ORLANDO, Florida--President Barack Obama's re-election team waged all-out political war on Monday against a controversial ad by Republican rival Mitt Romney. The ad implies, falsely, that Jeep plans to move jobs to China from Ohio--a charge that could resonate in that pivotal battleground state.
The Obama campaign released a commercial rebutting the allegation, while Vice President Joe Biden and former president Bill Clinton denounced the former Massachusetts governor's commercial as, basically, a lie.
"Now it turns out that Jeep is reopening in China because they made so much money here they can afford to do it," Clinton said at a Youngstown, Ohio, rally. "They put out a statement today saying that it was the biggest load of bull in the world that they would consider shutting down their American operation."
Romney's campaign ran the ad over the weekend in Ohio, where one in eight jobs is linked to the auto industry--and Obama has used his rescue of big car markers to gain a political edge over his rival. Recent polls have shown that the president has a narrow edge in the Buckeye State. Defeat there would sharply narrow Romney's path to the White House.
"Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China," said the voice-over on the Romney campaign ad. "Mitt Romney will fight for every American job."
The ad appears to be inspired by a Bloomberg news report that Fiat, which owns Chrysler, planned to boost its manufacturing operations in China. Chrysler issued a rare public comment that acidly remarked of the ad: "A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments."
(The Romney campaign ad does not explicitly say that the company will shift production from Ohio to China. But Romney himself said at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, last week that he had "seen a story" that "one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China.")
"I've served with eight presidents. I have never seen this in my public life," Biden declared at the same rally. "He's running an ad in this state saying that President Obama made the companies go bankrupt… gave the industry the Italians, who are selling it to the Chinese.
"It's an absolutely patently false assertion," Biden continued. "It's such an outrageous assertion that one of the few times in my memory a major American corporation, Chrysler, has felt obliged to go public and say, there is no truth."
"They said, Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. Chrysler Corporation, which is highly unusual, said, a careful and unbiased reading would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments," the vice president said. "Ladies and gentlemen, have they no shame?"
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams hit back. "It appears the Obama campaign is less concerned with engaging in a meaningful conversation about President Obama's failed policies and more concerned with arguing against facts about their record they dislike," he said in a statement. "The American people will see their desperate arguments for what they are."