Dems and liberal bloggers are having a grand old time mocking Mitt Romney in the wake of his spokesman’s claim today that Romney deserves credit for the rebound of the auto industry — even though he opposed Obama’s auto bailout.

The fun started when a Romney spokesman told the New York Times that “Romney had the idea first,” claiming he advocated for “a course of action that eventually the Obama administration adopted.”Dems immediately countered by pointing out that in 2008, Romney penned an Op ed pillorying the auto bailout with the title: “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”

I asked Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul for clarification of the Romney camp’s claim that he deserves credit for the auto industry’s rebound. She emailed:

“President Obama spent billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to bailout the auto industry. Mitt Romney argued that instead of a bailout, we should let the car companies go through a restructuring under the protection of the bankruptcy laws. This is the course the Obama administration eventually followed. If they had done it sooner, as Mitt Romney suggested, the taxpayers would have saved a lot of money.”

In other words, the Romney camp’s position is that is that Romney pushed for a restructing but without any taxpayer bailout of the industry, and that if Obama had undertaken the restructuring Romney suggested sooner, the bailout would not have been necessary.

The Dem pushback to this, of course, is obvious. Romney’s suggested course of action, rather than a taxpayer funded bailout, was for a “managed bankruptcy” and a federal role that consisted of “guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing.” Obama, by contrast, argued that a federally-financed bailout would be essential to the auto industry’s comback. “Executing this plan will require a substantial amount of money that only a government can provide,” Obama said at the time.

Even some initial critics of the bailout eventually conceded that Obama had gotten it right. The Economist — hardly a bastion of Big Government liberalism — apologized to Obama for opposing the bailout, noting that it was “unlikely” that the restructuring would have worked “had the government not stepped in.”

Beyond this, the main problem for Romney here may simply be the title of his initial Op ed: “Let Detroit go bankrupt.” You think a visual of that might appear in a 30-second ad in the crucial swing states of the industrial midwest, should Romney become the GOP nominee?