October 31st, 2012
02:13 PM ET
1 year ago

Battleground Blog: Ohio's senators weigh in on Romney Jeep ad controversy

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN has sent dozens of reporters, producers, contributors and correspondents to the key battleground states to cover the final days of the 2012 election. Here CNN Contributor John Avlon offers his take on a controversy surrounding some claims Mitt Romney has made about the auto industry.

(CNN) - Here in Ohio and other Rust Belt battleground states where this election will be decided – the auto bailouts are a personal, political and pocket-book issue.

The latest campaign skirmish over the auto industry concerns comments Mitt Romney made on the stump about Chrysler allegedly moving Jeep manufacturing overseas to China. This drew immediate outcry from the company and provided a field day for Fact-Checkers who pronounced the statement a "Pants-on-Fire."

But the Romney campaign doubled down with a television and radio ad, reasserting their claims. The radio ad aired initially in Toledo, and here's what it said:

"Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry, but for whom? Ohio or China? Under President Obama, GM cut 15,000 American jobs, but they're planning to double the number of cars built in China, which means 15,000 more jobs for China and now comes word that Chrysler plans to start making Jeep soon. You guessed it, China. What happened to the promises made to auto workers in Toledo and throughout Ohio; the same hardworking men and women who were told Obama's auto bailout would help them?..."

Tough stuff – and the focus on China was no accident. Outsourcing to China is a major issue for auto-workers here.

On the CNN battleground bus tour, I spoke with both Ohio senators – Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown – on the subject.

Senator Portman was speaking at a Stark County campaign headquarters Get-Out-The-Vote Rally. He defended the ad, saying "I don't think it is inaccurate. I mean, it was a story in Bloomberg that said that Fiat has made a decision to start building jeeps in China, and that's all the ad says."

For emphasis, Portman had his communications director email me the Bloomberg article he cited.

But speaking to CNN at a union hall rally in Canton, Ohio, Senator Brown had a very different take on the ad's accuracy and motivation. "I'd say it's the most disingenuous ad I've ever seen. They know better," said Senator Brown, who is in a tough re-election race right now. "They know that the auto rescue worked. They understand that 800,000 Ohioans are connected directly or indirectly to the auto rescue, and they know that Governor Romney and my opponent's opposition to the auto rescue forced them at the polls. So they're trying to cloud the issue, and it's pretty outrageous."

President Clinton and Vice-President Biden also took time in their Youngstown, Ohio event to slam the Romney ad on Jeep as "the biggest load of bull in the world."

In the final week of the election, both sides will try to spin the issue to their advantage. But the truth matters and in the search for a tie-breaker opinion, I think it's useful to listen to the business itself.

GM spokesman Greg Martin told the Detroit Free Press that the Romney ad was "campaign politics at its cynical worst" – adding "We've clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days."

It's rare that you hear a company spokesman weigh into partisan fights with such harsh language – but it offers the kind of clarity that's needed in the spin-saturated skirmishes of these high-stakes last few days of Election 2012.


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Ohio
soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. Denise49

    jon

    "The funny thing is that neither the GM of Jeep or the Democrat senator denied that the bloomburg article said that Jeep was moving jobs to China ... Who is spinning now ... All they had to do is deny that the article existed, and if it did exist, then fire the person that said the jobs were moving to China ... But they didn't – they even refused to deny that the article existed."

    The Bloomburg article does not say a word about moving jobs to China. Fiat has said they are expanding production and creating more jobs in China. Same with Chrysler. If you read the article, rather than listening to some mutant version of it, you would know this.

    China places steep tarrifs on imports. They have opened factories and sold cars there for a number of years, then there is much more profit for the auto company.

    BTW, do you have any clue who started opening factories in China? George Romney.

    October 31, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  2. Randy

    I don't understand why any reporter who has followed this campaign feels the need to continue to give Romney the benefit of the doubt to such an enormous degree when the man has proved over and over again that he'll say anything, including the opposite of what he recently said, in order to win this election.

    The Bloomberg article is all that is needed to see that Romney was being disingenuous with his fist comment on the issue. Then Romney's ad changes this issue slightly in order to score points on an issue he has already lied about!
    It should be noted that a Chrysler spokesman also made a statement calling into question Romney's veracity with regard to this issue!

    Romney should be held accountable for his deceitfulness by the press. The reason the polls are so close is that the press regularly ignores or ameliorates the reporting of the Republican's and Romney's constant disregard for facts and the truth!

    October 31, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  3. Tom

    Romney is a liar and a desperate man.He will surely lose the election.

    October 31, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  4. zemo

    China Jeep plant suspended operations in 2009. Two reasons: 1. recession/no demand 2.looks bad taking government bailout money then making jeeps in china.
    However, in light of more recent increased demand and projected outlook, head of Jeep Asia, in touting overseas growth to bolster positive potential investment, Mike Manley let the cat out of the bag and told Bloomberg News that Jeep would be restarting the suspended China operations, and possibly expanding that plant's output, AND probably shifting entire Jeep manufacturing of some existing and newer Jeep models overseas. A similar claim made by Jeep/Fiat Italy for future growth in European demand:
    “The volume opportunity for us is very significant,” Manley, who is also president of the Jeep brand, said in an interview at Chrysler’s Auburn Hills, Michigan, headquarters. “We’re reviewing the opportunities within existing capacity” as well as “should we be localizing the entire Jeep portfolio or some of the Jeep portfolio.”

