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Obama celebrates revitalized auto industry

This news story was published on February 28, 2012.
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By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — All eyes were on Michigan Tuesday — including President Barack Obama’s.

As his potential GOP rivals scurried for support on primary day, Obama tried to leave Michigan voters with one last thought before they headed to the polls: Remember who saved you.

In a speech at the United Auto Workers convention in Washington, the president once again took credit for rescuing the U.S. auto industry and took hard jabs at Republicans who spoke out against the 2009 bailout. Obama specifically referenced the headline that has come to haunt former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is struggling to pull off a win in his home state.

“Some even said we should ‘let Detroit go bankrupt.’ You remember that. You know him,” Obama said. “Think about what that choice would have meant for this country. … Production: shut down. Factories: shuttered. Once proud companies chopped up and sold off for scraps. And all of you — the men and women who built these companies with your own hands — would’ve been hung out to dry.”

The decision to bail out GM and Chrysler has become Obama’s key data point as he makes the case for his economic agenda. And he clearly feels it’s a sweet spot for him.

“It wasn’t popular. And it wasn’t what I ran for president to do,” he said. “But you know what? I did run to make the tough calls and do the right things, no matter what the politics were.”

Obama in his remarks gleefully mocked Republicans who have cast the bailout has as a union giveaway.

“Or worse, they’re saying that the problem is that you, the workers, made out like bandits in all of this; that saving the American auto industry was just about paying back unions. Really? Even by the standards of this town, that’s a load of you-know-what.”

He even made a point of saying he plans to buy a Chevy Volt when he leaves office — the Secret Service won’t let him drive one now — drawing a sharp contrast to Romney, who recently botched the “what do you drive” test by saying his wife drives “a couple of Cadillacs.”

In what was an official speech, Obama added a clear political flourish, saying that purchase would come “five years from now, when I’m not president anymore!”

The crowd responded with a chant of “Four more years!”

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