Obama slams Romney, Santorum at political pep rally with UAW

Speaking to the United Auto Workers conference on Tuesday, President Obama used the success of the auto industry — and a ballroom full of rowdy supporters — to take a veiled jab at Mitt Romney for his opposition to the auto bailout.

“I’ve got to admit, it’s been funny to watch some of these politicians completely try to rewrite history now that you’re back on your feet,” Obama said, as the crowd cheered. “The same folks who said if we went forward with our plan to rescue Detroit, 'You can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.'

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“Now they’re saying we were right all along,” Obama continued. “Or you’ve got folks saying ‘Well the real problem is, what we really disagreed with was the workers, they all made out like bandits,' that saving the auto industry was just about paying back unions. Really? Even by the standards of this town, that’s a load of you know what.”

For the second day in a row, a fiery Obama also hit Rick Santorum for calling him a “snob” by suggesting that all Americans should go to college. In the speech, he touted the success of the auto industry and said it would help those in the middle class "raise kids and maybe send them, yes, to college.”

The auto bailout has been a major issue in the fight between Santorum and Romney in Michigan, where Obama's decision appears popular. Both Santorum and Romney opposed the bailout, but Santorum's campaign has run robocalls urging Democrats to vote for him in the primary because of Romney's opposition to the auto bailout. 


Recent polls suggest Obama is well ahead of both men in one-on-one matchups in Michigan. An NBC/Marist poll last week found Obama had an 18-point lead over Romney in the state.

“President Obama is known for putting his reelection over keeping his promises to the American people. Obama's speech to UAW today is no different. This is an insider deal for his union cronies who got billions in bailout money and are now backing Obama's reelection campaign.” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said.

The president, who fed off the energy from the impassioned crowd, told the workers that they helped “write America’s story” and contributed to its comeback.

“Today, you’re writing a proud, new chapter,” Obama said. “You’re reminding us that no matter how tough times get, Americans are tougher. No matter how many punches we take, we don’t give up. We get up, we fight back, we move forward, and we come out the other side stronger than before.”

Obama also used the opportunity to briefly touch upon gas prices, saying that the fuel economy standards being put in place means the cars the auto workers will build will average 55 miles per gallon, "almost double what they get today."

“That means folks will be able to fill up every two weeks instead of every week, saving the typical family more than $8,000 at the pump over time,” the president said. “That means we’ll cut our oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day.”

In his address, the president said the auto companies were on the brink of failure and “we had a choice to make.”

“If we had turned our backs on you, if America had thrown in the towel, GM and Chrysler wouldn’t exist today,” Obama said. “More than 1 million Americans across the country would have lost their jobs in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

Obama said the auto bailout decision wasn’t popular. 

“And it wasn’t what I ran for president to do; that wasn’t originally what I thought I’d be doing," he said. “But I ran to do the tough things, the right things, no matter the politics."

It wasn’t the first time Obama touted the success of the auto industry. In recent weeks it’s been part of his pitch to fundraisers at events across the country.

Obama also made a surprise stop at the Washington auto show last month on a victory lap to do a little bragging on the subject.

At the White House on Tuesday, spokesman Jay Carney denied that Obama delivered what some labeled as a campaign speech.

Asked if it was indeed a stump speech, Carney said, "Not at all."

"The president has been talking about this since 2009," the spokeman said. "Other politicians are talking about it now for other reasons. These are substantive policy issues."

This story was updated at 1:53 p.m.