Obama, at Auto Show, Pokes Romney on 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt' Bailout Stance

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Obama Washington Auto Show
President Obama sits inside a Chevy Silverado at the Washington Auto Show on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama pushed into second gear at the Washington Auto Show Tuesday, taking a swipe at potential challenger Mitt Romney as Republicans voted in the Florida primary.

When you look at all these cars, it is a testimony to the outstanding work that's been done by workers, American workers, American designers. The U.S. auto industry is back, Obama said at the auto show, according to a pool report.

The fact that GM is back to No. 1 I think shows the kind of turnaround that's possible when it comes to American manufacturing. It's good to remember the fact that there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die.

One folk he's especially eager to remind the American public of ahead of the 2012 presidential election is Romney, who looks likely to beat Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary Tuesday night. According to two final polls released Tuesday, Romney leads Gingrich by as much as 12 points. Romney, of course, has been the front-runner for the nomination throughout the campaign.

In Washington on Tuesday, Obama checked out about 15 all-new electric and hybrid vehicles from U.S. automakers Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC. And he also took time to needle Romney, who wrote a bluntly titled op-ed in The New York Times on Nov. 18, 2008: Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.

If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won't go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed, Romney wrote in his first paragraph.

The U.S. auto industry, by most accounts, fiercely rebounded in 2011. And to start the year in 2012, sales from U.S. automakers continue to grow at a steady pace. Now, Obama plans to make it part of his re-election drive. He mentioned the administration's bailout of GM and Chrysler in his State of the Union speech last Tuesday, saying, without naming names: Some even said we should let it die.

Incidentally, Romney used the Obama administration's auto industry bailout as a defense back in November, when he came under fire from fellow Republicans for his work at private-equity firm Bain Capital. Most prominently, Gingrich criticized him and painted him as a job killer instead of a creator. Romney said that in the general election, he'd be able to point the attacks right back at Obama.

In the general election, I'll be pointing out that the president took the reins of General Motors and Chrysler, closed factories, closed dealerships, laid off thousands and thousands of workers. He did it to try to save the business, Romney said on CBS This Morning. We ... had, on occasion, to do things that are tough to try to save a business.

In a November 2011 debate, Romney said the bailouts weren't the right move. He said the bailouts wasted billions of dollars initially. Former auto czar Steven Rattner said in November that taxpayers will lose approximately $14 billion on the $82 billion original investment.

We would have had a private sector bailout with the private sector restructuring and bankruptcy with the private sector guiding the direction as opposed to what we had with government playing its heavy hand, Romney said at the debate, according to USA Today.

According to reports, Obama got to see the 2013 Ford C-Max Energi, 2013 Ford Fusion, 2013 Dodge Dart, 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco and the American Pride Camaro at the Washington Auto Show.

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