After months of campaigning, hundreds of millions of dollars in ad spending, and untold numbers of debate fact-checks, it all comes down to this: Ohio.
The Buckeye State hasn’t voted for the loser in the presidential election since 1960. Politicos say the state is a must-win for Romney if he wants to accrue the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House. New York Times poll guru Nate Silver said the state has a 50-50 chance of deciding the election.
The auto bailout - an issue Obama hopes will win voters over in the battleground state - came under the spotlight in last night’s presidential debate. Obama argued if Romney’s position on the $85 billion federal bailout had been enacted, the U.S. auto industry would be in total disarray.
“If we had taken your advice, Gov. Romney, about our auto industry, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China,” Obama declared during the end of the 90-minute slugfest in Boca Raton, Fla.
Romney countered that he was a “son of Detroit” and would do “nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry.” The GOPer added, “My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks…I said they need - these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy.”
Recent polls show Obama with a slight lead in the state.
Chris Cillizza, Washington Post reporter and msnbc political contributor, told Hardball’s Chris Matthews on Tuesday night that Obama has been able to maintain his popularity in Ohio because his auto bailout deal is popular with Ohioans and the state's unemployment rate is below the national average.
Obama can say, “Not only did I put in place this policy you liked, it worked,” said Cillizza, adding that it’s harder to make that argument in states with higher unemployment rates.
Of course, Romney previously argued that managed bankruptcy was the "only path” to dig Detroit out of turmoil.
But Steven Rattner, who served as the lead auto advisor in the U.S. Treasury Department under President Obama, ripped Romney’s plan, saying that the private credit markets were frozen, meaning the automakers would have surely gone into liquidation.
“Under the Romney plan the companies would have gone into bankruptcy without any government help… they would have never come out,” said Rattner.