Former Obama 'car czar' criticizes Romney on auto bailout opposition

In the same newspaper in 2008, Romney wrote an op-ed titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," in which he predicted the U.S. auto companies would face financial ruin if the government provided them assistance instead of the private market. Democrats argued that there was not enough capital available during the economic panic of late 2008, and they have suggested since that they see Romney's opposition to the bailouts as a political winner for the president.

With the Republican primary centered now on Michigan and Arizona, they have ramped up their criticism.

Romney has defended his opposition to the bailouts, writing a new op-ed this month in The Detroit News arguing that Obama eventually followed his advice when he made decisions such as forcing General Motors to replace its general manager.

“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."

Polls have shown recently that opposing the bailouts are likely not to hurt Romney or any of the other Republican presidential candidates, who have all also said they disagreed with the assistance that was given to the car companies, in a primary with GOP voters.

But Rattner wrote Friday that the bailouts were the right course of action for the federal government to take on the merits.

"Mr. Romney may have the primary politics right — though with a majority of Michigan voters supporting the rescue, he may want to pivot deftly before the general election in November," he said. "But on the substance he’s dead wrong."

A recent NBC/Marist poll said 63 percent of registered Michigan voters supported the bailouts, buoying Obama to a wide lead over all the Republican candidates in hypothetical general-election match-ups in the state.