Tag Archives: auto bailout

Who Will Do More? [Auto Industry]

The Romney campaign launches head-first into the debate over the auto bailout:

Ohio in Focus

Ohio is where all the action is right now and Maggie Haberman at Politico has the five factors that may swing the Buckeye State for Romney:

[T]here are five key ingredients required for a Romney win in a state that presents the GOP nominee’s easiest and surest path to the White House. Much as the contest between President George W. Bush and challenger John Kerry hinged on specific factors in Ohio, the 2012 contest boils down to some very basic old-fashioned Ohio politics. Below are POLITICO’S five things that, according to longtime operatives familiar with the state, must happen for Romney to capture Ohio:

1. Win the Columbus media market

It reaches 19 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and Obama was the first Democrat in decades to carry the Columbus media market when he won in 2008. Obama won this area by just under 3 points in 2008…Obama and John McCain split the state’s two other large media markets in 2008 — Cleveland went for Obama and Cincinnati for McCain. But Columbus is the main battleground region now, and it shows. The central Ohio area has seen well more than 20,000 so far, according to media trackers — far outpacing the number that aired in the 2004 presidential race. Romney is now on par with Obama in terms of ad spending in the state, but was heavily outgunned for a long time. Romney also needed to reach parity with Obama on the airwaves not just in terms of raw dollars spent, but amount of ads. In the meantime, both Romney and Paul Ryan plan to appear in the state more than 15 times combined before election day.

2. Take back GOP-leaning suburban voters

It’s not enough for Romney to be on air heavily — he also needs to tweak his sales pitch. The GOP nominee has had to adjust his ad strategy so that it’s a softer sell for women and suburban voters, including those who tend to lean Republican in a state where there’s no party registration and who Obama captured in 2008 to strong effect. In North Canton, Ohio on Friday night, Romney’s pitch to women was part of his standard stump, but was clear nonetheless. Romney talked about school choice and education, an issue that tests well with suburban women, many of whom were on hand to hear the GOP nominee speak. A striking fact of the 2012 cycle has been the absence of Ann Romney in heavy rotation in advertising. Mrs. Romney appears at the end of the ads in the disclaimer photo alongside her husband, but she has not been a central focus (though she has stumped in swing states frequently for her husband). [A]n important bellwether to watch is Stark County, just south of the Cleveland area. It’s gone for the winner in every presidential election the last six times, except for one — the 2004 Bush-Kerry race, when the Democrat won it by less than two points.

3. Go for the coal

Romney’s campaign is betting that the electorate will look more like 2004 than 2008 — so it’s natural that the goal would be to shoot for Bush’s margins of eight years ago. [F]ocus on the coal industry in southeast Ohio, where the Obama administration’s policies are often described as the “war on coal.”

4. Independents’ day

Winning independents is something Romney needs to do everywhere, but in Ohio the indie factor is even more crucial — he must have a very strong showing with them. The silver lining for the Romney campaign, which it cites often, is that recent polling shows them winning independents in basically every survey, even ones where he isn’t winning overall. Obama had an edge with this group in 2008, but it’s more of a battle this time.

5. The great ‘Let it Go Bankrupt’ issue

If there is any issue that Democrats believe helps them above all, it’s the auto bailout. And if there is any issue that Romney’s campaign is clearly defensive over, it’s the auto bailout. Many Ohioans work in the auto industry and benefited from the Obama administration’s decision to bail out the auto industry — something Romney was against (though Romney states he was for a managed bankruptcy). Both of the campaigns are using the issue to their benefit. Just look at their statements recently — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, an uber-surrogate for Romney this cycle, has accused Obama of making false claims about the bailout during one of the presidential debates. Portman penned an op-ed piece on the topic this week in a local Ohio paper. And the Romney campaign has gone to great lengths to highlight the case of Delphi, an auto parts plant that shuttered amid the bailout (the Obama campaign disputes the details).

A Sober Look at Ohio

Sorry to go all “Debbie Downer” with this post, but I think this is a good piece on the difficulties for Romney in Ohio.

