(CNN) – Though better associated with another state beginning with 'M,' Mitt Romney wants the Republican voters of Michigan to know he is one of them.
He was born in and grew up in the state, and it's the message behind a new campaign television advertisement and op-ed, which was published in Tuesday's The Detroit News. "Michigan has been my home and this is personal," he says in the ad.
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In both the ad and op-ed, Romney focuses on the auto industry bailout, arguing that it is stifling "innovation, enterprise, and opportunity." The federal government should sell off its automaker stock, he writes in the op-ed.
"The shares need to be sold in a responsible fashion and the proceeds turned over to the nation's taxpayers," he wrote.
CNNMoney: Should the U.S. government sell its shares in GM?
To carry the state which he won 2008 op-ed, Romney needs to pull ahead of Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who has an advantage in recent Michigan polling. Romney will be supported in the state by almost $900,000 of television advertizing coming from the super PAC backing him as he makes the case for his turnaround ability - and against President Barack Obama.
"The indisputable good news is that Chrysler and General Motors are still in business," he wrote in the op-ed. "The equally indisputable bad news is that all the defects in President Obama's management of the American economy are evident in what he did."
Romney found himself explaining "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," the headline of a 2008 op-ed and potentially a tough sell in a region where unemployment reached 16% and still remains above the national average. In the op-ed and on the campaign trail, Romney has argued for restructuring the automakers through "managed bankruptcy," saying that to reform their businesses for the better, "Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check."
"Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself," he wrote in the 2008 op-ed, published in The New York Times. "With it, the automakers will stay the course – the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses."
The bailouts, a product of both the Bush and Obama administrations, resulted in what Romney called "a major taste of crony capitalism, Obama-style."
"American taxpayers have been left on the hook for billions to benefit unions and the union bosses who contributed millions to Barack Obama's election campaign," Romney writes. "We should not be back on a road like the one that brought us Freddie Mac and the housing crisis. It is a road with endless hazards. It is not the American way of making cars."
The president criticized – though not by name – those in Romney's school of thought in a January appearance at the Washington Auto Show.
"And it's good to remember that the fact that there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die," Obama said, according to a White House transcript, "because of folks coming together, we are now back in a place where we can compete with any car company in the world."
Earlier this year, Romney found himself defending his comments that government should not "try and stop the foreclosure process" in Nevada – a state which he eventually won with 50% of the vote.
But the picture is different in Michigan, where a weekend poll of likely GOP shows Romney trailing Santorum, 33% to 27%. The difference is within the survey's sampling error.
Romney won Michigan in the 2008 GOP primary by a nearly 10 point margin over Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Romney's ad splices footage of the candidate driving through faded neighborhoods with wistful images of the auto industry's past.
"Remember going to the Detroit Auto Show with my dad," Romney sais in the ad. "That was a big deal. How in the world did an industry and its leaders and its unions get in such a fix that they lost jobs, that they lost their future?"
The ad does not criticize his rivals - which has been the specialty of Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing Romney. The group is pumping $640,000 in television advertising into the state starting Tuesday, the organization told CNN on Monday. Previously the group purchased $250,000 worth of airtime, according to CNN's advertising consultant Kantar Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Prominent Michigan Democrats defended the bailout and criticized Romney for "misleading voters" in a Michigan Democratic Party conference call with reporters on Tuesday.
"He is against everything that Michigan is for and even his family name can not cover that up," Gov. Jennifer Granholm said. Rep. John Dingell added, "It is clear that Mitt Romney hasn't lived in Michigan in a long time."
The federal government put over $60 billion into two US automakers, General Motors and Chrysler, which has since been paid back. Ford did not receive bailout funds.
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