Flailing in Ohio, Romney rolls out Jeep ploy: editorial
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012, 8:15 PM
By The Plain Dealer Editorial Board
Mitt Romney is desperate to convince Ohio voters that he's the candidate most committed to the U.S. auto industry -- no matter how much confusion he must sow to do it.
Last week, Romney recklessly told a large audience in Defiance that he'd read that Chrysler's Italian owners -- that would be Fiat, which has controlled the American automaker since 2009 -- were planning to move all Jeep production to China. The Republican presidential nominee's statement predictably drew groans in Northwest Ohio, where the auto industry is critical to prosperity. He pledged to keep American jobs in America, if elected.
But apparently Romney had been reading a blogger who misunderstood reports that Chrysler was looking to again make some Jeeps in China for that expanding market. The news is a sign of Chrysler's health, not of some sinister intentions by its management. The company is investing $500 million and hiring 1,100 workers at its Toledo Jeep plant. The day Romney misspoke, Chrysler announced plans to add 1,100 employees in Detroit, too. A company spokesman called any suggestion that Chrysler is abandoning its U.S. plants "a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats."
Ah, but not for a presidential candidate who needs a wedge in auto-dependent Ohio. Romney is now running an ad that reinforces the erroneous perception he laid out in Defiance, but in language that is technically true: "Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China."
In one sentence, Romney presses hot buttons about bankruptcy -- though he, too, favored that route, albeit without direct federal investment -- foreigners and outsourcing. It's a masterpiece of misdirection.
The Romney campaign clearly is being hurt [because] Chrysler and GM were saved by the decisions of President Barack Obama. So Romney and his surrogates claim that Obama essentially followed their blueprint for the rescue or that it really wasn't a good deal -- because some plants and dealerships closed -- or, now, that the wolf is back at the door.
It won't work. Ohio voters know who stepped up when the auto industry was at the abyss -- and it wasn't Romney.