Michigan and Ohio are both battleground states in the current presidential campaign. And the success of the post-bailout auto industry remains a hot topic on the campaign trail. However, both GM and Chrysler have forbidden any candidates from entering their facilities until after November 6.
City election and presidential campaign
The ban includes all campaigning politicians, from city officials all the way up to the nation’s chief executive. Further, GM is also forbidding candidates from using any file film or tape from past appearances at any of its facilities.
GM spokesman Greg Martin said:
“We have historically had a very restrictive policy of visits by candidates during campaign season. We are a car company. That’s where our focus is going to be, and we want to keep it there.”
However, both President Obama and John McCain made visits to GM plants in 2008. This time, however, the gates are barred.
Obama campaign hit hardest
The ban probably comes as a greater blow to the incumbent president than it does to his rival, Mitt Romney. The Obama campaign touts its efforts at financing vehicle makers during their restructuring, and the subsequent turnaround of the industry, as evidence that its economic policies have been effective. Mitt Romney famously said at the time that the nation should let its big automakers go bankrupt.
Vice President Biden’s recent remarks that “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive” highlighted the importance of the auto industry bailout to the president’s campaign.
Distancing from ‘Government Motors’ moniker
Some may balk that GM is barring the president from its facilities, since the federal government still owns 32 percent of the company. GM has, to date, only paid back $23 billion of its loans.
However, GM allowing Obama to campaign would be taking sides, and therefore alienating some potential customers. Also, it would be sure to prompt derisive cries of “Government Motors” from Romney supporters. The GOP was generally opposed to the auto industry bailout in 2009.
Since the bailout, however, GM has regained its position as the world’s largest-selling automaker. It has posted $3.66 billion of profits so far in 2012.
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Chrysler free of U.S. debt
Chrysler is in a less vulnerable position politically, since the U.S. Government no longer has a share in its ownership. Chrysler is now majority-owned by Fiat SpA. However, the Obama campaign could use Chrysler as a shining example of how well the bailout worked. But the automaker is not taking sides.
However, whether the candidates enter an auto plant or not, many believe that the voters in Michigan and Ohio will, to a great extent, decide the next election.