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Mitt Romney is facing intense pushback today over a new Ohio campaign ad that appears to suggest — falsely — that Chrysler is moving U.S. jobs to China. The ad doubles down on a statement that Romney made on the campaign trail last week, when he told a crowd in Defiance, Ohio, that Chrysler was moving production on its Jeep models from Ohio to China.
“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in 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.”
The claim is completely misleading and false, and provoked an outcry from Democrats and reporters . The report, from Bloomberg, actually said that Chrysler is talking about adding Jeep production in China in order to serve the Chinese market. Jeep production in North America would continue unchanged.
“Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.”
But despite the fact that Romney’s claim was demonstrably wrong, his campaign is doubling down in the new ad, which went on air this weekend in Ohio.
“Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China,” the ad says. “Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.”
Watch the ad below:
Romney campaign aides have pointed out that the ad doesn’t actually say that Chrysler is moving U.S. jobs to China. Still, that message is strongly implied. And perhaps tellingly, the Romney campaign did not announce the ad’s release over the weekend, and has stayed publicly silently over the criticism.
The ad appears to be a last-ditch effort to reverse Obama’s key advantage in Ohio, a must-win swing state where 1 in 8 voters are employed by the auto sector. Romney, who trails by an average of 2 points in Ohio, has taken a big hit in the state for his criticism of the Obama administration’s auto bailout.
Ads that mislead or stretch the truth are nothing new for presidential campaigns. But this ad — and Romney’s comments last week — has prompted harsh criticism from the media, likely because it strikes reporters as not only disingenuous, but irresponsible. For Romney to suggest that the livelihoods of specific voters — namely workers at the Jeep plant in Toledo — are in danger in order to win an election comes across to many as the type of fear-mongering that no one wants in a president.
Seeing an opening in the outcry, the Obama campaign pounced Monday. In a conference call with reporters Monday morning, Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina suggested that the ad was a “desperate” move by the Romney campaign, calling it “one of the most misleading, hypocritical and indefensible ads we’ve seen in a presidential race.”
Later, on another press conference call, Ken Lortz, a United Auto Workers leader in Toledo, said that Romney’s ad had only upset Ohioans “who know better.”
“We knew he wasn’t on our side when the economy and the industry was on the brink,” Lortz said “But the fact that he would lie to our faces and try to deceive us is just too much.”
UPDATE, 4:00 p.m.: The Obama campaign released a new TV ad Monday responding to Romney’s claims. Watch it here >
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