In the run-up to the Michigan primary, Mitt Romney is banking on his Detroit roots to grant him some legitimacy in the state. Never mind his years spent in the Northeast — from two graduate degrees at Harvard to being the Governor of Massachusetts — Romney wants to be seen as a Midwesterner at heart.
It’s a credible story. Romney grew up outside of Detroit in the wealthy suburb of Bloomfield Hills. His father served as CEO of the now-defunct American Motors, and later was thrice-elected Governor of Michigan. But these connections haven’t stopped Romney from taken an adversarial tone towards the state’s chief industry.
“I love cars, American cars,” Romney wrote in a 2008 op-ed for the New York Times. His was a tough love, though: “A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs,” he went on to say. Nor has he since backed down from his position that government bailouts would only lead to the inevitable demise of American auto manufacturing.
He couldn’t have been more wrong. With both companies now profitable and posting record sales, Chrysler and GM might be the most visible success stories of government action in the wake of the recession. And Michiganders have taken notice: nearly two-thirds approve of the bailouts, and more than half support the President.
That might hurt Romney’s general election odds in Michigan, but will it affect his primary bid? Likely not. A recent poll showed that of GOP primary voters, 34 percent said they would favor a candidate who opposed the bailouts, while only 27 percent favored candidates who supported them. Indeed, Romney has made something of a comeback in Michigan, and is now polling neck and neck with Santorum.
So for now, Romney’s opposition to the auto bailouts might not be a poison pill for his candidacy. But come November, if the auto industry has continued to improve, Romney’s hometown welcome may not be so warm.
David Murdter is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at email@example.com. The Hill is a politics blog that aims to stimulate discussion on today's most pressing issues, be they related to Cornell or national affairs. If you're interested in joining the conversation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.