HILLIARD, Ohio - Leading or tied in most Ohio polls, President Obama today accused rival Mitt Romney of attempting to "scare up some votes" in the state's auto country with a series of misleading TV ads airing just days before voters cast their final ballots.
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"When you try to change the facts just because they're inconvenient to your campaign, that's definitely not change," Obama told a crowd of 2,800 in a dirt-floor barn at the Franklin County Fairgrounds. "Trying to massage the facts, that's not change, that's just - "
"Lying!" audience members cheered.
Obama was referring to Romney TV and radio spots that suggest GM and Chrysler could be moving production out of Ohio to China. "Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China," one Romney ad says. Executives from the two auto companies have flatly denied the claim as wholly inaccurate, with one calling it "cynical campaign politics at its worst."
"You've got folks who work at the Jeep plant who've been calling their employers, worried, asking, 'Is it true? Are our jobs being shipped to China?' And the reason they're making these calls is because Governor Romney's been running an ad that says so," Obama said. "Except it's not true. Everybody knows it's not true."
"The car companies themselves had told Governor Romney to knock it off," he quipped.
"I understand that Governor Romney's had a tough time here in Ohio because he was against saving the auto industry, and it's hard to run away from that position when you're on videotape saying the words 'let Detroit go bankrupt.' And I know we're close to an election, but this isn't a game," Obama said. "These are people's jobs. These are people's lives."
"You don't scare hardworking Americans just to scare up some votes," he continued to spirited applause and cheers. "That's not what being president's all about. That's not leadership."
In a 2008 New York Times editorial, Romney argued that the auto industry could be saved by allowing the companies to go through a "managed bankruptcy" without taxpayer aid. While he did not write the much-maligned headline of the editorial, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," he did affirm its message during a June 2011 interview on CBS. "That's exactly what I said. The headline you read, which is 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,' points out that those companies needed to go through bankruptcy to shed those costs, and federal government put in, I think, $17 billion into those companies before they finally realized, yeah they need to go bankrupt," he said.
The Obama administration's auto czar, and independent economists as well, have said that bankruptcy would not have been feasible for GM and Chrysler had the federal government not provided financial backing, because no private capital was willing to back the failing companies at that time.
Obama has been buoyed in this part of Ohio by his 2009 government-backed auto bailout. One in eight jobs here are connected to the auto industry.
The Romney campaign insists the wording of its ads are accurate in the literal sense, given the automakers' possible plans to boost some overseas production, even if the expansion won't come at the expense of American jobs. Republicans also insist Romney has a better policy to keep the auto industry prosperous in the coming years.
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