The super PAC that supports President Barack Obama in his re-election campaign released its first ad Wednesday, a video that blasts would-be Republican challenger Mitt Romney for his opposition to the 2008-2009 bailouts of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.
His message was clear, the announcer intones at the start of the spot, which then cuts to Romney saying, Let Detroit go bankrupt. That coincides with a screenshot of the November 2008 opinion essay Romney wrote for the New York Times, headlined with the same four-word rejoinder.
There's no question he made a fortune from businesses he helped destroy, the announcer continues -- a reference to Romney's work at private-equity giant Bain Capital -- while the ad cuts to another of the candidate's bankrupt line with an echo effect. Are those the values we want in an American president? the announcer asks, before one last Romney bankrupt echo.
The ad is sponsored by Priorities USA Action, a super PAC that supports Obama. It began running in Michigan on Wednesday, less than a week before the state's Republican primary. Romney is locked in a tight race there with Rick Santorum, who has been gaining momentum ever since a three-state primary sweep in early February. The ad has the potential to further weaken Romney's hold on his home state, in which the auto industry is central to the economy and many voters' lives.
A super PAC is a political action committee that, since 2010, is allowed to accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations but is legally barred from coordinating with any candidate's campaign.
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Romney has already been chided by Obama in anticipation of a possible general election fight. In January, during his State of the Union address and later at a Washington, D.C., automotive show, the president proclaimed the auto industry was back despite some just-say-die naysayers.
That jab at Romney, who in 2008 advocated a more traditional, albeit government-managed, bankruptcy process for GM and Chrysler. Both Obama and President George W. Bush before him signed off on about $80 billion in combined loans for the automakers.
GM posted record annual profit today, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina tweeted last week. Glad we didn't let Detroit fail as Romney suggested. Never bet against the American worker!
In his New York Times piece, Romney stressed his status as the son of a car company executive and his record of restructuring businesses while at Bain Capital. He wrote that, with the bailouts, the country could kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.
Romney has found it difficult to explain away that hard-line stance.
If that candidate says that a bailout will succeed or fail in keeping an industry afloat, as happened in the case of Governor Romney, then they're beholden to the actual result, said Michael Wissot, a senior political strategist with the Republican consulting firm Luntz Global. That's a problem. Candidates should make commitments and defend principles. Making promises, guarantees and even predictions is simply playing Russian roulette.
Watch the ad below: