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Are Democrats meddling with Michigan's GOP primary?

February 23, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • A new television ad for the Obama campaign criticizes Republicans for opposing the auto bailout.
A new television ad for the Obama campaign criticizes Republicans for opposing… (YouTube )

The latest ad buy in the Michigan Republican primary battle is from a Democrat -- President Obama.

The president's reelection campaign announced Thursday it is running a new 30-second advertisement in the state, the latest bit of Democratic meddling in the tight GOP contest (see video below).

The spot, the campaign's first single-state ad campaign, touts the Obama administration's bailout of the auto industry by hailing the "grit and sacrifice of Michigan workers."

"When a million jobs were on the line, every Republican candidate turned their back," the ad states. "Even said, 'Let Detroit go Bankrupt.'"

That's a reference to Mitt Romney's 2008 op-ed in which he called for a managed bankruptcy for the troubled Detroit auto giants.

Obama is quoted in the ad saying, "Don't bet against the American auto industry," and "Don't bet against the American worker." The spot will air on broadcast and cable in the Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Flint markets.

Why is the Obama campaign on the air in Michigan this early? The president's name is on the ballot Tuesday, though state Democrats will actually hold caucuses later this spring to select their convention delegates.

Michigan has been contested as a swing state in the general election. But Democrats have carried it in the last five presidential contests, and a new NBC/Marist poll showed Obama easily leading each of the Republican hopefuls, by 18 points over Romney and as many as 28 over Newt Gingrich.

The ad, then, may be the latest in an apparent effort by Democrats to try to steer the outcome of the GOP race Tuesday, well aware that a defeat for Romney would prolong the party's primary battle.

Tuesday's Republican primary is open to any voter (state voters do not register with a specific party when they get on the rolls, as is the case in other states). So supporters of the president could conceivably pull a Republican ballot in hopes of sending Romney to defeat. That voter's name would eventually appear in the public record as having participated in the Republican vote, however.

The Michigan Democratic Party sent an email to supporters linking to a YouTube video showing Republican state senators saying that Democrats could vote in the GOP race Tuesday.

"If Democratic crossover votes affect the results on Feb. 28, Republicans will have no one but themselves to blame," state Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer said in a statement.

Priorities USA, a pro-Obama "super PAC," also is on the Michigan airwaves with a TV spot showing Romney saying, "Let Detroit go bankrupt."

Overall, the NBC/Marist poll showed that 63% of Michigan voters surveyed said the bailout was a good idea, while 28% said it was bad. Among self-identified Republicans, though, the split was 50% to 41% against the bailout.

Fifty-eight percent of registered voters said Obama deserves a great deal or a good amount of credit for the recovery of the auto industry.

In last night's GOP debate, there was unanimity among the candidates that Obama did not. Romney said the administration "wasted money" before coming around to his position that there needed to be a managed bankruptcy.

michael.memoli@latimes.com
twitter.com/mikememoli

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