One building away from where Mitt Romney was set to deliver his economic speech today at Ford Field, a cadre of American-made cars sat atop a parking garage here in downtown Detroit each displaying one huge letter perched on a windshield, together spelling out the phrase:
“ROMNEY LET DETROIT GO BANKRUPT.”
“Today is the day to disown Mitt Romney from being a Michigander!” Gerald Kariem, a local United Auto Workers (UAW) director shouted into a megaphone as he stood surrounded by cheering auto workers waving signs in the sleet and rain.
“Thank you, President Obama!” the crowd happily chanted. UAW members, including featured guest UAW President Bob King, gathered here this morning at a rally organized by the Democratic National Committee and the union to express their displeasure with the former Massachusetts governor for opposing the TARP auto bailout passed under President Obama.
“I feel that my job was saved because of the auto loans,” Staci Steward, who has worked for 11 years at Chrysler’s Sterling Heights, Mich. plant, told Yahoo News. “I feel like I got a personal connection with us getting the auto loans and surviving.” Steward’s plant was slated for closure, but following the bailout it has remained open and the company has even recently invested in a new paint shop for the plant. When asked her opinion of Romney’s stance on the bailout, which was solidified in his much-publicized 2008 opinion piece for the New York Times entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” Steward, an Obama supporter, replied: “It disgusts me.”
Though today’s rally was a staged event organized by Democrats, it was a clear display (especially for skyward photo ops) of the many landmines Romney faces in a state many have marked as a must-win for him due to his deep family ties there. Romney was born and raised in Michigan where his father, former chairman of American Motors Corporation, served as governor from 1963-69, when he ran for president. Romney’s mother Lenore Romney also ran for Senate in 1970.
But, despite the home state advantage, polls continue to show former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum overtaking or nearly edging out Romney in Michigan’s upcoming Feb. 28 primary.
The tension between the two presumed Michigan frontrunners played out in front of a national audience this week at the CNN debate in Mesa, Ariz., a state which also has its primary on Feb. 28. There, the two men frequently sparred over their records, credentials, and positions in what has become a stunning turnaround for Santorum, who narrowly placed first in Iowa’s caucuses Jan. 3, but wasn’t declared the winner until weeks later.
Santorum has been riding high ever since his three-state win Feb. 7 in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, after which polls showed Romney no longer had a lock on his home state. Santorum responded handily, devoting time and resources to cutting Romney down and furthering his own campaign in Michigan.
“Who’s on the side of Michigan workers? Not Romney,” an announcer says in a new television ad released statewide Friday by Santorum’s campaign. “He supported the Wall Street bailouts while turning his back on Michigan workers.” Though Santorum also opposes the auto bailout, since arriving in Michigan, the former Pennsylvania senator has cast himself as consistent and Romney as an anti-Michigan hypocrite for supporting the Wall Street bailouts while opposing the auto one. Santorum’s general attack line these past two weeks: Romney turned his back on his home state.
Santorum has taken a populist tack in Michigan by launching appeals such as Friday’s ad, which are aimed at blue collar workers. Santorum contends his Made-in-the-USA plan would prompt reinvestment in U.S. manufacturing by eliminating taxes for manufacturers and cutting income taxes and federal spending.
Santorum has continued to promote himself as a staunch fiscal and social conservative while Romney struggles to make the case for his conservatism.
Opponents, including Democrats, regularly state that Romney instituted a state health care plan that was used as the model for Obamacare. Romney continually promotes his opposition to Obamacare and routinely blasts the president in his campaign speeches, but questions about how conservative he will be as president continue to dog him in the Republican primary.
In addition to cozying up to Michigan in the past few weeks– often talking about his love for the state and his childhood memories there– Romney has been strongly pushing the message that he’s the only Washington outsider in the race.
“Rick Went to Washington AND HE NEVER CAME BACK,” is the attack banner the Romney campaign uses to send out anti-Santorum missives. “If you liked Newt Gingrich, wait ’til you get to know Rick Santorum,” was one line promoted earlier this week.
