DETROIT - As Mitt Romney prepares the deliver a major economic speech here, his opponents are prepared to make the day about one thing and one thing only: Romney's opposition to the government bailout of the automobile industry.
Though Romney has already been campaigning in Michigan, the state where he was born and raised, his opponents on the left and the right see the address he will give today to the Detroit Economic Club as the symbolic high point of his homecoming tour.
And they are determined to ruin it.
Starting before Romney's speech, which will take place at noon at Ford Field in downtown Detroit, members of the United Auto Workers union and their supporters plan to hold a rally reminding Romney that, in the words of the protesters, "Michiganders won't forget how in their time of need he turned his back on the American Auto Industry and turned his back on them."
They have plans to display 26 American made cars atop a Detroit parking garage spelling out the words, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," the headline of Romney's November 2008 New York Times Op-Ed in which he suggested a managed bankruptcy for the auto industry rather than a government bailout.
The liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org is releasing a 30-second television ad today featuring a
Chrysler factory worker and MoveOn member who says: "We need a President who'll stand by us all when times are tough. Mitt Romney? He'd let America fail." The spot will run on Michigan cable stations between now and the Feb. 28 primary. (WATCH: http://bit.ly/xOIBzF)
And the heavy fire is not just coming from the left. Romney's main rival in the Michigan primary, Rick Santorum, released an ad of its own hitting the former Massachusetts governor on the bailout.
The commercial, which has already begun hitting television airwaves, attacks Romney in his home state for supporting "Wall Street bailouts while turning his back on Michigan workers." Over images of workers in hard hats, the narrator says, "Who's on the side of Michigan workers? Not Romney." (WATCH: http://abcn.ws/zurh16)
Ironically, though the ad criticizes Romney for his position on the bailout, Santorum did not support the government rescue of the auto companies either, a fact that is omitted from the commercial.
With the battle for Michigan looking too close to call just four days before voters go to the polls, the fact is Romney's stance may not be a deal-breaker for the GOP primary electorate here. According to a recent NBC News-Marist college poll, Michigan Republicans opposed the bailout by a 50 percent to 42 percent margin.
But among all registered voters, support is much higher, suggesting that Santorum's play here may not be all that effective, if Romney emerges as the nominee, his position could come back to haunt him in a critical swing state.
On "Good Morning America," ABC's John Berman previewed Romney's big economic speech today as the race for Michigan comes down to the wire. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/yW4Ly3
ROMNEY CAMPAIGN DOUBLES DOWN ON SANTORUM-SPECTER TIES. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter left Capitol Hill more than a year ago, but Mitt Romney's campaign is working hard to give the party-switching ex-lawmaker a political revival of sorts. The Romney campaign released a new web video on Friday highlighting the alliance between Specter and Rick Santorum when the two were colleagues in the U.S. Senate. "Rick Santorum supported Specter over conservative candidates - twice," the video's narrator says. "Santorum and Specter voted for liberal Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Santorum and Specter both sided with big labor against right to work." But the most damning charge is the one that Romney, himself, made at Wednesday night's presidential debate in Arizona: That Santorum's continued support of Specter helped deliver the deciding vote for President Obama's health care plan. (Santorum endorsed Specter in his 2004 Senate race and again, six years later, in a Republican primary against the more conservative candidate, Pat Toomey.) The video juxtaposes images of Specter with President Obama and, separately, with Santorum. It also includes a clip of a 2004 campaign ad paid for by Specter's Senate campaign featuring Santorum's public support. "I'm proud to endorse Arlen Specter," Santorum said in the old ad. http://abcn.ws/A7L7uB
THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK." ABC's George Stephanopoulos welcomes two prominent governors to his table this Sunday - Democrat Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Republican Rick Snyder of Michigan. They are gathered in Washington, DC this weekend for the National Governor's Association conference. Then, George will be joined for a roundtable discussion of the Republican primary race with two former Michigan governors, Democrat Jennifer Granholm and John Engler as well as ABC News political analysts Cokie Roberts and George Will.
