Romney made the comments to local television station WEWS-TV while campaigning in Cleveland Monday.
"My own view, by the way, was that the auto companies needed to go through bankruptcy before government help. And frankly, that’s finally what the president did. He finally took them through bankruptcy. That was the right course I argued for from the very beginning," Romney said.
The presumptive Republican nominee went on to say that the auto unions had made the recovery harder and delayed implementing his plan.
"It was the UAW and the president that delayed the idea of bankruptcy. I pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy and finally when that was done, and help was given, the companies got back on their feet. I’ll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry’s come back," Romney said.
Romney's characterization of the auto bailout drew a quick rebuke from the Obama campaign, which noted that Romney had stated his explicit opposition to federal aid for General Motors and Chrysler while campaigning in Michigan earlier this year.
"Mitt Romney may think he can fool the American people by hiding his belief that we should 'let Detroit go bankrupt,' but the American people won't let him," former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said in a statement released by the campaign. "His comments today that he will 'take a lot of credit that the [auto] industry has come back' are a new low in dishonesty, even for him. Mitt Romney seems to think Americans will just forget the past and his very vocal and clear opposition to the successful auto rescue."
Democrats have argued that without some $80 billion in federal loans, the Detroit automakers would have never have had a shot to recover from their crippling debt. The Obama campaign has repeatedly pointed to a 2008 op-ed penned by Romney carrying the headline "Let Detroit go Bankrupt" — and Romney's opposition of the federal loan program — as evidence Obama was a better steward of the auto industry.
But the Romney campaign has begun to argue that the president essentially adopted Romney's plan for managed bankruptcy.
"His position on the bailout was exactly what President Obama followed,” senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said at a forum late last month. “He said, ‘If you want to save the auto industry, just don’t write them a check. That will seal their doom. What they need to do is go through a managed bankruptcy process.’ ”
“Consider that the crown jewel,” Fehrnstrom said. “The only economic success that President Obama has had is because he followed Mitt Romney’s advice.”
This comments also drew criticism from the president's reelection team.
“GM and Chrysler are in existence, creating jobs, and posting some of their most profitable quarters in history because President Obama bet on American workers,” said Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith. “If Mitt Romney had had his way, the American auto industry and the millions of jobs it supports would cease to exist.”