Mitt Romney's 2008 op-ed "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" soared to the top of The New York Times' online "Most Viewed" list Tuesday, following a testy exchange between the former governor and President Barack Obama over the auto bailout at Monday night's debate.
Romney referenced the editorial after Obama said that if he had taken Romney's advice on not bailing out Chrysler and GM, "we'd be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China."
Romney countered that Obama was mischaracterizing his plan. He said he'd written that the auto industry could get "government help and government guarantees" in exchange for restructuring in bankruptcy. Obama interrupted, saying it wasn't true that Romney said the companies could get government help.
"You can take a look at the op-ed," Romney replied.
In the editorial, Romney said that "if General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye." Romney argued that the auto companies should seek a privately financed managed bankruptcy, with the government providing guarantees to their loans.
A few months later, President Obama extended tens of billions of dollars in government loans to the auto industry in exchange for a restructuring in bankruptcy. The government is expected to lose $20 billion on the deal, but some independent analysts have said the companies would have collapsed without the aid, and that private loans were not available at the time due to the global credit crunch.
The Obama campaign has repeatedly flagged Romney's op-ed while campaigning in the battleground state of Ohio, which could end up deciding this election and where one in eight jobs is connected to the auto industry. Romney did not write the headline of the op-ed, but stood by it in an interview with CBS News in June, explaining that people misunderstand "bankruptcy" to mean "liquidation." Romney said the car companies should not have gotten government funds until after they reorganized in a managed bankruptcy. While battling through the primary in Michigan, however, he said he wished the op-ed had been titled "How to Save Detroit."
"Mitt Romney on Auto Bailout" was also a trending search term on Yahoo last night.
Update: This post has been updated to clarify Romney's stance on the headline of his op-ed.