In nearly every mention of Ohio, I refer to it as a tough nut or tough terrain for Romney.  It’s not without reason.  This was a state 12-months ago the Obama campaign privately thought was out of reach for them.  But rather than conceding the point, they redoubled their efforts and changed the narrative.  Now it is Romney looking at at increasingly difficult numbers in Ohio (even with appropriately balanced polling) and it is his campaign that needs to change the narrative.  They are already redoubling their efforts evidenced by the current three-day immersion in the state but that must only be the beginning.  Peter Hamby of CNN takes a sober look at what troubles the Romney campaign in a very fair assessment of where things stand:

Interviews with some two dozen Republican strategists and elected officials across Ohio revealed an array of explanations — and no easy answers — for Romney’s failure to catch on there. Some pointed to the Obama campaign’s aggressive effort to hang Romney’s opposition to the federal bailout of Chrysler and General Motors around his neck. Others said a hangover remains from the divisive 2011 battle over collective bargaining rights that hurt the GOP’s standing with working class voters. A handful of GOP strategists blamed Romney’s standing on campaign staffers who aren’t Ohio natives. One longtime Republican strategist griped about the “arrogant top-down” approach of the Romney team and said they have done a poor job listening to the advice of savvy Ohio strategists — a charge rebuffed by Romney aides who point out that field staffers from the Ohio offices of Sen. Rob Portman and House Speaker John Boehner have come on board. Still others cited Romney’s lackluster political skills and said his stiff CEO demeanor as a turnoff for Ohioans, with one Republican officeholder saying that former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour wasn’t far off when he said recently that Romney is being caricatured as “a plutocrat married to a known equestrian.”

A man without a message

The main criticism that emerged, though, is that Romney is man without a message. “We are still at a point where I think it’s still a winnable race for Romney,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “Generally when you talk people, there is a feeling that Obama hasn’t done that great a job. But Romney hasn’t made the sale. He still can. But he hasn’t made the sale yet.” Another statewide Republican officeholder who — like others interviewed for this article — did not want to be identified criticizing the Republican ticket, offered a blunter assessment. Both Romney and Obama, this official argued, have provided nothing but “narrow arguments” and “fantasy land” policy prescriptions for the country. “Why is Mitt Romney running for president and what will his presidency be about?” the official asked. “I don’t think most Republicans in Ohio can answer that question. He has not made a compelling case for his candidacy. Don’t make your campaign about marginal tax rates. Make it about your children and your grandchildren and the future of this country.”

Fallout over bailout

Obama forces have persistently reminded voters about the auto bailout — on television and in small-scale earned media events around the state — and Republicans faulted Romney for failing to develop a succinct response to the criticism in a state where one out of every eight jobs is tied to the auto sector. Romney wrote a New York Times op-ed in 2008 titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” and argued for a managed bankruptcy for the industry, without the use of government funds. In May, he took credit for proposing the bankruptcy idea. In August, he tapped a running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who voted in favor of bailout. Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has aired multiple TV ads on the issue and synced their pro-bailout message with down-ballot Democratic candidates such as Sen. Sherrod Brown. According to The Washington Post poll, 64% of Ohio registered voters view the federal loans to GM and Chrysler as “mostly good” for the state’s economy. Only 29% said the bailout was “mostly bad.” Putting a finer point on the matter, one longtime Ohio GOP strategist called Obama’s advantage on the auto bailout “a kick in the balls” for the Romney campaign.

Ground operation a bright spot for Romney

One aspect of the Romney operation that earned praise from Republicans is the campaign’s ground game, which has made more than 3 million volunteer voter contacts so far this year and knocked on 28 times as many doors in Ohio as John McCain’s campaign did in 2008. “It’s one of the better operations in the country, as it always is,” Romney’s political director Rich Beeson told CNN. “Ohio has always led the way and it is again this cycle.” The so-called “victory effort” — a joint venture of the Romney campaign, Republican National Committee and Ohio Republican Party — has 40 offices statewide. The humming ground effort, combined with Ohio’s traditional GOP lean and what’s expected to be a more animated conservative base than in 2008, has Republicans confident that the final margin on Election Day will be much closer than the 5, 6 or 7-point Obama lead seen in recent public polls. “Nobody will win Ohio by 5,” said Mike Weaver, a Republican consultant with more than two decades of campaign experience in the state. “Anybody who tells you that doesn’t know Ohio. This state is too close. It’s too divided. It will not be Obama by 5 or Romney by 5.”