VIDEO OF THE DAY: POLITICALLY FOUL. ABC's John Berman blows the whistle on Rick Santorum's awkward football joke of the week, Obama's false modesty and Romney's factually incorrect "Seinfeld" super fandom. It's another edition of ABC's web show "Politically Foul." WATCH: http://abcn.ws/AnzQVY
IS ROMNEY GETTING HIS GROOVE BACK IN MICHIGAN? Seemingly riding the positive vibes off Wednesday night's strong debate performance, Mitt Romney returned to Michigan energized, connecting with voters here on an atypically emotional level, ABC's Russell Goldman reports. Much of his speech to Tea Party groups here Thursday night was standard stump, but he related two stories about his father and boyhood in Michigan, and another about the Olympics, hosted in the wake of 9/11, that had audience members nodding approvingly- even wiping away tears. Wearing blue jeans and an open collar, Romney seemed relaxed, confident - even, well, at home. A stark contrast to his more downbeat performances in recent days. He did not mention any other candidates by name, but subtly jabbed Rick Santorum. "Last night, one candidate explained why he voted against his principles. He said you have to take one for the team every now and again. Well, my team is the United States of America." http://abcn.ws/AhAcbm
ARLEN SPECTER ON GOP RACE: LEAVE ME OUT OF IT. Arlen Specter didn't watch Wednesday night's GOP debate, but he definitely heard about it, ABC's Matt Negrin notes. Having been out of the news for some time, the former senator from Pennsylvania was briefly mentioned on the stage in Arizona as Mitt Romney blamed his chief rival, Rick Santorum, for his 2004 endorsement of the senator who became a Democrat and voted for President Obama's signature health care plan that's so hated by conservatives. Specter, a Democrat who became a Republican for decades before returning to the Democrats again just briefly, said Thursday that he's happy to take credit for "ObamaCare" - but that he doesn't understand why Romney mentioned him in the first place. "There are a lot more important things to discuss than Arlen Specter," the former senator told ABC News. "I don't care if he brings me up. I just think there are more important things to do than talk about me." http://abcn.ws/xqKUvy
OBAMA ON DEFENSE OVER GAS PRICES. ABC's Mary Bruce and Devin Dwyer report: President Obama today defended his "all-of-the-above" energy strategy amid rising gas prices and accused his Republican rivals of using the pain at the pump to score political points. "It's the easiest thing in the world to make phony election-year promises about lower gas prices," the president told students at the University of Miami yesterday. "What's harder is to make a serious, sustained commitment to tackle a problem that may not be solved in one year or one term or even one decade." Admitting that rising gas prices are hurting Americans' wallets, the president argued that his administration is not to blame for the high cost of oil. http://abcn.ws/AaWeaI
In case you missed it, ABC's Jake Tapper reported for "World News" on the political fallout of the gas price issue for President Obama. WATCH http://abcn.ws/xQql1Q
NOTED: House Speaker John Boehner office's has released a new chart today hitting President Obama on gas prices, highlighting "the increase in gas prices since he took office and talking about the consequences of his policies blocking more American energy production." More from Boehner spokesman Don Seymour: http://bit.ly/wcI2KH
COULD CALIFORNIA BE PIVOTAL IN GOP NOMINATING FIGHT? Former California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring notes that although "conventional wisdom holds that the contest for the GOP nomination will be over before the Golden State's June 5 primary," conventional wisdom has been frequently upended this year. In an Op-Ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Nehring lays out a scenario in which California matters:
"If no clear front-runner in the delegate count emerges by the end of April, Texas and California will move to the center of the political universe. These two gigantic, expensive states could then hold the keys to the nomination and determine whether we are headed for a brokered convention. Although California votes late enough to be winner-take-all, it isn't. Under rules adopted in 2000 and first put into effect in 2004, the California Republican Party will allocate delegates proportionally by congressional district. In 2008, John McCain won in 48 of 53 districts, with Mitt Romney winning in the remaining five. What would a hotly contested California Republican primary campaign, unseen in decades, look like? Certainly it would be very expensive, and waged almost entirely on television. The state is too big to quickly organize on a district level (ask anyone who has run for statewide office in California), making broadcast media critical. … California's primary is "closed," meaning only registered Republicans may participate. This results in a more conservative electorate than in 'open' primary states where voters of other affiliations may vote in the Republican primary." (Read Nehring's full Op-Ed: http://bit.ly/zUtAkh)
