DETROIT – Mitt Romney will return to his birthplace of Michigan for Wednesday night’s Republican presidential candidates debate, but he is hardly getting a warm welcome home.
Democrats on Tuesday launched a coordinated assault on Romney over his opposition to the 2008 federal bailouts for struggling U.S. auto companies. The Democratic National Committee released a web video, “Hit the Road, Mitt,” that attacks Romney for once saying, “Let Detroit go bankrupt.” Meanwhile, five Democratic congressmen from the Detroit area staged a press conference at the United Auto Workers offices here accusing Romney of having “turned his back on Michigan.”
Romney, meanwhile, tried to explain his position on the auto bailouts during a tense exchange with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. In the interview Tuesday, Romney said he favored a structured bankruptcy for the nation’s big three auto companies.
“I said they needed to go through a managed bankruptcy,” Romney told Stephanopolous. “I wrote an article and said these companies, don’t write them a check. They’ve come to Washington asking for money. Don’t write them a check. Have them go through managed bankruptcy. And then, after that process, if they need help – if they need help, for instance, guaranteeing the warranties of people who bought their cars – then the government can step in and provide that help. But don’t just write a check off the bat.”
Ultimately, only after receiving federal funds, the auto companies did complete a structured bankruptcy.
“It turned out that I was right,” Romney said. “They finally followed that advice and the industry is back on its feet.”
President Obama won Michigan’s electoral votes in 2008, but with the state’s manufacturing economy in shambles, it figures to be a hotly-contested swing state in 2012. Romney was born here and his father, George, served three terms as governor and ran a major auto company. Democrats believe Mitt Romney is vulnerable on the auto bailout issue and have aggressively attacked him on it.
“If Mitt Romney was president, there would not be an American auto industry,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement Tuesday. “Industry experts have been clear: our auto companies would have faced liquidation if Mitt Romney had his way and more than 1 million Americans would have lost their jobs. Mitt Romney must explain to Michigan voters this week why he would have let Detroit go bankrupt.”
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said it was Obama, not Romney, who “has let Michigan go bankrupt.”
“People have lost their jobs and their homes, and for those who still have work, their incomes have declined,” Saul said in a statement. “An 11 percent unemployment rate in Michigan is why the White House wants to change the subject to anything other than President Obama’s abysmal record.”
This story has been updated.