Presidential Race
5:25 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

In Context: Mitt Romney, Ohio And The Auto Bailout

Originally published on Wed October 31, 2012 6:53 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel.

And in the presidential race this week, the focus in the pivotal state of Ohio has been on the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler. President Obama backed it. Mitt Romney opposed it, and the Romney campaign is running some controversial ads on the subject in Ohio.

For us, this is the subject of our series In Context. And NPR's Don Gonyea, in Springfield, Ohio, joins us now to sort it out. Don, I understand this all began with something Mitt Romney said last week in Ohio. Tell us about that and what transpired.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: He did. He deviated a bit from his usual stump speech. He was in Ohio and he said, citing the news article - story that was in Bloomberg News - that Chrysler was moving Jeep production to China. He said that flat out. It is something that's not true. Chrysler is going to produce Jeeps in China, vehicles that would be sold in the Chinese market. U.S. market vehicles will still be built in Toledo and it won't affect job numbers at the big Toledo Jeep plant, which is why everybody cares about that here.

Anyway, then after Chrysler issued a correction, came this Romney ad on the topic. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Mitt Romney has a plan to help the auto industry. He's supported by Lee Iacocca and the Detroit News. Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who were going to build Jeeps in China.

GONYEA: OK. The Romney campaign says there's nothing that's not factual there. It's very carefully worded, as you can hear. But the implication there is what is false, that the company, which is now owned by Fiat, has taken advantage of the federal bailout to offshore U.S. jobs.

Well, the Obama campaign has labeled the ad outright false, and it's been running its own ad in response. Let's listen to some of that now.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: After Romney's false claim of Jeep outsourcing to China, Chrysler itself has refuted Romney's lie. The truth: Jeep is adding jobs in Ohio.

GONYEA: Well, which is it, Don: they're adding jobs in Ohio or sending them to China?

Chrysler is adding 1,100 workers to the Ohio plant, the Toledo plant by 2013. They're adding a second shift. Chrysler also says it has invested more than $1.7 billion in that plant to build the successor to the Jeep Liberty vehicle.

And, you know, when that Romney TV ad came out, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sent an email to workers, saying: Jeep production will not be moved from the U.S. to China. He said the U.S. will continue to constitute the backbone of the brand. But that didn't put an end to it. The Romney campaign followed up the same day with this radio ad that adds General Motors to the mix.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry. But for whom, Ohio or China? Well, under President Obama, GM cut 15,000 American jobs. But they're planning to double the number of cars built in China.

SIEGEL: And did GM have a reaction to that?

GONYEA: GM spokesman Greg Martin said: No amount of campaign politics, at its cynical worst, will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country.

Now, here's what's true. GM's total U.S. employment did fall by about 14,000 since President Obama took office. But most of that was in very early 2009 during the height of the crisis and the run-up to the bankruptcy and the bailout. Since then, GM has been adding U.S. jobs. They are not shifting U.S. jobs to China.

SIEGEL: Don, with less than a week to Election Day, this is usually a time for campaigns to get out the vote to make their closing arguments. Why this battle over this very specific issue in this particular state, Ohio?

GONYEA: Governor Romney has consistently trailed here in Ohio. Ohio is seen as a critical state, if not the critical state. He trails but it's very close. There is the sense that they feel they need to kind of shake it up and really hurt President Obama in an area that is a strength for him. The fact that he championed the auto bailout in a state where automobiles and automobile production are so important.

SIEGEL: Don, thanks for helping us put that in context.

GONYEA: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Don Gonyea in Springfield, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.