Mixed message from Kasich irks GOP

Republican Gov. John Kasich’s relentless boosterism for the uptick in Ohio job creation runs counter to the national Republican message that Obama’s policies have kept the economy from bouncing back. The statewide unemployment rate has fallen to 7.2%, roughly a point below the national average. In bellwether central Ohio, home to the capital city of Columbus and its thriving suburbs, the jobless rate fell to 5.9% in August. Kasich is not shy about talking up Ohio’s job growth, even if it muddles the Romney campaign’s arguments about the state of the national economy. At a recent campaign event in conservative Owensville, a fiery Kasich boasted that “Ohio is rocking!” — moments before turning the microphone over to Paul Ryan, who proceeded to issue dire warnings about Obama’s economic policies. The mixed messaging has rankled Republicans in the Romney and Kasich camps. Both sides have done their best to keep the tensions under wraps, but they occasionally spill over into public view…One Washington-based GOP operative involved in the campaign and closely watching Ohio accused Kasich of not doing enough to help Romney win the state. “No single swing state Republican has been less willing to criticize President Obama at important junctures in this campaign than John Kasich,” the Republican told CNN. “Anyone who doesn’t want an Obama second term should be furious at him.”

Ohio in Focus

From the inception of this blog Ohio and Virginia have been 1 and 1a in terms of priorities for both campaigns.  Should one campaign win both those states they almost certainly win the election.  The Romney campaign is spending three days in Ohio to being home what has been a tough nut to crack in an otherwise dead heat race:

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are making multiple stops this week alone in a state that’s trending toward the president, endangering Romney’s White House hopes.

Dueling Campaigns

The popularity of Obama’s auto industry bailout, and a better-than-average local economy, are undermining Romney’s call for Ohioans to return to their GOP-leaning ways, which were crucial to George W. Bush’s two elections. Ohio has 18 electoral votes, seventh most in the nation, and no Republican has won the White House without carrying it. Romney is scrambling to reverse the polls that show Obama ahead. On Tuesday, he made the first of his four planned Ohio stops this week, joining his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, for a rally near Dayton. On Wednesday, Obama will visit the college towns of Kent and Bowling Green, and Romney’s bus tour will stop in the Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo areas.

Campaign Saturation

Not even Florida has seen as many presidential TV campaign ads as Ohio, and neither nominee goes very long without visiting or talking about the state. When Obama touted his “decision to save the auto industry” on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday, he mentioned not the major car-making state of Michigan but Ohio, which focuses more on car parts. “One in eight jobs in Ohio is dependent on the auto industry,” Obama said.

The Kasich Konundrum

One problem for Romney is that Ohio’s 7.2 percent unemployment rate is below the national average, as the Republican governor, John Kasich, often reminds residents. “We are up 122,000 jobs,” Kasich told a panel during the Republican convention last month. “The auto industry job growth is 1,200,” he said, perhaps trying to play down that sector’s role. Kasich says he supports Romney and Ohio would do even better if Obama were replaced. But the governor’s understandable pride in the state’s job growth runs counter to Romney’s message that Obama is an economic failure.

An opening for Romney

The Fox News poll suggests there’s room for Romney to advance. Nearly one in three Ohio voters said they are “not at all satisfied” with the way things are going in the country, and an additional 26 percent are “not very satisfied.” Only 7 percent are “very satisfied,” and 34 percent are “somewhat satisfied.” Romney is trying to tap that discontent. But he’s having mixed success with his chief target: white, working class voters who are socially conservative and often have union backgrounds. A generation ago they were called “Reagan Democrats.”

Auto Bailout Boon

In 2009, Obama’s administration used billions of taxpayer dollars to keep General Motors and Chrysler afloat while they reorganized through bankruptcy. Romney said the companies should have been allowed to enter bankruptcy without government help. But an array of officials at the time said the automakers would have gone under without it. GM still owes the government about $25 billion. But many workers in Ohio and elsewhere consider the auto bailout a success. It affected thousands of businesses, some of them fairly small, that make an array of products that go into vehicles, new and used. Jeff Gase, a UAW union member who introduced Obama at a Columbus rally last week, credited the president with saving the paint company where he works. “Mom and pop body shops” buy the paint, Gase said, and now his plant is running “full steam ahead.” Romney notes that many Ohio car dealerships went out of business during the industry reorganization.

Bring the fight to Obama

Still, the Republican is pushing hard. Romney has forced Obama to run ads in Ohio defending the administration’s handling of China trade and the U.S. coal industry. Romney’s ads say government regulations are stifling the energy industry and Obama hasn’t been tough enough on China’s protection of its exporters, two claims the administration rejects. Ohio, meanwhile, appears to be the only state this week where Obama’s campaign is still airing a 60-second ad called “The Question,” which disputes Romney’s claim that Americans are worse off than they were four years ago.

Is Michigan Going to Flip for Romney?