PRIMARY MATH: WHAT'S UP WITH THOSE DELEGATES ANYWAY? Mitt Romney has so far acquired the most state delegates in the 2012 Republican primary. He has 108 after winning voting contests in New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada and Maine, according to ABC News projections. Rick Santorum has also won four states - Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado - but collected 72 delegates to date. Four states each, but a sizable lead in delegates for Romney. ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield explains why:
First of all, Santorum's victory in Missouri's Feb. 7 primary came with no delegate prize. The "Show-Me" state will not begin the process of awarding delegates until its March 17 caucuses. The other reason has to do with delegate totals awarded per each state victory. In terms of delegates, not all states are created equal and, to put it plainly, some state victories will mean more for a candidate than others. Delegates are allotted to states based on two factors. The first is a mathematical formula connected to a state's congressional districts. For example, California, the state with the largest congressional delegation, also awards the highest number of delegates of any state primary: 172. The second determining factor is a bit more puzzling to a non-political wonk. In addition to congressional districts, delegate totals are also based on the Republican Party's influence throughout the particularly state. State's get "bonus delegates" for hitting various marks; electing a Republican governor, electing a majority of Republican leadership to either chamber of the state's legislature, electing a Republican senator within the six year period between Jan. 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2011, etc. http://abcn.ws/x8vx89
PRIMARY STATE SPEED READ
by ABC's Chris Good and Elizabeth Hartfield:
-Arizona Republic Endorses Romney. Another big endorsement for the former Massachusetts governor, after the Detroit Free Press offered its stamp of approval this week: The Arizona Republic praised Romney as the most "prepared" candidate to govern as president and praised his "real-world achievements," taking aim at his rivals for their criticism of his work at Bain Capital and putting faith in the candidate's intentions to repeal Democratic health-care reforms. From the endorsement: "Not only is the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, best prepared, according to those criteria, of all the remaining GOP presidential hopefuls. He is also among the most skilled job-creating candidates for chief executive we can imagine." http://bit.ly/A7Ro7b
-What Michigan Voters Are Seeing on TV. A Romney ad goes positive, a Santorum ad rips Romney, and an Obama ad takes aim at all the Republican candidates. The Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan airwaves are "rippling" with political ads ahead of Tuesday's vote, running through three most notable TV spots. http://on.freep.com/ygbAle
-Cain Campaigns in Michigan. He's out of presidential politics, but Herman Cain campaigned in Michigan this week for Pete Hoekstra, touring the state with the Republican Senate candidate, who supports Cain's 9-9-0 plan. http://bit.ly/zS8DjH
-Tennessee Votes. With primary a little more than a week away, and early voting already underway, voters and campaigns are still getting ready in Tennessee. Romney has done the most groundwork in Tennessee out of the four GOP candidates, securing major endorsements in the state, but voters in the state are still split among the field. http://wpln.org/?p=34413
@NKingofDC : The only way Arlen can pay Rick back is by endorsing Mitt and crisscrossing Michigan singing his praises.
-Mitt Romney spends Friday campaigning in Michigan where he'll address the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field. In the evening, Romney will hold a town hall meeting in Kalamazoo, MI at Western Michigan University. Mitt Romney's son Josh Romney will campaign for him in Alaska speaking in Wasilla and Anchorage. Ohio Senator Bob Portman will address voters on behalf of Romney in Columbus, Ohio.
-Rick Santorum is also on the trail in Michigan with events in Walled Lake and Lincoln Park. Santorum will also hold a Tele-Town Hall meeting with Arizona Voters.
-Newt Gingrich is in Washington State holding two rallies in Federal Way and Everett. Gingrich will also visit the state capitol building in Olympia.
-ABC News' Josh Haskell (@HaskellBuzz)
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