"The car companies themselves have told Gov. Romney to knock it off," Obama said.
Romney did not mention the auto bailout in a speech in Wisconsin that was billed as his closed argument. A spokeswoman for his campaign said after Obama's speech that it was the president who was deceiving voters on the auto industry.
"The facts are clear: despite his false and misleading attacks, President Obama took the auto companies into bankruptcy," Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement provided to The Hill. "His mismanagement of the process has exposed taxpayers to a $25 billion loss. And these companies are expanding production overseas."
Obama has touted the $80 billion auto bailout in Ohio more than he has in any other swing state, and some attribute it to the president's slim but persistent lead in the Buckeye State.
Seeking to maintain any advantage he has gained from the bailout, Obama reminded his supporters again Friday of Romney's widely read 2008 New York Times op-ed that argued against it.
"I understand that Gov. Romney has had a tough time here in Ohio because he was against saving the auto industry, and it’s hard to run away from that position when you’re on videotape saying the words, ‘Let Detroit go bankrupt,' " Obama said.
"And I know we’re close to an election but this isn’t a game," he continued. "These are people’s jobs. These are people’s lives. You don’t scare hard-working Americans just to scare up some votes. That’s not leadership."
As the campaign in Ohio has increasingly centered on the auto bailouts, Romney has accused Obama of misrepresenting his position on the loans. The former Massachusetts governor has argued that he was in favor of a "managed bankruptcy" for the car companies, and said Obama eventually took his advice when he placed conditions on GM and Chrysler in the spring of 2009.
Democrats argue that the critical decision in the auto intervention was whether or not the federal government should provide the money for the loans before they restructured, which Romney opposed.
Chrysler and General Motors have argued that it is common practice in the auto industry to build cars in the markets they are planning to sell them, pointing to factories owned by companies like Toyota and Volkswagen in the U.S.
A GM spokesman said this week that Romney's ads suggesting otherwise came from a "parallel universe." Similarly, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, who leads the company that bought Chrysler after its bailout, said production of U.S. Jeep vehicles would not be moved to China in a letter to employees that was published in the Detroit News.