Throughout the media Mitt Romney has taken heat for his position on the auto-industry bailouts. Voters are noticing, too, as recent polls show that Santorum has taken the lead in the state. It comes at a particularly bad time as the Michigan primary is just weeks away.
Earlier this week, Mitt Romney penned an op-ed in the Detroit News criticizing the 2009 bailout of Detroit’s Big Three automakers. In it, he stands by his position at the time of letting the companies go through a managed bankruptcy, which was eventually done by Obama, and touts his Michigan roots as the son of former American Motor Company and Michigan Governor George Romney. Romney goes on to blast Obama, calling the bailout and subsequent caving to union demands “crony capitalism on a grand scale”.
In some respects, he is right. How Obama and the bankruptcy courts got away with nationalizing and handing GM and Chrysler over to the United Auto Workers union is beyond me. If that weren’t enough, Chrysler’s “secured creditors” were completely thrown under the bus, while the UAW got an ownership share of the new company. Given the President’s track record with unions, such as the Boeing move and NLRB, it shouldn’t be much of a shock, but how the court-system let it pass is a mystery.
Romney may have been trying to blast the President for crony capitalism, but he made a grave mistake by criticizing the auto-industry to Michiganders (me included). Since writing the piece, media outlets from both sides of the aisle have taken swings at Mitt. Newsmax ran a story called “Detroit to Romney: Get Real on Auto Bailout“, while the Huffington Post declares that “Romney’s stance on the auto bailouts doesn’t reflect local feelings on the economy”. Even CNN commentator LZ Granderson, a Detroit native, said that Romney’s “not family. Not anymore”.
Voters in Michigan seem to agree with the media; in recent polls, Romney’s numbers have tanked, while Santorum continues to rise. Both still trail Obama head-to-head, but in a historically Democratic state, a win for the socially conservative Pennsylvania Senator would be a big blow to Romney’s campaign. But why are they so upset?
Its pretty simple: Michigan’s economy lives and dies with the auto industry. There is strong union support, mostly because virtually everyone has a family member in one, and even stronger support for the Big Three. So when Obama swooped in to save the auto-industry, he virtually bought a large chunk of voters. Not only that, but those same companies that were hemorrhaging money and shedding jobs before the bailout are now hiring workers and adding shifts. People in Michigan see this and credit Obama, whether right or wrong, with saving the auto-industry, Michigan’s economy, and thus their jobs and livelihood. To Michigan voters, it was a personal attack.
I predict a hardy Santorum win on February 28th.
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