Michigan Gov. Snyder: GOP candidates should not focus on auto bailouts

Michigan Gov. Rick Synder (R) said Republicans should not make the bailouts of the auto companies in Detroit a big campaign issue next year.

His party's presidential candidates were gathered in his state for a debate Wednesday night and the auto bailout was the subject of one of the first questions asked.


Several GOP candidates have sharply criticized the Obama administration's handling of the bailouts to General Motors and Chrysler, which began under former President George W. Bush in late 2008. Some Republicans argued that President Obama wanted to permanently run the car companies, referring to General Motors derisively as "Government Motors" after the government brought most of its shares of stock.

But Synder, who took over for a term-limited Democrat last year in the Republican wave election of 2010, counseled the Republican presidential hopefuls to leave the issue alone.  

"I wouldn't spend a ton of time trying to reconstruct," he said in an interview with MSNBC. "History is easy to go back and look at. If you looked at when it was transpiring, the way I viewed it, it wasn't about an individual company. If we were talking about an individual company situation, that's what bankruptcy is there for, and that shouldn't be interfered with."

Synder said the situation that faced the auto industry when the government decided to stop Chrysler and General Motors from going into bankruptcy in 2008 was different.

"If you looked at the auto industry, if either GM or Chrysler or both would have gone down with some management of the process … it would have taken down the entire supply chain," he said in the interview. "It probably would have put Ford in bankruptcy and hundreds of suppliers. So that's a case that fairly unique that's outside of the traditional bankruptcy." 

Ford, the other major Detroit-based American car company, did not accept a bailout, and the company has touted that fact in a commercial the Obama administration was alleged to have pressured them to take down.

Democrats have made clear they see they see the auto bailouts as a political winner for Obama. Chrysler and General Motors announced earlier this year that they were paying the federal government back for their loans, though critics noted the U.S. was unlikely to recover its outstanding $1.9 billion investment in Chrysler and its investments in GM beyond the $6.7 billion loan it gave the company.

But Democrats released a commercial of their own this week, targeting Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts wrote a widely read op-ed in The New York Times in the fall of 2008 in opposition to the federal government assisting General Motors and Chrysler.

The article was titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” which the Democratic ad repeats Romney saying.

Synder said in his interview with MSNBC that neither party should worry about taking credit the auto bailouts.

"I don't worry about blame nor credit," he said. "It's about solving problems and we've got so many problems to solve.

"As a practical matter, it's done, the industry is making a strong comeback now," he continued. "It's exciting to see what's going on with the auto industry now."