Hell might be getting ready to freeze over. Nate Silver, the New York Times’ resident nerdistician, calculates that there is a 77 percent chance that Mitt Romney could lose the Michigan primary on February 28. This is the same Michigan where Mitt was born. The same Michigan where his father was governor. Romney losing Michigan would be like a Bush losing in Texas or a Kennedy losing in Massachusetts.
If Rick Santorum pulls off the upset, it’ll be the biggest victory for the sweater-vest set since Jim Tressel coached Ohio State to eight wins in nine years against Michigan, but it still won’t change the fact that Santorum winning the Republican nomination would be a bigger miracle than anything in the Book of Mormon.
Things are so desperate for Romney that he has an ad up reminding voters, “Michigan has been my home, and this is personal.” Because those other states are so impersonal. Feel the love, Arizona.
The hilarious thing about the ad is how Romney reminisces about how he went “to the Detroit Auto Show with my dad” while driving a Chrysler made in Canada. At least Dukakis’ tank was made in America.
Romney is losing because of his idiotic opposition to Barack Obama’s rescue of the American auto industry. Shortly after Obama’s election, Romney penned an op-ed in the New York Times in which Romney predicted that if Obama bailed out the car makers, their “demise will be virtually guaranteed.” The op-ed is best known today not for that wildly incorrect prediction but for the headline that ran over his column: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”. Even if he didn’t write it, the headline perfectly captures the je ne sais quoi of Romney’s rich-get-richer Mittocracy.
By now, the facts are clear. If Obama hadn’t bailed out Chrysler and General Motors, America would have had to strip Michigan down and sell it for parts to Canada. It doesn’t matter that the Chrysler that Romney drove in his ad was made in Canada. It matters that Chrysler wouldn’t exist if he were president. Had Chrysler and GM failed, they would have dragged the supply chain down with it and cost the country 1.1 million jobs.
Instead of doing what Romney wanted and letting the invisible hand slap the auto industry around, Obama stepped in. He invested $8.5 billion of your money but required big changes, and last year he announced that the auto makers paid back the loan five years early and returned $11.2 billion to the taxpayers – and everyone in Michigan knows it.
“Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or Independent in Michigan, you’re likely for auto jobs first. When the industry hit tough times, Mitt Romney said four words: ‘Let them go bankrupt’. An auto collapse would have been Armageddon for Michigan, and his position feels a bit traitorous to everyone around this parts,” said Jill Alper, a Michigan-based Democratic consultant.
Obama’s auto bailout is why Chrysler still exists. It’s also why Chrysler now makes enough money to air the “Halftime in America” Super Bowl ad that featured Clint Eastwood growling about Motor City’s comeback. Clint might as well have been telling Mitt to get off his lawn.
Dirty Harry linking Obama’s economic policies with America’s gutsy comeback might have cost Romney the Michigan primary as well as a chance to turn the state red in November. Republicans, reacting with their usual grace and charm, responded to the Chrysler ad by doubling down on stupid. Karl Rove told Fox News , “I was, frankly, offended by it.” Of course. Rove is the anti-Chrysler.
The problem for Romney, Rove and everyone else in the GOP is that the auto bailout worked. Romney might be able to sell his ghost story of creeping socialism elsewhere, but in Michigan most Republicans support the auto bailout and like Clint Eastwood’s Chrysler ad. Romney needs people to believe that Obama’s policies hurt America, but now he has to make people doubt Clint Eastwood, too.
The economy’s improving. Hundreds of thousands of people are going back to work every month. Detroit still makes cars. When Americans and Michiganders in particular take pride in their comeback, maybe the question isn’t whether we are better off than we were four years ago.
Maybe it’s time for Mitt to ask himself one question: Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?