Santorum served as senator from 1995-2007, Newt Gingrich served as a Georgia congressman for 20 years, which included time as House Speaker, and Ron Paul is currently serving as a Texas congressman for the third time, after first winning election in the late 70s.
Romney’s super PAC “Restore Our Future” has also taken aim at Santorum’s fiscal conservatism. An announcer for a PAC ad that recently ran in Michigan stated the following:
How did Rick Santorum actually vote? Santorum voted to raise the debt limit five times and for billions in wasteful projects, including the “Bridge to Nowhere.” In a single session, Santorum co-sponsored 51 bills to increase spending and zero to cut spending. Santorum even voted to raise his own pay and joined Hillary Clinton to let convicted felons vote. Rick Santorum: Big spender, Washington insider.
Romney has been and will continue to talk up his private sector experience, as he did today at the Detroit Economic Club event at Ford Field. “I don’t think I have the best chance I think I have the only chance,” to beat President Obama, Romney said in response to a question. He touted his business as key to his potential as a general election candidate.
Polls continue to show Romney and Santorum leading in Michigan, a major reason why Gingrich is largely ignoring the state in favor of campaigning for Super Tuesday votes in states that will vote Mar. 6, including his home state of Georgia. Paul’s campaign previously said the congressman was unlikely to campaign in Michigan, but as of Friday afternoon he had four Michigan events planned prior to Tuesday’s vote.
Meanwhile Romney unveils economic plan in speech at and EMPTY Detroit’s Ford Field which is probably better given the content of that plan would RAISE the Deficit 260 Billion dollars…
n what his campaign billed as a major economic speech, Mitt Romney sought to boost his conservative credentials by pledging “more jobs, less debt and smaller government” if he is elected president.
Criticizing President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, Romney said in a speech delivered from the 30-yard line of Ford Field, the home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions, that he is “offering more than just a change in policy” from the current administration.
“I am offering a dramatic change in perspective and philosophy,” Romney said.
The speech largely summarized and reiterated the economic message that Romney has put forward during his presidential campaign. He proposed cutting individual marginal income tax rates by 20 percent; reducing the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, from 35 percent; eliminating capital gains taxes for people with incomes below $200,000; abolishing the alternative minimum tax and the estate tax; indexing the eligibility age for Medicare to longevity; allowing private insurers to compete with Medicare; eliminating the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s health care law; and reducing federal spending to 20 percent of the national economy by making “hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts,” including to programs like Amtrak and Planned Parenthood.
Romney received an instant avalanche of criticism on Twitter after the speech for saying of his wife’s affection for American cars, “Ann drives a couple Cadillacs, actually.” (A Cadillac SRX, a campaign spokesman later confirmed. She has one at their home in California and another in Massachusetts. Mitt, for his part, owns a Ford Mustang and a Ford truck.)
He gave a special emphasis in the speech to Michigan, where his late father was once a beloved governor and where he is in a close race with Rick Santorum heading into Tuesday’s primary. He said he would work to make Detroit not just the “motor city of America” but the “motor city of the world.”
Romney has been slowly revealing the details of his economic proposals for months. The real purpose of Friday’s speech was to answer critics who say he hasn’t explained how he would carry out conservative policies as president.
“Their effort to prove he’s conservative so far has been for him to deliver a speech where he says ‘conservative’ or ‘conservatism’ a million times,” a Republican strategist close to the Romney campaign told Yahoo News. “There’s been no policy that demonstrates that conservatism.”
In some ways, the speech was overshadowed by the unusual setting.
The Romney campaign, which did not pick the venue, sought to downplay the stadium setting by telling reporters that it would not be full for the candidate’s address. As Romney spoke to 1,200 members of the Detroit Economic Club, the cavernous stadium seemed to eat up all the sound from the event, making the audience’s warm applause seem less enthusiastic. Throughout his speech, Romney’s voice echoed throughout the stadium, highlighting its emptiness.