New Romney TV spot blasts dealership closures
Romney: A frequent critic of Detroit's government bailout.
Mitt Romney's criticism of the government bailout of the auto industry continued Wednesday when his campaign released a 30-second TV commercial in Ohio critical of the Obama administration's decision to force General Motors and Chrysler to close dealerships in 2009.
The commercial features Al Zarzour, a dealership owner from the Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst, Ohio, whose store was forced to close as part of GM's bankruptcy.
As images of a shuttered showroom and an empty dealership lot flash across the screen, Zarzour, who said he'd been selling cars in Ohio since 1972, said he received a letter from GM that the company had suspended his credit line.
"We had 30-some employees that were out of work," Zarzour said in the commercial. "My wife and I were the last ones there. You know, it was like the dream that we worked for, and that we worked so hard for, was gone."
About 1,400 GM dealerships and nearly 800 Chrysler dealerships lost their franchises during the automaker's government-led restructuring. Romney has long been a critic of the $85 billion spent by the U.S. Treasury to save the troubled automakers and their finance units.
In November 2008, as President George W. Bush was deciding whether to offer the automakers support, Romney famously wrote an op-ed in The New York Times titled, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." In the piece, and repeatedly on the campaign trail this year, Romney has advocated that managed bankruptcies would have been a more effective way to save Chrysler and GM.
The Obama campaign has highlighted the administration's role in the auto industry's restructuring as one of the biggest economic achievements of the president's first term.
"Let's get this straight -- the very person who argued for the U.S. auto industry to go bankrupt, something that would have caused more than a million jobs lost and utter economic devastation in the Midwest, is now trying to attack the president on how it was handled? This ad in Ohio is a new low for the Romney campaign," Obama spokesman Frank Benanti told The Detroit News.
Dealerships in Ohio now employ 43,200 people, an increase of 2,200 jobs from January 2009, the Obama campaign said, according to the News.
Still, the auto bailouts are likely to be a campaign issue through the November election as industrial manufacturing states such as Michigan and Ohio are likely to be key swing states.
Obama spent the day Wednesday campaigning in Ohio, visiting Akron and Mansfield. The visit was his ninth of the year and the 24th time he has traveled to the Buckeye state since taking office, according to The Hill.
New poll data released from Quinnipiac University, CBS News and The New York Times showed Obama leading Romney in Ohio by a 53 percent to 42 percent margin.
And with 48 percent of poll respondents in Ohio saying the economy is the most important issue for them in the election, it's likely that Romney and Obama will continue to present their differing narratives on the auto bailout as the election draws near.
You can reach Joseph Lichterman at email@example.com.