Mitt Romney is playing up his roots in Michigan ahead of the Feb. 28 primary, but top Democrats are doing their best to tear down the “hometown hero” image.
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the state’s senior Congressman, said in a conference call that Romney “left for good in 1965.”
“He’s domiciled in New Hampshire and has himself a fine oceanfront mansion in California and he served for four years as a governor in another state,” he said.
Dingell, along with fellow Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) and former Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), focused their fire almost exclusively on Romney’s opposition to President Obama’s bailout of Detroit’s auto companies, which has become a centerpiece of the President’s re-election campaign now that the industry is again thriving.
Asked by reporters how Romney compared to his father, former Governor and auto executive George Romney, Dingell again took a potshot at the younger Romney’s authenticity.
“I have to observe that the first Governor Romney [was governor] of Michigan,” he said. “And the second governor got out of there just as fast as he knew how. He’s been away for awhile. I don’t think the first Governor Romney would have said ‘Let Detroit go bankrupt.’”
Granholm accused Romney of betraying his home state for political gain in 2008 by attacking the bailout. Romney is up with an op-ed today in the Detroit News defending his position and claiming that the industry would be in better shape if it had instead gone through a managed bankruptcy with less government assistance and more concessions from workers.
“The man who was born in Michigan, people would expect to be loyal to Michigan,” Granholm said, mocking him for his op-ed’s reminiscences about drinking Vernor’s ginger ale as a child. “The element of stabbing us in the back is so much more painful because he’s from Michigan.”
In a surprise given his 2008 victory and close ties, Romney is currently struggling in Michigan against Rick Santorum, who currently leads our TPM Polling Average of the state.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.