Auto industry bailout makes Detroit political battlefield

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Detroit and the auto industry bailout have become major areas of contention in the current presidential campaign. Image: Patricia Drury/Flickr/CC BY

Michigan is the home-state of Mitt Romney, as well as being where President Obama had one of his most decisive victories when he spearheaded the auto industry’s structured bankruptcy. Now, the state, not traditionally a swing one, has become a battlefield in a neck-and-neck campaign race.

New poll sees dead heat

Obama, roundly celebrated as the man who saved the state’s prestige industry, has, until recently, been ahead in all the polls in the state. Recently, however, the candidates have been at a virtual tie, according to an EPIC-MRA poll. Some analysts attribute the rise in Romney’s numbers to the effect of negative ads launched by conservative groups.

Romney pounces on shift

Romney is taking advantage of the shift. His camp has announced a bus tour of small towns and communities, including at least three in Michigan. The “Every Town Counts” bus tour will embark on June 19. The Michigan stops were added to the roster following the EPIC-MRA poll.

Obama counter-measures

President Obama is also moving in an attempt to steer the polls back in his favor. Although the President has no personal stops lined up in the state, the White House is launching a new campaign that will focus on businesses that would have failed along with the auto industry if it had been allowed to “go bankrupt,” as Romney famously suggested at the time of the bailouts.

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Obama has previously visited Michigan 11 times to campaign and to remind voters of his role in saving the auto industry, according to the Detroit News.

Bailout skirmish

In recent months Romney has tried to soften or confuse his record on the bailout by suggesting he was partly responsible for them. He now takes the position, however, that the bankruptcies should have been privately financed, in spite of the fact that Bain Capital turned the automakers away at the time.

Poll a fluke?

Some believe the EPIC-MRA poll may be a fluke, however, since other polls have consistently shown Obama as the clear front-runner in the the state. Most analysts still believe it is Obama’s state.

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Douglas Koopman, a political science professor at Calvin College, said:

“Unless some issue pops up that really seems to be a northern Midwest issue with a Republican advantage on it, I don’t really see Michigan being in play on the presidential level.”

If Romney does take the state, however, it will be part of the dominoes falling red, according to Paul Abramson, a professor of Political Science at Michigan State University:

“Romney has a chance in Michigan, but I would say if he wins in a state like Michigan, the Obama campaign will lose the race. It’s a state that if Romney wins, he’ll win a whole lot of other states.”


Detroit Free Press 

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