16 February 2012

“Motown Mitt”

First appeared in Wall Street Journal
Michigan's Feb. 28 Republican presidential primary is almost a must-win for Mitt Romney. But to his credit the candidate is renewing his attack on the federal bailout of two of the state's giant employers. In a Detroit News op-ed this week, Mr. Romney calls the Obama administration's 2009 bailout of General Motors and Chrysler "crony capitalism on a grand scale."

The stakes for Mr. Romney in Michigan could hardly be higher. As the candidate reminds voters in a new television advertisement, he grew up in the state and is the son of the late George Romney, who served as Michigan's governor in the 1960s. Born in Detroit, Mr. Romney parlayed his "favorite son" status into a victory in the 2008 Michigan GOP primary, even though he ended up losing the nomination to John McCain. Losing Michigan in 2012 would represent a significant setback for the candidate viewed by many as the inevitable Republican nominee.

The Obama bailouts, which followed initial bailouts by President George W. Bush in 2008, have been unpopular with conservative voters, even in Michigan. But the political risk for Mr. Romney is that Democrats and independents, who might favor the sweet deals for union workers included in the Obama rescues, can vote in the GOP primary. Mr. Romney's chief opponent, Rick Santorum, also opposed the auto bailouts, but Mr. Romney has chosen to highlight the issue in Michigan. It is an encouraging sign, similar to Mr. Romney's laudable decision last year to tell Nevadans, suffering through one of the country's worst housing busts, that federal intervention was not the solution.

What's still missing from the Romney message -- and from this week's op-ed -- is a bold plan to create jobs. GOP voters are happy to see a candidate oppose Obama economic policy but are still waiting for Mr. Romney to promote a muscular policy of his own. They have a sense of what Mr. Romney is against. Now what is he for?

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