Obama, Romney trade blows on auto bailout in foreign policy debate

President Obama and Mitt Romney traded barbs at Monday night's third presidential debate about the bailout of the U.S. auto industry. 

Though the debate was on foreign policy, the two candidates fought over the bailout in an extension of a discussion about trade policy with China.

"If we'd taken advice from Gov. Romney about our auto industry, we'd be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China," Obama said.

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Romney, as he did in an exchange about the auto bailout in their last debate, pushed back by accusing Obama of misstating his position on the loans that were given to General Motors and Chrysler.

"I'm a son of Detroit," Romney said. "I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars. I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry."

Romney argued that he was suggesting that a “managed bankruptcies” for the auto companies, but Obama countered that only the federal government was able to float loans to the industry during the economic panic of 2008.

For his part, Romney noted for the first time in a debate with Obama that the auto bailout was first initiated by former President George W. Bush before Obama took office. 

“It was President Bush who wrote the first checks,” Romney said. “I disagreed with that."

Obama offered a quick rejoinder that Romney was trying to “airbrush” his position on the auto bailout, however, and he added that “people in Detroit don’t forget.”

Obama has made the auto bailout a centerpiece of his reelection campaign, and his team believes it has helped him build a firewall in Midwestern states such as Ohio that he needs to hold if he is to win reelection.