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Romney Trying to Flip Script on Auto Bankruptcy Storyline

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has gone on the offensive to try to turn his negatively-perceived 2008 views on the auto bailout into a positive. It will take work to on his part to disengage the resulting brake that slowed his campaign efforts during the GOP primaries in states like Ohio and Michigan earlier this year.

Romney, bashed for the self-penned 2008 New York Times headline “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” was back on the Ohio campaign trail and proclaimed that he deserved “a lot of credit” for the rebound of the automotive industry. In his opinion piece, Romney tried to remind people that, beyond the hyper-discussed headline, he called for a “managed” and controlled U.S. automotive industry bailout, which was shepherded by incumbent President Barack Obama in 2009. The basic gist was that the president had acted on his publicly-offered advice. Romney sidestepped the fact that he opposed much of the government’s financial involvement for U.S. auto companies despite assertions from most bankruptcy experts that private investment appetite was not near strong enough during a steep downturn to have facilitated it without the bailout. They argue that liquidations would have been near-unavoidable.

Both auto industry-dependant states are key “swing states” that will go a long way in determining the 2012 Presidential Election. Romney faced a considerable image problem in both states during the primaries largely based on the ill-worded headline. The auto bankruptcy bailout almost certainly will remain a battle issue in both states through November. After all, it was the first issue Romney publicly used to engage Obama after announcing his official candidacy last year.

Brian Shappell, CBA, NACM staff writer