Governors launch auto caucus

"Missouri has always been an automotive state," Nixon added. "It’s who we are, and it’s one of the reasons that Missouri works."

Haslam and Quinn made similar proclamations about the auto industry's role in their states.

"Our Jobs4TN economic development strategy includes a strong emphasis on the automotive industry, which has a rich history and successful track record in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “Thousands of Tennessee families rely on high quality jobs in advanced manufacturing, and we are always looking for opportunities to grow the automotive supply chain here.”

“With Ford’s growth from one shift to three shifts and Chrysler’s surge from 200 jobs to more than 4,200 jobs, it is clear that the auto industry is alive and well in Illinois,” Quinn added. “We have seen tremendous growth and new jobs created over the last few years and that’s in part due to our strong workforce and efforts to make Illinois a great place to do business.”

The quartet said the auto caucus would be open to governors from other states.

The Washington, D.C.-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers praised the announcement of its formation.

“Autos drive America forward by providing powerful manufacturing presences in communities, providing paychecks for millions of families and generating substantial tax revenues,” Auto Alliance President Mitch Bainwol said in a statement. “We commend these four governors for their leadership and commitment.”

The formation of the auto caucus comes as debate over the $80 bailout of the U.S. auto industry in 2008 and 2009 continues to play a major role in the presidential election. President Obama and his supporters have argued that the bailouts, which began under former President George W. Bush, saved more than a million jobs that would have been eliminated if Chrysler and General Motors had been allowed to go into bankruptcy.

Critics have countered that the federal government has not recovered all of its initial investment in Chrysler and still owes shares of GM, leading conservatives to derisively refer to the company as "Government Motors."

Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has been on the defensive about the bailouts because of a 2008 New York Times op-ed he wrote that was titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

Romney has argued that Obama was followed his advice of allowing the companies to go through a "managed bankruptcy" when he placed conditions on the loans in 2009.