Obama Rebuts Romney's Jeep, Auto Claims in Ohio

Jill Lawrence

The Obama campaign released a TV ad Monday aimed at halting a Mitt Romney offensive on the automobile industry in must-win Ohio. The new Obama ad challenges Romney’s claim in his own ad that he would “do more for the auto industry” than Obama, as well as the ad’s incorrect implication that Chrysler is moving Jeep production from Ohio to China.

The Romney ad touts endorsements from the Detroit News and former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca, and says that."Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job."

The problem is that Romney also supported bankruptcy for GM and Chrysler, but Obama likely saved them from dissolution by giving them government backing during the process – a step Romney opposed. Also, while the ad implies Chrysler is going to ship U.S. jobs to China, Chrysler says any future China production will be an expansion to serve Chinese customers, and “Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.”

The Obama ad says “Chrysler ITSELF has refuted Romney’s lie” about Jeep outsourcing to China and says Romney “turned his back” when the industry was near collapse. “Even the conservative Detroit News criticized Romney for his ‘wrong-headedness’ on the bailout,” the ad says.

With many pundits saying neither candidate can win without Ohio, Jeep was the Obama campaign theme of the day, even as Hurricane Sandy was rampaging along the East Coast. In addition to the new ad, there was a conference call featuring former administration “car czar” Steve Rattner, and former president Bill Clinton highlighted the issue at an event with vice president Joe Biden in Youngstown.

“Now it turns out that Jeep is reopening in China because they made so much money here they can afford to do it and they are going on with their plans here,” Clinton said. “They put out a statement today saying that it was the biggest load of bull in the world that they would consider shutting down their American operation. They are roaring in America thanks to people like the people of Ohio.”

There are likely very few Ohio voters unaware of Obama’s highly controversial but ultimately successful decision to step in with government help in 2009. More than 800,000 jobs in the state are related to the auto industry, and Obama and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown have been promoting their roles in the industry revival for months.

Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg emailed this response to Obama’s new ad: “It appears the Obama campaign is less concerned with engaging in a meaningful conversation about President Obama’s failed policies and more concerned with arguing against facts about their record they dislike. The American people will see their desperate arguments for what they are.”