(CNN) – To Mitt Romney, it was a humorous story about his father’s gubernatorial campaign and a marching band. But Democrats saw it as an illustration of an “out-of-touch” millionaire.
On a Wednesday morning conference call with Wisconsin voters, the presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts governor joked about how his father, the American Motors president who went on to be governor of Michigan, joked that a band leading his father in a parade didn’t know the Michigan fight song, but knew the one for neighboring Wisconsin.
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“So every time they would start playing, ‘On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin,’ my dad’s political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop because they didn’t want people in Michigan to be reminded that my dad had moved production to Wisconsin,” Romney said, chuckling.
By “moved production,” Romney was referring to his father’s decision to “close the factory in Michigan and move all of the production to Wisconsin.”
“And so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all of the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign,” Romney said of his father.
Any response – positive or negative – wasn’t audible to reporters, and on such conference calls, participants are usually muted unless invited to ask a question.
But Democrats pounced on his comment.
"The only things more out-of-touch than Mitt Romney’s 'joke' about his dad closing a factory are his policies that would give massive tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires and allow insurance companies to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions,” Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for President Barack Obama’s reelection effort, said. “He continues to be callous about the struggles that ordinary Americas face and his policies would make it harder – not easier – for anyone but the very wealthy to succeed."
The Democratic National Committee said “Romney just doesn’t seem to get it.”
“Mitt Romney may call himself a ‘Son of Detroit’ but he just can’t help showing how out of touch he really is. Whether he’s saying we should ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt’ or joking with voters in Wisconsin about his dad closing a Michigan factory to move production to Wisconsin, Romney just doesn’t seem to get it,” the DNC said in a statement.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, described this as an example of intra-national outsourcing.
"The people of Michigan know better than anyone that it's no laughing matter when our jobs are exported to other states or other countries. Outsourcing has had a devastating impact on the middle class,” she said in a statement. “Americans deserve leaders who understand the challenges working families face. It’s no laughing matter when jobs are shipped away."
In response, a spokesperson for Romney's campaign pointed to the car dealerships closed during Obama's first term in office.
"Under President Obama, more Americans have lost their jobs, lost their homes and fallen into poverty than at any time since the Great Depression," Amanda Henneberg said. "It’s clear the Democrats will go to any lengths to avoid talking about Obama’s colossal failures, including ginning up fake outrage about a campaign story from 40 years ago involving Mitt Romney’s father.”