Romney, Obama, Ohio, and the Truth About the Auto Bailout

President Barack Obama has falsely taken credit for "saving" the auto industry, leading to his popularity in Ohio.

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It increasingly looks as if the old saying "as Ohio goes, so goes the nation" will hold true in 2012.

If Republican Mitt Romney wins the Buckeye State, he probably becomes the 45th president of the United States. If he loses Ohio, Romney still may win the election, but it will be much more difficult

Karl Rove says Romney can win it. Rove says requests from Democrats in Ohio for early or absentee ballots are down more than a quarter, but requests from Republicans are up about 20 percent. He says Republicans' get-out-the-vote operation is larger and more enthusiastic; Republicans have a 12,600 to 9,500 advantage among millennials who have requested early ballots; and independents have gone for Romney in nine of the last 13 polls in Ohio.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

So why can't Romney put this state away? Because President Barack Obama has both taken credit for "saving" the auto industry—the source of one in eight jobs in Ohio—and, from early on, has painted Romney as indifferent or actively hostile to the needs of the auto industry and its thousands of employees.

Neither claim is true. President Obama didn't "save" the auto industry, and Romney would not have destroyed it. The bailout began under President George W. Bush, although it was President Obama's idea to protect union pensions and buy large blocks of now-severely depressed GM stock—which was far and away the worst decision associated with this entire debacle.

Yes, Romney called for allowing both Chrysler and GM to go through managed bankruptcies, but his plan would have called for renegotiating the United Auto Workers contract that continues to choke all financial life out of the company and for a necessary housecleaning in GM's executive suites. Under President Obama, GM did go through such a bankruptcy, and Chrysler would have if it hadn't been sold to Fiat, the Italian automaker. But, as a sop to union supporters, the president plunked down $80 billion in taxpayer dollars on stock that has significantly diminished in value and did nothing to alter the UAW contract—which was what dragged GM into bankruptcy in the first place.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Moreover, it's not as if Chrysler or GM simply would have stopped producing cars had they been allowed to go through the normal bankruptcy process. A true renewal—rather than subjecting the company to politically driven management decisions, such as the idea of going all-in on expensive electric cars nobody wants—would have been a much wiser course.

We will hear about 1.5 million jobs saved, although that figure assumes not only GM and Chrysler would've stopped production but Ford, which wasn't bailed out, and foreign makers Toyota and Nissan as well. Actually, 236,000 jobs have been added since the bailout, but only 4,500 at GM. And 63,000 lost their jobs with GM and its dealerships because of the original crash.

[See photos from the 2012 Presidential Campaign Trail.]

But we haven't heard much about this yet, and we're unlikely to hear much about it between now and Tuesday. Like the uproar over Benghazi, the president is not interested in the truth getting out because it does not reflect well on him and his leadership. He will talk about union jobs saved but not the 63,000 non-union jobs lost nor the inexplicable decision to sack the pensions of non-union employees but not those of union workers.

What we will hear between now and Tuesday is a lot of squealing from Democrats about Romney's ad that claims Chrysler plans to build Jeeps in China. It happens to be true, which explains why the Obama camp is so upset about it. Because, yet again, truth does not work to Obama's advantage.

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