    Chrysler, which entered an alliance with Turin, Italy-based Fiat as part of its U.S. government-backed bankruptcy, is relying on growth in China to counter weakness in Europe’s auto market. The automaker is targeting 500,000 annual sales outside North America by 2014, more than triple its overseas deliveries in 2009.

    Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.

    October 31, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  5. cbp

    The question is not what Bloomberg stated. If the Senator used only that quote then he is a poor researcher. Two sources at the least should be used and Senator Portman should know better. The ad said that Fiat was moving jobs to China but they never said where the jobs would come form, if it would be a new plant, who would be involved. To use that statement shows that politicians will say or do anything to get elected. It is very embarrassing in this day and age when sources are so readily available.

    October 31, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. DENNA

    @ – gt time for change...obama could not get the economy going when he had the house and senate....new ideas .. ...4 more yrs will just make it worse...
    ...................................................................................................................................................................................
    The economy is getting better and the job market is also looking brighter too. Romney doesn't have any new ideas. He ideas are only rewarmed ideas from the last Republican administration. That did NOT work our well for America.

    October 31, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  7. Susan

    Romney is just going to keep spinning until he loses. Pathetic. 6 more days of lies before he is history and will go off to enjoy life as the multi millionaire he is. His astrological charts show that he will never be President of the USA. He is ego centric, likes power but I really don't think he wants to be President and is just playing it out because he has no choice. His wife all ready planned for the day they lose by saying on The View "if he loses, we are out of politics" She is about to get her wish.

    October 31, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. DENNA

    @ – Ind. – Hussein Obama, outsourcer and blamer
    .................................................................................................................................................................................
    Sigh. Another GOP enabler. The anti-Obama crowd has just about lost their ALL credibility with the thinking public. You people never let facts get in the way, do you?

    October 31, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  9. Willie K.

    Friends in Ohio, remember Portman when his election rolls around again. He is clearly on the side against helping keep the automotive industry strong.

    October 31, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  10. Lulu

    "GM spokesman Greg Martin told the Detroit Free Press that the Romney ad was "campaign politics at its cynical worst" .

    There you go, coming from GM !

    Romney is using anything he can because he is hopeless.

    October 31, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  11. They Hate Romney, But They Hate Democrats More

    The GOP I used to know no longer exists. The new GOP is a group of con artists and snake oil salesmen. The new type of Republican falls into these two categories:

    People who know what they are doing and saying is wrong, but they don't care.

    People who know what they are doing and saying is wrong, but they have such contempt for the rest of us that it doesn't make them the slightest bit uncomfortable attempting to con us.

    A great many of these new Republicans hate Mitt Romney with a vengeance, but they're just propping him up because they hate Democrats more. It's almost over, though. It won't be long now until they start devouring their own kind. The bloodbath begins in 6, 5, 4, 3..........

    October 31, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  12. AK_steve

    First off, Romney is purposely lying to scare people into voting for him. And then when called out on the lie – he doubles down.

    Does anyone wonder what kind of leader this guy is going to be? Think WMD's in Iraq. We don't need another George "W" in the Whitehouse. We are still recovering from the damage down the first time.

    October 31, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  13. Peter

    The closeness of the race shows, I believe, that the public is just winging it on pure feelings and partisanship and guesswork in the face of massive psychological assaults by the professional propaganda wings of the parties. The essence is that there must be a kernel of truth in apparent lies to be credible. GM is opening up NEW factories Not moving jobs to China, for instance. But the net effect is indeed that for every job created in china, one is potentially lost at home.PHEW!!! As an independent , I have to go by gut , Go with Obama for now. But het its still One hundred and forty-four hours before general polols open.

    October 31, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  14. Joi Gibson

    Well I am glad the spokesperson for GM is offering clarity because the media only repeats what Romney said, thereby giving it credence. It is obviously a big doozy to make the GM folks come out and say Romney is lying. That right there should tell everyone all they need to know. It is still shocking to me that folks believe Willard. I really can't get my head around that one. Well on second thought, maybe I can. The guy is an opportunist, plain and simple. That and Obama Derangement Syndrome.

    OBAMA/BIDEN/FIRST LADY MICHELLE 2012!!!!

    October 31, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. DCH

    "Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China." That is a direct quote from the article. Doesn't sound like they are moving anything to China. Sounds like they want to open factories over there and build their product in China due to the overwhelming demand. Any way you spin it, Romney is stretching the truth like he always does. He is one of the worst presidential canidates I have ever seen!

    October 31, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  16. Mitt RobMe

    More and More it is becoming a political liability for Republicans to align themselves with Mitt Romney. Obviously this is why he had such a hard time finding a running mate. Fear of having the same political future as Sara Palin.

    October 31, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  17. Facts don't Lie

    the first one I recall to call Romney a liar was Newt Gingrich and YouTube can prove he said it. I don't recall one of Mitt's kids saying they wanted to "take a swing at him" for saying either." But what goes around comes around you wait and see.

    October 31, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
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