot of political balance by voters to keep on the level over who’s saying what and whether it’s true or not as the days tick down to Nov. 6, when election strategies will switch from getting out the vote to challenging or defending the ballots that were cast that were or should have been counted in court.
Cars and Ohio
No issue is more important to the hopes of Team Obama-Biden and Team Romney-Ryan in Ohio than the rescue of the auto industry. Ohio, the preeminent battleground state in which one in every eight jobs, or about 850,000 jobs, are tied to Detroit’s Big Three car manufacturers, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, now owned by Italian car maker Fiat, will make or break who wins and who loses in this campaign cycle.
The White House has used the president’s unpopular but strategic use of stimulus funds to prevent GM and Chrysler from going bankrupt at best and being liquidated at worst as it’s number one battering ram against Mitt Romney, who touts his family ties to the auto industry via his father George Romney’s tenure as president of American Motors, headquartered in Michigan until its demise in 1988, as proof that he’s a “car guy” who said that when he wrote an op-ed calling to “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” he didn’t want it to go out of business as his father’s company did but to be bailed out by private investment, not from the government, as President Obama did when it became clear that private dollars to accomplish the task were no where to be seen.
President Obama has been on offense on the issue while Mr. Romney has been left to constantly refashioning of what he really meant when he said auto manufacturers should have gone through a “managed bankruptcy” made possible only with a backstop of federal loan guarantees.
Did Romney ramble in Defiance
The issue again turned white hot last week when Mitt Romney told a crowd of 12,000 who had gathered in a football stadium in Defiance, Ohio, in the state’s northwest, that he read an article that claimed Italian-owned Jeep was planning to ship its American manufacturing jobs—including jobs in nearby Toledo, home to Jeep Wrangler—to China.
“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China,” Romney told his audience in Defiance. “I will fight for every good job in America. I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair America will win.”
Jeep said it is considering producing vehicles in China, but for consumption in China, similar to what a car company like Toyota does to build cars here in America for American buyers. A statement from the company said Mitt Romney should have better understood what it was doing before he made his claim, which he has not only not corrected for the record but has used to produce a TV ad that further uses what is clearly not true.
Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri said Romney was not only wrong but spectacular in its wrongness. “It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats,” he said. “Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation.” In fact, Chrysler said it is actually increasing Jeep production in the United States with the addition of 1,100 workers to its Jeep assembly line in Michigan
The Romney campaign defied gravity again, saying the ad is literally true, whatever its implications, according to BuzzFeed Politics. “What’s in there that’s false? Are they building Jeeps in China or not?” an undisclosed Romney aide said. “I think a lot of Ohioans are wondering why we can’t make Jeeps here and ship them to China, just like they are wondering why we can’t make — insert product here — in this country and export them to China.”
In a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon, the former head of the Obama Administration Auto Task Force, Steven Rattner, joined local UAW Region 2B Director Ken Lortz and Jeep assembly worker James Fayson, to highlight how Mitt Romney and his campaign are being dishonest with the people of northwest Ohio about Jeep and desperately trying to rewrite history and Romney’s opposition to the auto rescue and Ohio workers.
According to Obama campaign officials, “While President Obama ignored pundits and polls to stand by the side of Ohio’s auto manufacturers and suppliers, Mitt Romney dismissed the industry, its workers and the local economy by claiming we should ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt’. With no defense of his positions, Romney will do or say anything to get elected – including repeating debunked rumors regarding Jeep moving production to China in front of thousands of Ohioans.”
Steven Rattner, former head of President Obama’s Administration Auto Task Force, told reporters the auto rescue has become a political issue, and that it’s not surprising given “what the president did and what Romney said he would do.” Rattner, author of “Overhaul,” a New York Times best-selling account of the Obama Administration’s reorganization and recapitalization of the auto companies, said no private capital was available to the car companies at the time. Had Romney’s comment been reality, the car manufacturers would have “stopped making cars, they would have closed their doors and laid off workers,” delivering devastation for Ohio workers and the chain of suppliers who would have been badly hurt.
Rattner directly credited Ohio’s recover from the Great Recession and its current 7 percent unemployment rate to President Obama. He rhetorically asked what would have happened had the president not done what he did, which saved a million jobs. ” I’m proud of what we accomplished together,” he said.
Also on the call was UAW Region 2B (Toledo) Director Ken Lortz, a resident of Ohio. He said the TV ad the Romney campaign has put up, based on his claim that has now been shown to be false, is “indefensible and insulting,” a rumor he said is “patently false.” Lortz said Toledo home to the most modern high-tech auto manufacturing plant in America. Mr. Romney’s tactics, he said have only angered Ohioans. For Mr. Romney to “lie to our faces and try to deceive us is just too much,: Lortz said, adding, “Romney will pay a price on Nov.v 6.”
One reporter who asked the Romney campaign for a copy of its plan to help the auto industry got nothing in return, which leads him to the inevitable deduction that it was all made up.
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