From the start, the Romney campaign has believed Michigan was a legitimate Battleground this cycle. Following a series of independent polls that show the race a toss-up, many people are jumping on that bandwagon:

Suddenly Republicans are feeling good about Michigan. Not giddy, mind you. Just a bit optimistic. It now seems clear that if the GOP wins Michigan, it won’t necessarily win the fall election — but if Romney wins the election, he will very likely win Michigan. That makes for difficult political choices for campaign strategists.

This state is, above all, a place of great loyalty and consistency, and herein lies the Romney opening for 2012. Consider this: For the last five elections, Michigan voted for the Democratic presidential nominee. For the five elections prior to that, Michigan voted for the Republican nominee. Go back three more, and all the elections went to the Democrat. Go back another three, and they’re all Republican years. Now, to the loyalty element. Romney may have been governor of Massachusetts and a principal figure in salvaging the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Utah, but his inner compass points to Michigan, where he was reared and where his father was the chief of American Motors and a successful governor. The Romney name still resonates here, and, if you mention it, many will think you’re referring to the father. George W. Romney still is revered by those of a certain age. Mitt Romney may be the beneficiary. That is not without precedent in presidential politics, and the evidence can be summed up with two names: Franklin Roosevelt and George W. Bush.

It’s the economy and we’re not stupid

Like so many places, the economy is the major issue here. Only 11 states have a higher unemployment rate than Michigan, where it remains stubbornly at 8.5 percent. In the classic battleground state, Ohio, unemployment is substantially lower, at 7.3 percent. These are not the kind of political entrails that give comfort to an incumbent party.

Diminishing auto impact

Obama’s camp believes the president’s auto bailout will help bail him out here in November. His supporters happily point out that General Motors and Chrysler have defied the naysayers and enjoyed a robust rebound — and they pound home the point that Romney opposed Obama’s intervention. Autoworkers have legendary long memories and strong loyalties, but there are fewer of them than there once were. One consequence of the decades-long crisis of the carmakers is that unionized workers in automobile plants and related industries constitute a smaller part of the voting base than they did when the great labor leader Walter Reuther ruled Detroit, was a major figure in Democratic politics and for a time met weekly with President Lyndon B. Johnson.

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Obama Visits Ohio Towns He Bought Off

The recent elections in Mexico are under a cloud of controversy due to accusations and video evidence the winning candidate gave out prepaid credit cards in exchange for votes.  While that direct exchange would be illegal, it is not very different than what President Obama did when he intervened in the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler  breaking the law to pay off union supporters ahead of legally senior claims of bondholders.  Now President Obama visits his beneficiaries to seek a return on his illegal a massive money-losing payments:

President Barack Obama’s bus trip on Thursday through northern Ohio was taking him to four areas with big auto plants as he defends his decision to rescue U.S. automakers. His first stop was the Toledo suburb of Maumee, where hundreds of supporters, including several wearing UAW T-shirts, waited two hours on a muggy morning for his arrival.

His second stop will be at an ice cream social in Sandusky, Ohio, followed by campaign remarks in Parma at 7:15 p.m. “The best thing he ever could have done was save the auto industry,” said William Harris of Holland, a worker for a Chrysler engine plant in Detroit for 36 years before retiring.

Linda Schneider of Maumee said she was unemployed four years ago before getting a human resources job with a Toledo-area auto parts company. “This is an auto region,” she said. “We need (the industry) to survive.”

Unlike the politicians, not every attendee was monolithic in their focus on the bailou

Ohio residents waiting to enter the event agreed the auto industry is key for the area but had varying opinions on the political impact of the auto bailout. Thomas Hutton, a retired pharmacist from Toledo, said the auto industry is important but he didn’t think it would be a defining issue for the presidential campaign. “It’s a side issue,” he said. “The big ones are the economy and heath care.” Army retiree Glenn Shields said preserving jobs is good but he thinks the auto companies should’ve recognized their problems sooner. He said the auto bailout will be an important issue in November. “It’s going to be a major factor,” said the 69-year-old. “The big issue will be the growing debt related to the bailout.”

