By Keith Laing - 02/26/12 08:38 PM EST
Michigan’s Republican governor defended the bailouts of the U.S. auto industry that his party’s presidential candidates have been attacking in the run up to Tuesday's state primary.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said that it was clear the bailouts that were given to General Motors and Chrysler were working.
The financial health of the U.S. auto industry has emerged as a central issue in the Republican campaign for president since the primary calendar turned to Michigan.
The entire GOP field has said it opposed the federal loans that were given to the Detroit-based auto companies in 2008 and 2009.
Democrats have hammered former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in particular on the issue, using an op-ed he wrote in 2008 that was titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” to argue that Romney is indifferent to the economic concerns of Michigan voters.
Snyder, who has endorsed Romney, has argued that Republicans should not focus their attention on criticizing the auto bailouts, which began under former President George W. Bush (R) but have become strongly associated with President Obama. Snyder said Sunday that politicians should not be “dwelling” on the auto bailout, even though he said he does not dispute the fact they were successful.
“It really is the question of what are the candidates really talking about to help someone find a job today and tomorrow,” he said. “Michigan has improved a lot. We had 14 percent unemployment at the worst point. We're at 9.3, but that's too much. But we also have found we have 76,000 open jobs in Michigan.”
Democrats have made clear they see the issue of the auto bailouts as a political winner for Obama in Midwestern states like Michigan. The Obama campaign released a commercial last week featuring quotations from Romney’s op-ed, and argued that Michigan would be in worse shape if the president had listened to the GOP hopeful's advice.
As the campaign in Michigan has dragged on, Romney has defended his position on the bailouts, writing another op-ed in the Detroit News arguing that the auto companies would have survived if they were put through managed bankruptcies using private capital.
“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 and other critics of the auto bailouts have noted that the federal government has not received back all of the nearly $50 billion it lent to General Motors. Additionally, the government still owns a percentage of the company's shares, leading some conservatives to mockingly refer to GM as "Government Motors."