This week, Mitt Romney said he's going to "take a lot of credit" for the resurgence of the auto industry, claiming that he urged GM and Chrysler to go through the type of "managed bankruptcy" process that ensured their survival. The problem? Before the companies ever got to managed bankruptcy, they were propped up $80 billion in government bailouts in 2008 and 2009 — and Romney publicly opposed those payments. In an infamous New York Times op-ed titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" (to be fair, the paper came up with the title), Romney said "you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye" if it receives government aid. That makes Romney's new attempt to claim credit for Detroit's survival either "delusional" or "dishonest," says The Detroit Free Press. Here, three ways his shifting position hurts him:
1. Democrats will point to a broader pattern of deception
Democrats are turning Romney's claims about the auto rescue "into a full-scale assault" on his "character and record," says Byron Tau at Politico. They say Romney's record of mistruths "extends far beyond the auto bailout issue," reinforcing the Democratic argument that Romney is an "Etch A Sketch" candidate who will say absolutely anything to get elected.
2. Republicans genuinely oppose the bailouts
Romney's claims put his party "in an awkward position," says Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo. Nearly all Republicans "have attacked the Obama administration's bailout in exceptionally harsh terms," and they're now in a state of disbelief that their presidential candidate is claiming credit for Detroit's recovery. Even Romney's supporters have urged their man "to stop defending his comments and start talking about the auto makers' future instead," say Patrick O'Connor and Sara Murray at The Wall Street Journal.
3. Michigan voters won't forget his original position
Romney is "counting on the public's amnesia about the depth of the recession and its generally faulty memory of recent events," says Andrew Rosenthal at The New York Times. But it's improbable that he'll "be able to get away with this kind of thing in Michigan, where people know better." Romney really wants to win in Michigan and other Rust Belt states, which will be crucial in determing the presidential election's victor, but that's a tough sell for a bailout-opposing candidate in a region where the bailouts are quite popular, say O'Connor and Murray.