Opposed to auto bailout, Romney now takes credit for rebound
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney often finds himself on the defensive in Rust Belt states for having been against the government's auto bailout, which many credit with saving the industry. Now he is taking a new tack on the issue: He is taking credit for the industry's rebound.
LANSING, Mich. — Mitt Romney often finds himself on the defensive in Rust Belt states for having been against the government's auto bailout, which many credit with saving the industry. Now he is taking a new tack on the issue: He is taking credit for the industry's rebound.
Although Romney's closest aides acknowledge that he is politically vulnerable over his opposition to the bailout — immortalized in a New York Times Op-Ed article in 2008 titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" — Romney told WEWS-TV in Cleveland on Monday that he deserved some praise for the industry's recovery.
"I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry's come back," Romney said after a campaign event in Euclid, Ohio.
In opposing the bailout, Romney instead lobbied for a process of "managed bankruptcy," which he said would have allowed the car companies to restructure and emerge stronger than before.
"My own view is that the auto companies needed to go through bankruptcy before government help," Romney said. "And frankly, that's finally what the president did. He finally took them through bankruptcy."
The federal government did help the companies restructure through bankruptcy, after providing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans.
On Tuesday in Lansing, not far from a GM plant, protesters outside the Lansing Community College auditorium where he appeared criticized Romney's opposition to the bailouts. The presumptive GOP nominee was introduced by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican who supported the $80 billion federal loans to GM and Chrysler. Neither man raised the matter.
In a state where car is king and where his father led an automotive company before becoming governor, Romney's only remarks about cars were lamenting the demise of Oldsmobile, which had been headquartered in Lansing.
"It was a fine car and a source of pride for the city. It was also a source of a lot of good-paying jobs," he said. "These last few years have been hard on the people of Lansing, and they have been hard on the people of America. In the Obama economy, some of the hardest hit have been those in the middle class."
GM announced that they were discontinuing the Oldsmobile brand in 2000, and the last car rolled off the assembly line in 2004.
Michigan voters overall support the bailout.
Given Romney's opposition to the federal loans to GM and Chrysler, Democrats seized on those remarks.
During a call organized by Obama's campaign, United Auto Workers President Bob King described Romney's argument as "absurd."
King noted that Romney had favored having the car companies go through bankruptcy and seek private financing as they restructured. But at the time, the credit markets were frozen and little or no financing was available. King credited the George W. Bush administration for understanding the problem and giving GM and Chrysler a bridge loan in December 2008. Otherwise, he said, the companies would have liquidated.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland argued that it was "incredible" for Romney to take credit for the auto industry's resurgence. "The conversation that we are having in this country right now is about who we are going to elect to lead the country, who we trust, who we can count on, who has our backs," he said, adding that Romney's comments should raise questions about his character.