Mitt Romney is defending his opposition to the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler with an op-ed in the Detroit News.
Romney, who is trailing Rick Santorum in Michigan, according to two polls released Monday, attacked the bailout in the op-ed and argued that the two companies should have gone through a managed bankruptcy.
“The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse,” Romney wrote. “I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.”
Romney has roots in Michigan, where his father was a popular GOP governor and auto company executive, and he won the state comfortably in 2008. The op-ed emphasized Romney’s Michigan background and sought to assuage concerns that he doesn’t care about the auto industry in a state where even some conservatives are glad the bailout occurred.
“I grew up drinking Vernors [ginger ale] and watching ballgames at Michigan & Trumbull,” where the Detroit Tigers played, Romney wrote. “Cars got in my bones early. And not just any cars, American cars.”
Much of Romney’s op-ed focused on criticism of Obama, whom he slammed for “crony capitalism” in the bailout.
“The indisputable good news is that Chrysler and General Motors are still in business,” he wrote. “The equally indisputable bad news is that all the defects in President Obama’s management of the American economy are evident in what he did.”
Romney argued that Obama should have let the free market work and allowed GM and Chrysler to go through a managed bankruptcy. Instead, he wrote, Obama rewarded union bosses and gave the “secured creditors” of Chyrsler the short shrift.
“Managed bankruptcy may sound like a death knell,” he wrote, defending the course of action he called for. “But in fact, it is a way for a troubled company to restructure itself rapidly, entering and leaving the courtroom sometimes in weeks or months instead of years, and then returning to profitable operation.”
Romney said the government should sell off the remaining GM stock it owns as a result of the bailout and return the money to the taxpayers.
“The Obama administration needs to act now to divest itself of its ownership position in GM,” he wrote. “The shares need to be sold in a responsible fashion and the proceeds turned over to the nation’s taxpayers.”
The issue is a sticky one in the Wolverine State.
“Conservatives hate the auto bailout, but it’s a double-edged sword in the state,” Michigan GOP strategist Denise DeCook told The Hill last week. “As [Michigan conservatives] go and cash their paychecks, they’re saying, ‘Hallelujah, I’m glad it was there, without that bailout there wouldn’t be a state of Michigan anymore.’ There’s the ideological voter, but then there’s an ideological and realistic voter.”