by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
Mitt Romney opened a new front Tuesday in the spirited battle to shape voter perceptions of President Obama’s auto industry bailout, airing a new radio ad in Ohio that suggests the rescue effort helped workers in China more than the United States.
“Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry,” a narrator says in the Romney radio ad. “But for who? Ohio or China? Under President Obama, GM cut 15,000 American jobs, but they are planning to double the number of cars built in China, which means 15,000 more jobs for China. And now comes word that Chrysler is starting to build cars in, you guessed it, China.”
Democrats have sharply criticized Romney for a similar television ad that some say suggests that Chrysler is planning to move Jeep production lines that are currently in campaign battleground Ohio overseas.
Chrysler says it is considering adding production capacity in China to build vehicles for customers there. Fiat, the Italian company that purchased Chrysler, told employees the company has no plans to move Jeep production lines out of the United States.
“Chrysler Group’s production plans for the Jeep brand have become the focus of public debate,” Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne wrote in a letter to employees. “I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China.”
The new radio from Romney asks, “[W]hat happened to the promises made to autoworkers in Toledo and throughout Ohio?”
“The same hard-working men and women who were told that Obama’s auto bailout would help them,” the ad said of auto workers who could help decide the election between Romney and Obama in the critical swing state of Ohio.
“Mitt Romney grew up in the auto industry,” the ad says. “Maybe that’s why the Detroit News endorsed him, saying ‘Romney understands the industry and will shield it from regulators who never tire of churning out new layers of mandates.’ Mitt Romney – he’ll stand up for the auto industry. In Ohio, not China.”
Fact checkers have criticized Romney for citing the Detroit newspaper endorsement, but failing to mention that the newspaper praised Obama’s handling of the $80-billion bailout of the U.S. auto industry.
The auto bailout has become a flash point in the battle for Ohio and other Midwestern swing states.
Democrats have focused intently on Romney’s 2008 op-ed that was titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” and argue he is now trying to mislead voters about his position in the final days of the campaign.
“It turns out that Jeep is reopening in China because they made so much money here they can afford to do it, and they are going with their plans here,” former President Clinton said during an appearance in Ohio on President Obama’s behalf. “They put out a statement today saying it’s the biggest load of bull in the world that they would ever consider shutting down operations. They are roaring in America thanks to people like the people of Ohio.”
Romney’s campaign has defended the Jeep ads, saying that a literal reading of them states only that Chrysler is planning to build cars in China.
“It appears the Obama campaign is less concerned with engaging in a meaningful conversation about the president’s failed policies and more concerned with arguing against facts about their record they dislike,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement released on Monday. “The American people will see their desperate arguments for what they are.”