Why Obama is advertising during a Republican primary

Christina Rogers covers VW and regulatory/legislative issues for Automotive News.

DETROIT -- Barack Obama's re-election campaign threw its counterpunch today to all the negative publicity being heaped on the auto bailouts in the run-up to the Feb. 28 Republican presidential primary in Michigan.

A new TV ad released by the campaign defends the government's $85 billion rescue of the once-crippled domestic auto industry in 2008-09. It touts the industry's recovery, noting big profits from GM and a sales rise for Chrysler in January. (Why only January? Who knows.)

The commercial, titled "Made in America," also takes a swipe at the Republicans for opposing the bailouts. It singles out Republican candidate Mitt Romney for his November 2008 op-ed piece in The New York Times titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." The ad emphasizes President Obama's "bold decision" to save GM and Chrysler in the face of adversity.

"When a million jobs were on the line, every Republican candidate turned their back," says a slightly gravelly voice talking over images of assembly lines and hard-working Americans.

Never mind that the bailouts were initiated under the Bush Administration in 2008. That seems to be missing from the commercial. Then again, it's not like the Republicans are eager to highlight that little factoid, either.

Still, the Obama campaign is feeling the heat in Michigan -- a state that's become a favored political football for both camps because of the auto industry's dominance.

Romney, who's father is a former Michigan governor and auto exec, has only become more pointed on his anti-bailout stance.

He wrote an editorial for The Detroit News two weeks ago criticizing the rescue as "crony capitalism on a grand scale" and chided Obama for not "standing up to union bosses."

With the GOP primary less than a week away, the Obama campaign wasn't about to let those comments stand.

The ad makes an unabashed appeal for Michigan votes. It notes the president's role, and closes with the following:

"Now a retooled, restructured industry is back because of the grit and sacrifice of Michigan workers."

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