An image taken from the Romney campaign's controversial Jeep ad. (Romney for President / Los…)
MARION, Ohio – Trying to counter a disadvantage in Ohio, where many jobs were directly connected to the auto bailout that he opposed, Mitt Romney and his campaign have tried to carve out their own niche of support from autoworkers in recent days. Paul Ryan met retirees from Delphi Corp. over the weekend and the Romney campaign began airing an ad accusing Obama of selling Chrysler to “Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China,” an assertion that is misleading.
Now, the Obama campaign is fighting back. In a conference call with reporters Monday, spokesman Ben LaBolt said the campaign would have a response ad up shortly, and he accused Romney of “propagating lies to the people of northwest Ohio about Jeep.”
An estimated 1 in 8 jobs in Ohio are related to the auto industry, and the controversy is taking added importance just eight days before an election that could be partly decided by Ohio's electoral college votes.
LaBolt was joined on the call by a director of the United Auto Workers and by Steven Rattner, former head of the federal auto task force, who tried to refocus the issue on Romney’s position on the auto bailout.
“What Ohioans are seeing on their televisions now is Mitt Romney trying to deceive Ohio voters in order to hide from the fact that his plan would have shut down the auto industry,” Rattner said.
The dispute began last week, when Romney, in a rally in Defiance, Ohio told voters that he saw a story “that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China.”
This week, Romney released an ad, “Who Will do More?” that shows images of cars and people driving as a voice asks, “Who will do more for the auto industry? Not Barack Obama.” Aside from the China assertion, the ad also says that Romney is supported by Lee Iacocca, a businessman who helped revive Chrysler, and that he would help save American jobs. “The truth? Mitt Romney has a plan to help auto industry,” the ad says.
Jeep, as it turns out, had actually said it would open new factories in China to build cars for the Chinese market, but the company said those actions would not affect U.S. jobs. Jeep has plants in Toledo and Detroit and is adding jobs in those facilities, and investing $500 million in the Toledo plant.
“Chrysler is investing in their most modern, most productive assembly plant right here in Toledo, creating jobs, that will add a third shift and very, very possibly a fourth shift, because of demand for the vehicle,” said Ken Lortz, of the UAW. “And, again, they have assured me, they have no intention of shifting any production from Toledo to China.”
Follow Politics Now on Twitter and Facebook