Political observers remain convinced that winning Ohio next week represents the key to electoral success for both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. They also seemed to be in agreement that the federal government's successful, $50 billion bailout of the auto industry stands out as perhaps the most important issue in the must-win Buckeye state, where an estimated 850,000 jobs are tied to the industry. But Romney's in a bind over the bailout, and for that he can blame the conservative media.
Previously, Romney had derided the government aid as a "sweetheart deal disguised as a rescue plan" and guaranteed that if Detroit companies accepted federal aid, you could "kiss the American automotive industry goodbye." His dismissive comments became more strident during the Republican primary season, even after it became clear the bailout had succeeded. That's when Romney "joined other Republican candidates in a chorus of bailout-bashing and union-bashing," wrote the Detroit Free Press' Tom Walsh. Romney was busy "painting the Obama administration's crisis-management effort as a reckless campaign to run up the national debt and do favors for labor unions."
To now help fix his political problem in Ohio, the conservative press, led by Fox News, has been trying to blur Romney's stance on the issue, claiming he simply called for "managed bankruptcy with government backing." In fact, the approach Romney advocated would have thrown the companies into turmoil and cost hundreds of thousands of workers their jobs.
But the question remains, why did Romney harden his stance against the bailout over time? Why did he campaign on the idea that government assistance was "the wrong way to go"? One likely explanation is that the right-wing media, a dominant force in the Republican primary campaign (i.e the Fox News Primary), railed against the bailout with extraordinary force. For conservative players like Rush Limbaugh and the team at Fox, the government's helping hand to Detroit symbolized the zenith of Obama's alleged socialist leanings. It also signaled the demise of both democracy and capitalism in America.
Voters today might not be sure where Romney stands on the bailout, but there's no doubt about where the entire Republican Noise Machine stood. It hated the move. Fox News' Glenn Beck said the bailout reminded him of the actions of German companies in "the early days of Adolf Hitler," while Fox colleague Sean Hannity condemned Obama for engaging in what he called a "mission to hijack capitalism."
In the infamous words of Rush Limbaugh, it was like GM and Chrysler "bent over and grabbed the ankles."
And from Michelle Malkin's blog:
Today, Romney's partisan decision to echo the right-wing media's attacks may end up costing him Ohio. It might also cost the Republican Party the White House.