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In Context: Mitt Romney, Ohio And The Auto Bailout


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


I'm Robert Siegel.

And in the presidential race this week, the focus in the pivotal state of Ohio has been on the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler. President Obama backed it. Mitt Romney opposed it, and the Romney campaign is running some controversial ads on the subject in Ohio.

For us, this is the subject of our series In Context. And NPR's Don Gonyea, in Springfield, Ohio, joins us now to sort it out. Don, I understand this all began with something Mitt Romney said last week in Ohio. Tell us about that and what transpired.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: He did. He deviated a bit from his usual stump speech. He was in Ohio and he said, citing the news article - story that was in Bloomberg News - that Chrysler was moving Jeep production to China. He said that flat out. It is something that's not true. Chrysler is going to produce Jeeps in China, vehicles that would be sold in the Chinese market. U.S. market vehicles will still be built in Toledo and it won't affect job numbers at the big Toledo Jeep plant, which is why everybody cares about that here.

Anyway, then after Chrysler issued a correction, came this Romney ad on the topic. Here it is.


GONYEA: OK. The Romney campaign says there's nothing that's not factual there. It's very carefully worded, as you can hear. But the implication there is what is false, that the company, which is now owned by Fiat, has taken advantage of the federal bailout to offshore U.S. jobs.

Well, the Obama campaign has labeled the ad outright false, and it's been running its own ad in response. Let's listen to some of that now.


GONYEA: Well, which is it, Don: they're adding jobs in Ohio or sending them to China?

Chrysler is adding 1,100 workers to the Ohio plant, the Toledo plant by 2013. They're adding a second shift. Chrysler also says it has invested more than $1.7 billion in that plant to build the successor to the Jeep Liberty vehicle.

And, you know, when that Romney TV ad came out, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sent an email to workers, saying: Jeep production will not be moved from the U.S. to China. He said the U.S. will continue to constitute the backbone of the brand. But that didn't put an end to it. The Romney campaign followed up the same day with this radio ad that adds General Motors to the mix.


SIEGEL: And did GM have a reaction to that?

GONYEA: GM spokesman Greg Martin said: No amount of campaign politics, at its cynical worst, will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country.

Now, here's what's true. GM's total U.S. employment did fall by about 14,000 since President Obama took office. But most of that was in very early 2009 during the height of the crisis and the run-up to the bankruptcy and the bailout. Since then, GM has been adding U.S. jobs. They are not shifting U.S. jobs to China.

SIEGEL: Don, with less than a week to Election Day, this is usually a time for campaigns to get out the vote to make their closing arguments. Why this battle over this very specific issue in this particular state, Ohio?

GONYEA: Governor Romney has consistently trailed here in Ohio. Ohio is seen as a critical state, if not the critical state. He trails but it's very close. There is the sense that they feel they need to kind of shake it up and really hurt President Obama in an area that is a strength for him. The fact that he championed the auto bailout in a state where automobiles and automobile production are so important.

SIEGEL: Don, thanks for helping us put that in context.

GONYEA: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Don Gonyea in Springfield, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.