President Obama’s campaign is readying an advertising counterattack against Mitt Romney’s latest ad in Ohio, which has drawn intense criticism in the press for falsely implying that Jeep is shipping jobs from Toledo to China.
“We will have a response spot up shortly,” OFA press secretary Ben LaBolt told reporters on Monday. “I think Ohioans will recognize when something reeks of desperation.” [Update: It’s out, see bottom.]
In a separate call, campaign manager Jim Messina called it one of the “most misleading, hypocritical, and indefensible ads we’ve ever seen in a presidential race.”
The dispute over the Jeep claim began last week when Romney said in a speech in Defiance, Ohio, that the company’s parent, Chrysler, “is thinking of moving all production to China.” This prompted a blunt response from Chrysler, which noted that not only was the claim false, but that the company was actually adding new jobs in Toledo as part of a $500 million investment in its factory there. The China report Romney cited, from Bloomberg, specifically referred to expanding Jeep operations within China that cater to the Asian market, not any kind of movement of resources from Ohio.
While Romney avoided follow-up questions on the issue, his campaign quietly went up with a new ad in the state that referenced the story in an only slightly less misleading way, saying that “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build jeeps in China.”
The ad, which also pushed back against the Obama campaign’s claim that Romney wouldn’t have rescued the auto industry, drew a savage response from the press. A Romney aide defended the spot to Buzzfeed, asking “What’s in there that’s false? Are they building Jeeps in China or not?” — but sidestepped Romney’s implication that Ohio auto jobs are being shipped abroad in the wake of Obama’s bailout.
UAW director Ken Lortz told reporters in the OFA call that Romney was using “using the Jeep workers in Toledo as pawns to falsely politicize this issue.”
“I have talked directly to Chrysler about what’s going on and they’ve said they have absolutely no intention of shifting any production from Toledo to China,” he said.
Update: The Obama campaign posted a response ad on Romney’s “false claim” on YouTube shortly after the call on Monday.
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.