Battleground State Economics

The Romney campaign continues to walk a tightrope between identifying the need for change at the Presidential level due to the poor economy while dealing with the reality that all-important Battleground state economies have turned for the better over the last 18-months.  The National Journal took a look at some of the key factors and conflicting agendas embedded in such a strategy:

Examples of conflicting narratives among the Battlegrounds:

  • Nevada: Suffers from double-digit unemployment, deep and stubborn housing crisis as well as anemic activity in the service and construction industries vital to the state
  • Michigan: Unemployment hovers in the 8 percent range, a smidge above the national average but a far cry from the 14.1 percent the state experienced during the auto-industry financial crisis that roiled Detroit
  • Iowa: Entered the downturn later than other states, jettisoned fewer jobs, and rebounded much faster

Balancing Act

Romney’s pitch to voters hinges on the recovery being too sluggish under the president’s policies and the fact that millions of Americans are still feeling economic pain. The problem has been GOP governors heralding their accomplishments on the economic front have also cropped up, putting their messages at loggerheads with the Romney campaign’s central theme. Among them were Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Problem Governors:

Romney’s message was undercut this week when Florida Gov. Rick Scott insisted on touting economic progress in the Sunshine State under his tenure, for his own political purposes. Scott on Friday touted his state’s recovery at a major gathering of Hispanic elected officials. “Our state is doing extremely well,” Scott said. “We still have 800,000 people out of work, but we’re changing it. Tourism is way up, jobs are up, housing prices are staying stable. If you want to buy a house, now is the time. … We’ve had the biggest drop in unemployment of any state but one in the last seventeen months.”

Ohio Gov. Kasich in particular had been conspicuously absent from recent Romney campaign events. Notably, he skipped an April event in front of a shuttered factory in Lorain, Ohio. Democrats were quick to pounce, accusing Romney of rooting against the recovery. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said in an interview, “That’s the pickle John Kasich is in. He’s given the task of poor-mouthing the economy or going into the witness-protection program, and he’s chosen the latter.”

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Three Reasons Mitt Romney Will Win Michigan and Three More Why He Will Not

With the Governor in Michigan, Peter Grier of the Christian Science Monitor takes its stab at the factors that could determine the outcome in the Great Lakes State:

Three reasons Michigan might be an attainable goal for the Romney campaign:

  • FAMILY TIES. Michiganders of a certain age remember the state’s George Romney era fondly. A backslapping, genial ex-auto exec, Romney père presided over Michigan’s 1960s-era boom. His status as a moderate Rockefeller Republican could help counterbalance Romney the son’s drift to the right.
  • REAGAN DEMOCRATS. In the 1980s, Michigan autoworkers defined the term “Reagan Democrat.” The state voted for Reagan twice and for George H.W. Bush once. White working-class voters are a particular problem area for President Obama, and they were a “dominant element” in the state’s electoral equation in 2008, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of Michigan demographics.
  • DETROIT’S DECLINE. Big urban areas in general are Democratic strongholds, and Detroit is no exception. There’s a reason Democratic candidates often kick off their fall campaigns with a Labor Day rally in the union-centric Motor City. But Detroit isn’t what it used to be, Clint Eastwood Chrysler Super Bowl ads notwithstanding. The city’s population has fallen by 25 percent over the past 10 years, and its Democratic political machine is crumbling.

Three reasons Romney might better concentrate on Florida or other swing states more within his reach:

  • WHAT FAMILY TIES? Nobody in the state under age 50 remembers George Romney anymore – that was a long time ago. The young Mitt went to Cranbrook, a private school as exclusive as any in the country. The auto industry’s lovely car ads are filmed there. They aren’t doing that at public high schools in, say, Flint.
  • TWO WORDS: “AUTO BAILOUT.” Romney famously opposed Mr. Obama’s auto bailout, although he now argues that bailout followed a pattern he suggested. Whatever the details, this is an issue the Obama campaign will try to exploit throughout Michigan and the industrial upper Midwest. GM is alive, and it’s hard to exaggerate how much that means to Michiganders, even in the nonmean streets of Romney’s hometown of Grosse Pointe.
  • THE POLLS DON’T LOOK GOOD. The latest RealClearPolitics rolling average of major polls puts Romney 5.4 percentage points behind Obama, 42.6 percent to 48 percent. The most recent individual survey wrapped into those numbers, a mid-June poll from Rasmussen Reports, had Romney down by a whopping 8 points. That’s not a fatal deficit, but it’s a fairly deep hole from which Romney will have to extricate himself to win the state.

Romney Returns to His Stomping Grounds

Michigan has made a lot of headlines recently. Whether it is the tightening polls, the truth behind the auto bailout or the changing electoral landscape, Mitt Romney’s ability to make this state competitive has been a real game changer:

Obama won Michigan handily in 2008 by 16 percentage points, but in the 2010 elections Republicans took control of the Legislature and the governor’s office. And the presidential race here could be tightening. A recent EPIC-MRA poll of likely Michigan voters found Romney and Obama in a dead heat. Michigan is critical for Obama to secure the 270 electoral votes to win in November, though Republicans have won the White House without Michigan.

