Dems take victory lap, jab Republicans, on positive Chrysler news

Democrats took a victory lap Tuesday to celebrate Chrysler's repaying of its bailout, and hit the Republicans who opposed the rescue of the Detroit automaker.

As Chrysler prepared to pay the remaining $7.5 billion in loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) celebrated, arguing that Detroit would have gone bankrupt if not for the actions of President Obama.

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The DNC released a new Web video containing clips of Republican presidential contenders publicly opposing the administration's bailouts for Chrysler and General Motors (GM) in early 2009.

The U.S. granted billions to Chrysler in early 2009 to finance its acquisition by the Italian automaker Fiat, while GM received tens of billions from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Each company received the billions in exchange for a quick bankruptcy that involved its restructuring.

Both GM and Chrysler have shown signs of health since their bailouts, and have made strides toward repaying their loans. But the DNC sought to hammer the Republicans, who, at the time, had opposed the assistance. The video singles out former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) for opposing the bailouts. Romney's opposition was especially significant, since he was raised in Michigan, where his father was governor for three terms and served as CEO of American Motors.

"Two years later, after President Obama made the tough choices to put the American auto industry on firmer financial footing and save millions of American jobs ... it's important to remember that Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich and other leading Republicans would have simply 'Let Detroit go bankrupt.' " the DNC said. "Put simply, Republicans got it wrong — and had they had their way, millions of additional Americans would be unemployed and car-making states would have been devastated."

Democrats appear set to get as much political traction as possible out of the positive news for the auto industry, hosting a conference call on Tuesday with former Govs. Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.) and Ted Strickland (D-Ohio), along with the head of the United Auto Workers (UAW), to promote the Chrysler revival.

The celebration also has political significance across the Midwest, especially in Michigan, where the auto industry made its home for generations. Democrats have performed well in the state in recent years, especially in Detroit, before giving up some Republican gains in 2010, which the GOP is hoping to sustain through 2012.