Defiance, Ohio (CNN) – Sen. Rob Portman defended Mitt Romney's stance on the auto bailout Thursday night at a rally for the GOP presidential nominee in the heart of Ohio's Rust Belt.
The issue has dominated the airwaves across Ohio, where Democrats have relentlessly pounded Romney for opposing a government bailout of the automotive industry that ended up saving thousands of jobs.
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Speaking just down the road from a General Motors powertrain plant Thursday in Defiance, Ohio, Sen. Rob Portman introduced Romney by saying the president "was not telling the truth" about his opponent's stance and had mischaracterized Romney's position on the bailout during the presidential debates.
"Folks, all the independent fact checkers who have looked at this agree, President Obama was wrong," Portman said. "He was not telling the truth."
Portman – who supported the bailout, which began under President George W. Bush – pointed out Romney had pushed for loan guarantees and proposed the government back car buyers' warrantees.
But those proposals came in an op-ed Romney penned in 2008, where he also predicted a government bailout of the Big Three automakers would "virtually" guarantee the "demise" of the industry.
In the 2008 piece, Romney said the money needed to keep General Motors and Chrysler Group alive during bankruptcy should have come from the private sector, with the government providing only "guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing."
The problem was that there was no one available to write checks for the automakers other than the government in late 2008 and early 2009.
Looking ahead, Portman declared Romney's policies on trade, energy and health care would benefit the industry.
"There is no question in my mind that Mitt Romney's policies for the future are going to be better for our auto companies, for the workers, and for communities like Defiance to get us back on track and to make the auto industry stronger," he said.
Romney did not bring up the bailout, but did mention a Bloomberg report that suggested some auto jobs could be moved to China.
"I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers of this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China," Romney said. "I will fight for every good job in America. I'm going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it's fair America will win."
A spokesman for the Chrysler Corporation, which owns Jeep, had earlier emphatically denied that report.
"Let's set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China," Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Gualberto Ranieri wrote on Chrysler's blog.