LOS ANGELES, Calif. - A story told by Mitt Romney about his father laying off workers during his tenure as an automobile executive has drawn ire from Democrats who are using the remark as an example of the candidate's tendency to appear out of touch with voters.
"I have a few connections with the state of Wisconsin," said Romney, who was hosting his first tele townhall with Wisconsin voters ahead of next week's primary. "One of the most humorous, I think, relates to my father. You may remember that my father, George Romney, was president of an automobile company called American Motors, and they made Ramblers and Jeeps, and they had a factory in Michigan and they had a factory in Kenosha, WI, and another one in Milwaukee, WI."
"And as the president of the company he decided to close the factory in Michigan, and move all the production to Wisconsin," Romney explained. "Now, later he decided to run for Governor of Michigan and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign, and I recall at one parade where he was going down the streets, he was lead by a band, and they had a high school band that was leading each of the candidates, and his band did not know how to play the Michigan fight song."
"They only knew how to play the Wisconsin fight song, so every time they would start playing 'On, Wisconsin,' 'On, Wisconsin,' my dad's political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop because they didn't want people in MI to be reminded that my dad had moved production to Wisconsin," said Romney, letting out a laugh. "None the less, I appreciate the chance to be with you this morning."
A spokeswoman for the DNC blasted out Romney's remarks with a notation, "Mitt Romney may call himself a 'Son of Detroit' but he just can't help showing how out of touch he really is."
Because callers were muted unless they were chosen to pose a question to Romney it was impossible for listeners to hear how Romney's joke was received by the Wisconsinites on the line.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement: "The only things more out-of-touch than Mitt Romney's 'joke' about his dad closing a factory are his policies that would give massive tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires and allow insurance companies to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions. He continues to be callous about the struggles that ordinary Americas face and his policies would make it harder-not easier-for anyone but the very wealthy to succeed."
But Romney's campaign said the jobs of Americans in 2012 are what is really at issue in this election.
"Under President Obama, more Americans have lost their jobs, lost their homes and fallen into poverty than at any time since the Great Depression. It's clear the Democrats will go to any lengths to avoid talking about Obama's colossal failures, including ginning up fake outrage about a campaign story from 40 years ago involving Mitt Romney's father," said Amanda Henneberg, a Romney campaign spokesman, in a statement.