Chrysler CEO Calls Romney Jeep Claim 'Inaccurate'

Campaign heats up as Romney makes moves to win in blue states Pennsylvania and Minnesota

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Sergio Marchionne, Chief Executive Officer, Chrysler Group LLC speaks at the Chrysler Sterling Heights Assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., Monday, Dec. 6, 2010. Chrysler begins production of the Chrysler 200 sedan , a midsize replacement to the Sebring that is a key part of the company's revival. CEO Sergio Marchionne says nearly every part of the car has been changed from the old model, which was derided for its poor quality.
Sergio Marchionne, Chief Executive Officer, Chrysler Group LLC speaks at the Chrysler Sterling Heights Assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., Monday, Dec. 6, 2010. Chrysler begins production of the Chrysler 200 sedan , a midsize replacement to the Sebring that is a key part of the company's revival. CEO Sergio Marchionne says nearly every part of the car has been changed from the old model, which was derided for its poor quality.

For a candidate pledged to help businesses large and small succeed, Mitt Romney sure is getting a cool reception from top executives at Chrysler.

Sergio Marchionne, the company's CEO, felt compelled to send a company-wide email to reassure workers that assertions made by the Republican presidential candidate both in a campaign appearance and in radio and television advertisements are "inaccurate."

[READ: Romney Gets Knocked for Misleading Jeep Claims]

"I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China," he wrote, adding that the company was planning on more investment in manufacturing and jobs in the American Midwest, including the crucial presidential swing state of Ohio.

Romney commented while campaigning last week that he had read news reports saying Chrysler would be cutting American jobs in favor of manufacturing Jeeps overseas.

Marchionne said it is true that the company is ramping up overseas manufacturing, but as additional capacity to feed growing demand in Chinese markets, not to replace American jobs.

"Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand," he said. "It is inaccurate to suggest anything different."

The back-and-forth, held just one week before Election Day, may prove a pivotal moment.

[READ: Polling Storm Makes Waves as Sandy Bears Down]

President Barack Obama and Romney are virtually tied in national polling, but Obama has a slight edge in most Ohio surveys, likely buoyed by positive reviews of his oversight of the auto-industry bailout viewed as critical to the region.

The Buckeye State is a near must-win for Romney, as no Republican has been elected to the White House without winning Ohio. Scrutiny of the electoral map reveals even if Romney were to run the table and win other battleground states Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Iowa, he still wouldn't win the 270 votes necessary without taking Ohio.

Obama campaign officials have called Romney's willingness to mislead a "desperate" attempt to win.

"It reeks of desperation because that's what it is," said Jim Messina, Obama's campaign manager in a media call on Monday.

The Ohio press has extensively covered the back-and-forth, with the Cleveland Plain Dealer editorializing that the ad is "a masterpiece of misdirection."

The Romney campaign also made news Tuesday when it announced that it was buying television advertising time in Pennsylvania, traditionally a swing state but one that has been largely off the table this cycle due to Obama's consistent lead in polling there. An average of statewide polling has Obama up by 4.7 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics.com. The GOP candidate's campaign is also going to stump in Minnesota, another state thought to be firmly in the Democrat's corner throughout the campaign.

[LIVE BLOG: Hurricane Sandy, The Day After]

"With one week to go, and 96 percent of the vote on the table on Election Day in Pennsylvania, this expansion of the electoral map demonstrates that Gov. Romney's momentum has jumped containment from the usual target states and has spread to deeper blue states that Chicago never anticipated defending," wrote Rich Beeson, Romney's political director, in a memo on the campaign website.

He said the campaign is flush with cash and ready to make a super-sized final push.

"As a campaign we will put more resources into the target states in the final week, than previous GOP campaigns have been able to do in the final 10 weeks," Beeson said. "The Romney campaign has the resources to expand the map in ways that weren't possible in past cycles (without reducing any effort in any other target state)."

The Obama campaign, however, argues this expansion into states where Romney hasn't been spending time or resources previously is an acknowledgement they aren't gaining the necessary traction in Ohio and in other battlegrounds.

"The Romney campaign has found itself with a tremendously narrow and improbable path to 270 electoral votes," said Messina, in a statement distributed by the Obama campaign. "Now, like Republicans did in 2008, they are throwing money at states where they never built an organization and have been losing for two years. Let's be very clear, the Romney campaign and its allies decision to go up with advertising in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Minnesota is a decision made out of weakness, not strength."

Messina said it's clear that Obama has a "significant" early vote advantage and that Romney's momentum gained from his debate performance at the beginning of the month has stalled.

"Gov. Romney has not been able to put away a single battleground state," he said. "In fact, as polls in the past day have showed the candidates tied in North Carolina, Republicans have raced to increase their television advertising there. Voters who haven't heard from the Romney campaign in two years will see this desperation for what it is."

Both campaigns suspended official campaigning by Romney and Obama on Monday and Tuesday due to Hurricane Sandy. Romney did hold what the campaign billed as a "storm relief" event with supporters in Ohio, gathering canned goods and other items and Obama made a stop by the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington. Obama will travel to New Jersey on Wednesday where he will survey storm damage with Republican Gov. Chris Christie, while Romney has a full slate of campaign events scheduled in Florida. Christie, a top Romney surrogate who delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention this year, has already offered praise for Obama's leadership on Sandy relief efforts.

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  • Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at rmetzler@usnews.com.