Two auto companies made a surprise foray into the presidential campaign on Tuesday, bluntly calling out Mitt Romney for his deceptive Ohio ads that suggest they plan to ship local jobs to China. But according to the Romney campaign, there’s nothing to see here.
“Their comments don’t refute anything in our ad,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Detroit News on Wednesday.
That’s true only in the narrowest, most carefully lawyered sense. After Romney outright misstated last week that Jeep was considering shipping Ohio jobs to China, a claim the company immediately denied (they’re actually adding jobs at their Ohio plant), their ads were more careful to say only that Jeep was looking at expanding in China. This is accurate, but the company says it’s completely unrelated to their domestic workforce and only part of operations catering to the Asian market. And the innuendo behind their TV ads and especially their radio ads is as unmistakably clear as it is misleading: the auto bailout didn’t really save Ohio jobs, it’s sending them to China. From Romney’s unannounced radio spot:
Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry. But for who? Ohio, or China? Under President Obama, GM cut 15,000 American jobs. But they are planning to double the number of cars built in China — which means 15,000 more jobs for China.
And now comes word that Chrysler plans to start making Jeeps in — you guessed it — China. 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?
It was this implied claim that prompted the CEO of Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne, to personally condemn the “inaccurate” ads coming from Romney.
“Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots,” he said. “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.”
For GM, the objectionable content was the suggestion that net losses under Obama — virtually all of them stemming from its near-collapse in 2009 — were proof the bailout failed. But the alternative to the bailout wasn’t that GM would make layoffs, it was that it would disappear entirely. Instead, GM moved back to profitability and added U.S. jobs. This 2009 doomsday scenario is what prompted the Center for Automotive Research to conclude that the bailout saved over 1 million jobs in a study of its effects.
GM’s spokesman Greg Martin assailed the ads on Tuesday, telling the Detroit Free Press that their facts come from a “parallel universe.”
“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,” Martin said.
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.