This post has been updated.
In the final days of the 2012 race, Mitt Romney’s campaign is really making good on its pollster’s August promise to ignore fact checkers. To close the deal in the Ohio, Team Romney is blitzing the state with a series of wildly deceptive statements and ads suggesting that Chrysler is moving local jobs to China.
The latest is an unannounced radio spot, audio of which was posted by the Greg Sargent on Tuesday. The spot asks whether Obama rescued the auto industry for “Ohio — or China?”
“Now comes word that Chrysler plans to start making Jeeps in — you guessed it — China,” the ad’s narrator says. “What happened to the promises made to autoworkers in Toledo and throughout Ohio — the same hard-working men and women who were told that Obama’s auto bailout would help them?”
The radio spot is a supercharged version of an earlier television ad, also unannounced, that drew unusually widespread condemnation in the local and national press for tying a planned expansion of Jeep operations in China to the fate of Jeep workers in Ohio. And that ad jumped off similar statements Romney made earlier while campaigning in Ohio.
Chrysler, Jeep’s parent company, has publicly condemned Romney’s claims as false, writing on its website that they have “no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China” and that any expansion in Asia is to serve Asian markets. In fact, they are adding over 1,000 jobs to their Toledo factory as part of a $500 million investment in upgrading its capacity.
After Romney continued to suggest otherwise in ads, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne personally called him out for “inaccurate” claims.
“Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots. This will never change. So much so that we committed that the iconic Wrangler nameplate, currently produced in our Toledo, Ohio plant, will never see full production outside the United States,” Marchionne said on Tuesday. “Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand.”
GM didn’t take well to the ad either, bristling at the notion that the auto rescue — which the Center for Automotive research estimated saved 1 million US jobs — encouraged outsourcing.
“We’ve clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days,” GM spokesman Greg Martin told the Detroit Free Press. “No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country.”
Detroit News reporter David Sherpardson reported some more choice words from GM over the ad, quoting a representative who said “At this stage, we’re looking at a Hubble telescope-length distances between campaign ads and reality….GM’s creating jobs in the US and repatriating profits back to this country should be a source of bipartisan pride.”
Things have been getting dicy in the fact check department in general this week in Ohio. In addition to Romney’s repeated claim that he’d have saved the auto industry largely with private funds, a scenario experts say would have been impossible during the financial crisis, one of his top surrogates suggested on Monday that a Romney administration would have little effect on abortion laws. Romney supporter Norm Coleman told a Jewish group in the state on Monday that Roe v. Wade would never be reversed under Romney, despite Romney’s frequent criticism of the decision.
In a blast from the past, the Romney campaign is also reviving ads (unannounced, yet again) that feature a debunked claim that Obama “gutted” welfare work requirements. Romney’s original welfare attack in the summer was savaged in the press as inaccurate, prompting Romney’s pollster Neil Newhouse to respond that “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”
The Obama campaign, which has its own ad out countering Romney’s in the state, has tried to suggest that the campaign’s dismissiveness towards fact checks suggests they’re behind in the state and getting desperate. The Romney campaign insists that the race is a toss up and that they’re expanding the electoral map elsewhere to places like Pennsylvania and Minnesota as well.
Update: Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith released a statement responding to the latest Romney ads:
“Now that his false claims about Jeep moving to China have been debunked, Mitt Romney’s desperation has brought him back to his old welfare lie - showing once again that there’s nothing he won’t say to win this election. The welfare attack he repeats in his new ad has been called false by every major fact-checking organization, President Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and a Republican architect of welfare reform. If the American people can’t trust Mitt Romney’s words in his campaign ads, how could they ever trust him with the presidency?”
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.