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Posted on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Auto industry's resurgence turns into political asset for President Obama

By Nathan Bomey


President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with the backdrop of "an America Built to Last" banner. Obama emphasized his commitment to the U.S. auto industry and blasted opponents' willingness to "let this die."

Melanie Maxwell |

(Related: Comprehensive guide to's coverage of President Barack Obama's visit to Ann Arbor)

The resurgence of the U.S. auto industry is quickly turning into a political asset for President Barack Obama.

Obama, speaking this morning to a crowd of 4,000 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, was not bashful about highlighting the auto industry's comeback.

"We placed our bets on the American auto industry and today the American auto industry is back," he said. "Jobs are coming back."

Obama's comments come as General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are collectively expected to add several thousand jobs in Michigan and throughout the U.S. in 2012.

That comes on top of thousands of jobs they've added since the implosion of the industry in 2009, when GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy backed by $50 billion in funds from the federal government.

Michigan's manufacturing sector is expected to account for about 27.3 percent of the state's new jobs over the next two years, according to a forecast in November by U-M economists. The sector, which added 19,000 jobs in 2010 and 25,000 in 2011, is expected to add 21,000 over the next two years.

Although the auto bailouts weren't altogether popular at first, the Obama administration now believes that the bailouts will prove to be a valuable political tool.

"Some politicians were willing to let this die," Obama said at the Al Glick Field House. "We said no — we believe in the workers of this state. I believe in American ingenuity."

Obama's comments reflect a "very thinly veiled" slam at former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, said Michael Traugott, a University of Michigan political scientist.

"He declared it a non-campaign event so that expenses would be covered by the White House," Traugott said of Obama's appearance in Ann Arbor. "But once the (Republican presidential) primary started — even back into the fall — he’s moved into campaign mode."

For Obama, Romney looms as a significant threat to win Michigan if he secures the Republican presidential nomination. Although an EPIC-MRA poll released Friday by the Detroit Free Press indicated that Obama leads Romney by about 8 percentage points in a hypothetical Michigan matchup, political analysts say Romney could win the state, which would deal a huge blow to Obama's re-election prospects.

But in Michigan, Romney will be forced to defend a New York Times editorial titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" that he published during the auto crisis.

Offering a preemptive retort, Romney released an open letter to the president this morning asserting that Obama's "promises now ring hollow."

"If you have brought new ideas to Michigan for creating jobs, why have you waited three years to unveil them? Have you suddenly had a revelation, or is it because 2012 is an election year? Whatever the case, what you are offering Michigan now is too little, too late," Romney wrote.

He added: "What Michigan needs, and what the country needs, is not four more years of economic mismanagement and failed leadership, but a fundamental change in direction. I was born and raised in Michigan at a time when our state was the pride of America. With new leadership, Michigan can feel that pride once more."

Without mentioning Romney, Obama portrayed himself as a leading proponent of manufacturing in a state where manufacturing is still king.

"Part of my argument — part of the argument of Michigan’s congressional delegation — is that when manufacturing does well, the entire economy does well," he said. "The service sector does well if manufacturing’s doing well. So we’ve got to make sure America isn’t just buying stuff but we’re also selling stuff all around the world — products stamped with those three proud words: 'Made in America.'"

Traugott said Obama's message on manufacturing would not just appeal to the Rust Belt.

"I don’t think that any major world economy can ignore manufacturing as a foundational element, so I think that’s a theme that plays all across the country," he said.

Much of Obama's speech was recycled from his State of the Union address Tuesday, when he reiterated his support for higher taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 a year.

Although congressional Republicans are likely to block efforts to raise taxes on the richest citizens, Obama's message found a receptive audience in Ann Arbor.

Obama's focus on college affordability reflects a "populist theme because college is expensive," Traugott said.

Much of the blame for rising tuition falls to reduced support from state governments.

"The federal government actually has a limited degree of freedom in influencing colleges," Traugott said. "But he does have some levers that he can pull."

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


C. S. Gass

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 10:08 a.m.

Thus begineth's second slobbering love affair with the worst president in modern history. Ford adding jobs (which is the only one I've heard of adding jobs first hand, btw) has absolutely nothing to do with this idiot as they took NO GOVERNMENT MONEY! So how Obama can be credited with that is a mystery to me. "Americans tend to succeed despite government..." I love it Hot Sam, that's absolutely true.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

Please refer to your cohorts message (hot sam) and the replies within to answer this post.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 6:23 a.m.

