Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) - Returning to a state that has become unexpectedly competitive for him, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sought to straddle a fraught political line at a Michigan rally that seemed more like a homecoming on Wednesday.
At a campaign rally of several hundred in Grand Rapids, Romney defended his 2008 opposition to the federal bailout of American automakers and took on other sacred cows of the trade unions powerful in local politics.
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The auto bailout, put in motion by former President George W. Bush and continued by President Barack Obama, is now widely viewed as a success. Michigan Democrats have seized on the issue as a potential vulnerability for Romney in a state hard hit by the economic downturn.
On Wednesday Romney - who was born in Detroit and whose father was later the Michigan governor - said the president had eventually come around to his suggestion that a managed bankruptcy was the best solution for Detroit's auto manufacturers.
"The president finally came around to my own view that Detroit needed to go through managed bankruptcy, the auto companies needed to go through managed bankruptcy to shed their excess costs," Romney said during a business roundtable before his rally. "And it took him six months to get there but he got to the same place that I had suggested."
But the former Massachusetts governor accused Obama of "crony capitalism" and said the president had bowed to the United Auto Workers in the deal. Romney has said he would not have poured federal money into a bailout.
"He got hundreds of millions of dollars from labor bosses for his campaign, and so he's paying them back in every way he knows how," Romney said. "One way, of course, was giving General Motors and Chrysler to the UAW."
He also responded to criticism from UAW President Bob King, who has said Romney "turned his back" on the auto industry.
"I'm sorry Mr. King, I care very deeply about the auto industry. I want to make sure we have good jobs not just for a few weeks, but for many, many years," Romney said. "I've taken on union bosses before, and I'm happy to take them on again, because I happen to believe that you can protect the interests of American taxpayers, and you can protect a great industry like automobiles without having to give in to the UAW. And I sure won't."
Romney's remarks were met with enthusiasm by the audience - some of whom Romney said he knew from high school.
"This really does bring back memories," Romney told the audience, adding jokingly of his wife, Ann: "Any old girlfriends here? Oh. Have to be careful! Ann's not here today. Don't tell."
The former Massachusetts governor told stories about campaigning with his father during George Romney's successful gubernatorial bid, as the 2012 White House hopeful looked to remind Michigan residents about his ties to the state.
In recent weeks former Sen. Rick Santorum has surged in popularity in Michigan, which votes February 28. A loss would be a heavy blow to Romney, who carried the state in the 2008 presidential primary.
However, he received good news on Wednesday, when a GOP source confirmed Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder would endorse Romney at a Thursday event in Farmington Hills.
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Romney trying to spin it. No can do bud. He's good at gutting companies. And thats exactly what he would've done in Detroit. Why put up the energy to save it when you can declare bankruptcy, and all but ruin the company, then turn around and just shut it all down, and sell the parts off, all the while collecting tax free interest on the profits he sent to the Cayman Islands. What a guy! A real American! Someone who would fight for you till the end.. uh, oh.. oops. Never mind.
It takes huge balls for any Republican to campaign in Detroit. They are against every aspect of life for the working poeple of America.
Oh, how fun it is to watch these Republican so-called candidates self-destruct. Can't wait for November!
There's Romney putting on his second, third, forth, etc. face again. Every direction that guy turns he's got a new face for it.
This really does bring back memories," Romney told the audience, adding jokingly of his wife, Ann: "Any old girlfriends here? Oh. Have to be careful! Ann's not here today. Don't tell."
THIS IS UNREAL
The media act like it's a horse race. It all comes down to one day in November. Mitt Romney 2012
What you expect from Flip flopper
You were wrong Mitt. You can never have my vote, But if you admit that you were wrong you could at least have my respect.
This man is crazy.
Too little, too late.
You were willing to write-off Michigan like you've done with so much of the debt of companies you destroyed. You cared so little about the state that you figured it was better to let it die than help it recover. Well, go look elsewhere for support, maybe from some of those people you put on the unemployment line. Or, maybe from those people who paid you "not much" money (i.e., more than $300,000) just to talk.
The rest of us out here are really suffering as a result of greedy corporate raiders like Mitt Romney, and yet he still just doesn't get it.
Get Real Mr,. Romney.. You kow it took the USA giving money to the auto bail out to save it.. Other countries during the Great Depession 2007 0n did the same bail out in some industry to save it.. whats the matter the USA not worth it?
I don't see what Romney would have done for the American auto industry. What was his plan other than let the industry die?
Romney knows he made a stupid mistake opposing Detroit auto industry bailout by the government now that he has seen the industry bounce back and return the money they took form the govt. if not for the bail out the auto industry would have bitten dust leaving many more detroiters without jobs. While he must be biting his tongue for this mistake he still shamelessly argues in defense of his position just to win the favor of conservatives in GOP. He claims he is a son of Michigan. He owns houses in other states, does he have one in michigan? he is a real "panderer in chief".
Does this guy have any shame ? I mean does he really think everyone who listens to him are morons ? I read that new york times article, i have heard him criticize about president obama and those views have nothing to do with what he is saying here. I really was hoping for a good republican frontrunner whom I can vote , who would be moderate enough in his views who can show true leadership. I think Romney is worse than our current president. At least off late Obama is showing some signs of leadership. If Romney wins nomination, I am not voting this year.
Mitt is 100% correct that the auto bailouts were not needed to save Detroit. BK protection was a perfectly acceptable path for GM and Chrysler to get to the same place without the union kickback and crony capitalism that Obama gave them.
What a loser!
Romney just don't get it. Just when the Michigan is making a come back with increased employment in the auto industry, he is making the dubious argument the bail out was wrong and not needed. No wonder he is losing Michigan to Santorum.
Romney got good news in South Carolina also when Haley endorsed him there. Results: Gingrich 40.4% of the vote to Romney's 27.8%. Its not the endorser that matters, it is the candidate.
Now Romney is taking credit for the perceived success of the auto bailout???
Was he against it or was he a catalyst for the revival?????
Only Romney knows how amazing he is. Teflon maybe???
Don't think so. The middle of the end for everyone except Ron Paul and that's not saying much!
Willard Mitts now, posthamus Billiard Mitts who rolled like a pool ball depending on the surface of the table.
I wonder if MItt Romney would have supported the banks being bailed out.
Can he give us dates, and manuscripts of his talks with Obama? Is Obama confirming this meeting? Will we hear tomorrow that he didn't really "talk" with the president... but he sent people to talk for him? This man is incapable of telling the truth. To call him a flip flopper is just too kind. He just flat out lies.
no one likes you mitt. Obama Biden 2012
Is it because of his previous jobs position on buying up a company for pennies then outsourcing jobs and bankrupting the company to make more money for his pocket? Is that what HE would have done? is that why he would have let Detroit die... for his own wealth... He's just disappointed he couldn't been part of the automotive world's demise for profit.