POLITICS
10/16/2012 09:50 pm ET Updated Oct 16, 2012

Presidential Debate: Obama, Romney Spar Over GM, Auto Bailout (VIDEO)

In an early exchange on the economy and jobs during Tuesday night's debate, Mitt Romney tried to explain what's generally been a liability throughout his presidential campaign: his stance on the auto bailout.

President Barack Obama extended the auto bailout begun under President George W. Bush in 2008, and the relative rebound of the auto industry has been one of the president's greatest strengths in manufacturing-heavy midwestern states like Michigan and Ohio.

Even though Romney penned a now-infamous op-ed in The New York Times entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," he essentially argued in the debate that he had the same position as Obama on the bailout. "

One thing that the president said that I want to make sure we understand -- he said I that I said we should take Detroit bankrupt," Romney said. "And that's right. My plan was to have the companies go through bankruptcy ... like Macy's and Continental Airlines." "Well, Mr. President," Romney added, "you took Detroit bankrupt. You took GM bankrupt. You took Chrysler bankrupt. So when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did."

Those companies did, in fact, eventually go through managed bankruptcy, as Romney noted. But back in 2008, Romney had argued against federal aid for the automakers. Given how difficult it was to borrow money during the financial crisis, it's doubtful that the GM and Chrysler would have made it through the managed bankruptcy process without the intervention of the federal government.

Like Romney, many Americans seemed to have felt the auto bailout was ill-advised at the time. But given the industry's turnaround, those polling numbers have flipped, according to the Pew Research Center. As of earlier this year, a majority of Americans believed the bailout was "mostly good for the economy."

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