Mitt Romney's campaign has released an ad in Ohio that says he -- and not President Barack Obama -- will do more to help the auto industry, even though Obama's administration is widely credited with helping to turn
around General Motors and Chrysler when they faced collapse.
In the ad, the Romney campaign also says that Jeep, now owned by Italian automaker Fiat after going through a structured bankruptcy in 2009, is going to make cars in China.
While true, that production would represent an expansion or return of jobs to China for Chrysler, not a transfer of North American jobs. It is also a move which analysts say could improve the brand's global standing.
The ad -- which Politico and other publications said aired in Ohio on Saturday -- is an attempt by Romney to try to turn the auto rescue against Obama in a state that could make or break Romney's presidential hopes. After Michigan, Ohio had more auto manufacturing jobs as of September than any other state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Polls in Ohio show a tightening race. The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls gives Obama a lead of less than 2 percentage points (within the margin of error of all the polls), and a Cincinnati Enquirer poll released today shows a dead heat at 48% each for Obama and Romney.
Romney's ad could be risky. Late last week, Romney -- a former Republican governor of Massachusetts -- told a rally in Defiance, Ohio, that he'd "seen a story ... that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China."
Not only was the story wrong, Romney took criticism for not knowing better and repeating it without questioning it. On Thursday, the Free Press reported that 1,100 new workers will begin making the Jeep Grand Cherokee in Detroit this week to boost production. In addition, Chrysler is in the process of investing $500 million at a Jeep plant in Toledo and will hire an additional 1,105 workers there. It was not known if the new ad was an attempt to capitalize on the incorrect story -- or even when and where the ad might run again, if it were to do so.
Taken with comments earlier this campaign when Romney suggested that 47% of Americans who rely on government benefits have a victim mentality -- comments he later rescinded -- the new ad and the comments in Defiance are being used by Romney's opponents to suggest he is willing to stretch the truth to get elected. National polls have shown Romney with a narrow lead, inside the margin of error.
In the ad, a narrator begins, "Who will do more for the auto industry? Not Barack Obama." It then goes onto to cite former Chrysler head Lee Iococca's support of Romney and Romney's endorsement by the Detroit News. (The Detroit Free Press today endorsed Obama.)
But it ignores the fact that, in late 2008, Romney wrote an editorial for the New York Times in which he counseled against any heavy government investment to prop up General Motors and Chrysler. Auto experts and government officials have said repeatedly that without government investment from the Bush and Obama administrations, the companies could have been liquidated because private funds were frozen by the recession.
To add context, Iococca famously asked Congress for help for Chrysler in 1979-80 and repaid it ahead of schedule.
Romney's Michigan campaign did not return calls or emails requesting comment on the ad or whether it was intended to be linked with Romney's incorrect remarks made Thursday.
"Mitt Romney's new ad is a sure sign of desperation, " said Matt McGrath, campaign spokesman for Obama's Michigan operation. "As Michiganders well know, when the American auto industry and a million workers' jobs were on the line, Governor Romney turned his back. Now he's pretending it never happened, while at the same time repeating a blatant falsehood that Chrysler is moving its Jeep operations to China. "
Before Obama was sworn in as president in 2009, former President George W. Bush issued the first government financial assistance for General Motors and Chrysler.
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