TROY, MI -- Mitt Romney sought to explain his opposition to the 2009 auto industry bailouts before an audience in his native Michigan, a state where the industry looms large.
A day after a debate in nearby Rochester, where he was forced to defend his consistency on the bailout, Romney renewed his defense.
"What's happening tears at my heart," Romney said. "I know what that city can be."
Romney, who had opposed bailouts for General Motors and Chrysler in 2009 and had favored a managed bankruptcy process instead, also turned around the old phrase: As goes GM, so goes the nation.
"I sure hope that's not the case," Romney said. "Because General Motors went bankrupt, and I don't want to see the nation follow down the same path Detroit went down, but the same policies you're seeing, that were so misapplied here in Detroit, will take the country in that kind of direction."
Romney, who spent most of the speech waxing nostalgic about his childhood in suburban Detroit and campaigning for his father, who served as governor in the 1960s.
His talk of autos was a more serious moment in a campaign stop more full of Romney waxing nostalgic about things well-remembered: swimming in Michigan's great lakes, campaigning with his father in years gone by and his favorite lines from the poem "Men to Match My Mountains," Mitt Romney was asked to weigh in on things forgotten.
In this case, the former Massachusetts governor was put on the spot about the third agency slated for cuts forgotten by Texas Governor Rick Perry at last night's debate.
But Romney, whose sparring with Perry headlined the last debate three weeks ago, was cordial toward his campaign rival.
"I wish him the very best," Romney told reporters.
Asked how he felt about last night's CNBC debate, here in Michigan, where he was raised, Romney said he was satisfied with his performance.
"I was very pleased with the debate," Romney said. "I thought I got most of my points across pretty well."
But how did he feel about Perry, Romney was asked?
"I've got worry more about me than about anybody else," Romney responded.
Romney's speech at a Polish-American cultural center to a rally of some 150 supporters and a handful of family members was a warm one. He toned down much of his usual criticism of President Obama, although did not drop it entirely, and offered none for his GOP rivals, preferring instead to connect with the crowd using shared memories of Michigan. Romney even asked the high school band in attendance if they could play the University of Michigan fight song." To the approval of a handful of Michigan State fans in attendance, the band leader said they could not.