Unfortunately, this review of the President's speech is negatively biased. For instance, the publication refers to the number of jobs that the bailout produced by just mentioning "thousands" of jobs since the implosion instead of the frequently mentioned and accepted figure of 160,000 jobs, not an insignificant number. Furthermore, the analysis goes beyond the President's speech and includes the following statement: "For Obama, Romney looms as a significant threat to win Michigan if he secures the Republican presidential nomination." Interestingly, the article continues by referring to a poll showing Obama leading Mr. Romney in popularity at this time. What does the prospects of the upcoming election have to do with the President's speech anyway? Also, the report includes details from an open letter written by Mitt Romney which claims falsely that President Obama has not revealed new ideas for creating jobs and has mismanaged the economy. Apparently Mr. Romney missed the recurrent Presidential messages highlighting potential job developments and the fact that all statistics show progressive economic improvement since Mr. Obama's inauguration. And as for Mr. Romney's own economic plans, have any specifics been released yet? But no where in the article are the inaccuracies in Mr. Romney's statements contested. During the 2010 election campaign, published many favorable articles about Rick Snyder's effort to win the governorship and also about other Republicans campaigning for various offices. In contrast, many fewer articles appeared about Virg Bernero and Democrat campaigners and those articles were uniformly disparaging. The analysis of the President's speech is both predictable and consistent in its bias (IMHO).

martini man

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:47 a.m.

Maybe the auto industry is thriving somewhere , but it sure aint thriving here in Washtenaw County. The last time I looked ...Ypsilanti Ford Plant was vacant, Rawsonville Plant is operating at about 10% of it's previous capacity ..and the whole GM Willow Run complex is vacant. I know these are minor details , but I just thought I'd mention it . But if Obama says the auto industry is thriving , then it must be true, cuz Obama wouldn't lie . It just isn't thriving around here ..and today Obama was HERE. Jus' sayin' T


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:21 a.m.

Normally you would think Romney would have a good chance in Michigan, grew up here, dad was a popular governor. Don't know how that plays out after he opposed the auto bailouts--especially since GM is once again the world's largest auto manu. Don't think he'd get too many auto votes. Even the execs might think twice. Being the top maufacturer again is better than hoping a bankruptcy judge approves your salary.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 10:57 p.m.

What a wonderful backdrop, all of these young people with all of their life experience backing up the President. Isn't it amazing? It's almost like they're in a trance or something...............


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

The future of our great nation will be in their hands and they recognize the GOP is headed back to the ice age. They might not be very old but they are smart and 20 second sound bites won't get them in a lather unlike t-party folks.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 10:10 p.m.

Way to go President Obama, your domestic policies are working almost as well as your foreign policies which are great. Thanks to your intelligence and leadership we are again number one in the world.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 9:59 p.m.

The haters of the President must be wigging out due to his success. I feel sorry for them.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:43 a.m.

Yes, and their ignorance and lack of respect for the Office of the Presidency.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:27 a.m.

The haters are now calling him a fool. This shows how desperate they are.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

Well this is sure to bring the "haters" out from the woodwork. The truth hurts and the Repubics HATE it... We would be in a Greater Depression if President Obama had not gave us a fighting chance. Give credit where credit is due. We all sacrificed and now there looks to be jobs coming for a lot of people. I have a novel idea...If you didn't support the loans to GM & Chrysler...PLEASE don't apply for a job or take a job that will be a direct result of the American auto industry. See how thatworks out for ya!


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

I disagree Geek. I am a UAW auto worker. Yes we took "big hits"...President Bush would have let us crumble. If it hadn't been for President Obama we wouldn't have had a prayer. TRUTH.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:18 a.m.

President Obama didn't have anything to do with it. I give credit where true credit is due, the reason the auto's survived was because of the sacrifices the unions took on. It wasn't because they got a short term loan it was because a whole bunch of people were laid off and the rest took a massive hit to the paycheck. The auto resurgence is on the backs of the workers who took it on the chin and the government didn't have hardly anything to do with it, other than to swoop in and take credit for it.

Hot Sam

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

Let's see...Chrysler is owned by Italians...GM is still in financial dire straights...and Ford had nothing to do with it... Americans tend to succeed despite government...


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

Great post Sparty!!!


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:42 a.m.

GM is the #1 auto company in the world again in 2011, Chrysler is only majority owned by Fiat, and the US auto industry was saved by Obama and the democrats over fierce objection by republicans, saving millions of jobs, homes, and dollars. Just changing a few words provides the truth that drives republicans insane over an Obama success.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:26 a.m.

Ford wouldn't have survived if GM and Chrysler went under. But don't let truth get in the way.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

Americans tend to succeed despite the republicans.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

The entire economy...led by Ford, would have collapsed due to the supplier base being under bankruptcy pressure. No "Hot Sammies" for anyone. More like stale bread and rock soup...

Usual Suspect

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

Please, that's enough of coverage of this fool. Get a grip on yourselves, and let's stop with the celebrity worship.

Usual Suspect

Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 4:13 a.m.

The office is one thing. The person holding that office is a separate thing. Regardless of who a person is, respect can only be earned, it is not bestowed automatically just because of one's title. The label "fool" can also be earned.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:25 a.m.

This shows how credible your opinion is.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

Your calling the President of the United States a fool. Have some respect for the office regardless of what you think of him.