By Brent Snavely and Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press –
DETROIT — Democrats and their union allies are squarely focused on derailing one Republican in Michigan’s Tuesday presidential primary: Mitt Romney.
In new ads, news releases and a UAW protest rally atop a Detroit parking garage, Democrats targeted Romney, born and raised in Michigan, the son of an auto executive (and governor). Their ammo: his November 2008 New York Times op-ed titled “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”
Never mind that other Republican candidates for president have taken similar — if not more strident — positions against the federal bailout of the auto industry. Friday’s rally, about 200 UAW members strong, was intended solely for Romney, who was set to speak across the street at Ford Field. Some Michiganders say that Romney, as a native son, should have known better than to stick by words that some say a resurgent Detroit has disproved.
Pat Sweeney, president of UAW Local 5960, said workers he represents at General Motors’ Orion Township plant would not be working today without the government’s restructuring assistance to GM and Chrysler in 2009.
The loans, Sweeney said, “saved not only the 2,000 jobs in the plant but all the jobs that help supply the plant.”
“These people are here to say to Mitt he was wrong in saying, ‘ Let the auto companies go under,’ ” Sweeney said.
Romney has invited such ire: In his comments, he has called out President Barack Obama and the stake in the companies given to the UAW’s fund to pay for retiree health care, referring to it in the editorial as “crony capitalism on a grand scale.” Amanda Henneberg, a Romney campaign spokeswoman, said Romney would have saved the companies without turning pieces of them over to the union.
The protest, however, was only part of what appeared to be a widespread effort by Democratic forces to target Romney for defeat. Many polls have shown Romney as the strongest Republican candidate in a head-to-head race against Obama, and a loss in Michigan could threaten Romney’s chances of winning the nomination.
For instance, the Obama campaign put an ad on Michigan television this week, spending money when it has no Republican nominee to target. And MoveOn.org, a liberal political action committee, aired a cable TV ad featuring a woman who works for Chrysler praising Obama and saying, “I’m grateful our country didn’t listen (to) … Mitt Romney. He’d let America fail.”
The drumbeat promises to get louder: Obama is set to speak to a national UAW conference in Washington on Tuesday — the day of the Republican primary in Michigan.
What will he be talking about?
“The tough steps we took to get our economy back on track, including saving the American auto industry,” deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said.
Michigan’s primary is open. A registered voter simply must request a Republican or Democratic ballot to participate. That voter is not bound in future elections by their choice Tuesday.
Two Detroit congressional district operations and one liberal blog are urging Democrats to vote for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, respectively.
But UAW President Bob King said Friday that the union isn’t urging its members to such action.