Obama knocks Romney on auto bailout in Ohio

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Obama touted a nearby Chrysler auto plant, which he said was hiring 1,100 extra workers "to make the cars that the world wants to buy.

"The Wrangler built right here in Toledo just set an all-time sales record," Obama said.

The remarks come amid recent reports that the U.S. auto companies experienced their best sales last month since 2007. Obama is pointing to that recent success ahead of a June jobs report that is expected Friday that could bring more bad economic news for his reelection campaign to have to deal with.

The president's remarks on Thursday likely foreshadow a recurring theme that is almost certain to mark the fall campaign in the Midwest. Democrats have made clear they see a political advantage over Romney, who wrote a memorable op-ed in 2009 titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," in states like Michigan and Ohio. 

Romney has argued that he was calling for a managed bailout for the auto companies. But Obama has sought to turn the bailouts, which were unpopular nationally but well-liked in Midwestern states, into a political winner as he bids for a second term.

The bailouts began in late 2008 under then-President George W. Bush, but have become closely associated with Obama.

Critics have often noted that the federal government has not recovered all of the nearly $80 billion it loaned to General Motors and Chrysler in 2008. The government still owns shares in GM, despite its strong financial performance since the bailouts, leading some conservatives to derisively refer to the company as "Government Motors."