Hitting the town with some friends

Romney will take his message of more jobs to the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth, a pie shop in DeWitt and Holland’s state park. Expected to join him on some legs of the visit are Gov. Rick Snyder, state Attorney General Bill Schuette, House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.

Traveling in Obama’s wake

Romney’s tour comes a week after the Obama campaign’s Michigan Road to Recovery Tour that highlighted businesses that have benefited from the president’s backing of the auto rescue package. While focusing on the turnaround of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, which rebounded after the $85 billion bailout, the Obama campaign tried to drive home the ripple effect of the auto recovery he backed and Romney opposed. Along with the auto industry, Michigan’s unemployment rate has improved from a peak of more than 14 percent in 2009, to 8.5 percent. Still, Democrats predict a tight race. “I expect that Michigan is going to be close,” Michigan Senator Carl Levin said.

Romney’s bus tour has focused on smaller towns that typically fall outside the presidential spotlight.

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Auto Bailout Distortions — Key Facts in Plain English

The Federal bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009 are having a meaningful impact on the voter preferences in two key Battleground states: Ohio and Michigan.

Because the entire process is incredibly complex, political campaigns easily distort what occurred because few parts of bankruptcy are easy or simple to explain. It is important to understand, the bankruptcy of the auto companies would occur regardless of Mitt Romney’s or Barack Obama’s preference. Remember, Barack Obama was elected President and both companies still filed for bankruptcy 6 months into his term. Under both Romney’s and Obama’s plans the companies would be alive today and the factories would still be running. The political dispute is about what should have happened to restructure the companies once they enter bankruptcy.  James Sherk and Todd Zywicki sift through reams of legal documents to demystify this hot topic regularly distorted by both the media and political campaigns:

President Obama touts the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler as one of the signature successes of his administration. He argues that the estimated $23 billion the taxpayers lost was worth paying to avoid massive job losses. However, our research finds that the president could have both kept the auto makers running and avoided losing money. The preferential treatment given to the United Auto Workers accounts for the American taxpayers’ entire losses from the bailout. Had the UAW received normal treatment in standard bankruptcy proceedings, the Treasury would have recouped its entire investment.

Three irregularities in the bankruptcy case resulted in a windfall to the UAW.

First, a driving force behind the auto companies filing for bankruptcy was the tens of billions owed to the unions retiree health benefits known as VEBA that the auto companies could not pay:

GM and Chrysler owed billions of dollars to the union’s Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) when they went bankrupt. The union and the auto makers created VEBA in 2007 to assume responsibility for the UAW’s generous retiree health benefits. The benefits allowed UAW members to retire in their mid-50s with minimal out-of-pocket health-care expenses for the rest of their lives. GM owed $20.6 billion and Chrysler owed $8 billion to VEBA as unsecured claims.

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The Battle for Ohio

We know Ohio and Virginia are 1 and 1A in rankings of importance in this year’s election, and like many of the Battleground states, nothing is simple in this heartland state:

Ohio again is earning its reputation as the ultimate toss-up state. The proof is in the spending. Last week, the two campaigns and their allies poured more money into TV ads in Ohio — about $1.3 million each — than in any other state, including Florida. Democrats admit Mitt Romney has a real chance of putting the state back into the GOP column after President Barack Obama’s hard-fought win in 2008. Still, after a disastrous 2010 midterm election, Ohio Democrats and many independents rallied last year to defeat a Republican-backed labor union law. The big question this fall, Ritenauer says, is “whether they come out in full force for President Obama.” No Republican has won the presidency without carrying Ohio. Obama won it by 5 percentage points. Republicans hope 2010 is the best predictor of this year’s contest. Democrats hope it’s 2011.

2010 Landslide for the GOP:

No state saw a more sweeping GOP victory in the 2010 elections than Ohio. Republicans ousted the Democratic governor, enjoyed a landslide U.S. Senate win, replaced five Democratic U.S. House members and regained control of the Ohio House to take full command of the state government.

Overreach leads to repeal:

 The new governor, John Kasich, backed legislation to sharply reduce public unions’ bargaining rights. The move infuriated millions in a state largely built upon the unionized steel and automobile industries. Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected the law in a referendum last November, forcing Kasich to strike a more conciliatory tone.

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