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Romney spoils for fight with unions ahead of Michigan primary

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – In back-to-back appearances before two separate audiences under the same roof here tonight, Mitt Romney made part of his Michigan strategy clear: Pick a fight with "big labor" by labeling their support of President Barack Obama as "crony capitalism."

To a group of business leaders who had gathered for a roundtable discussion, Romney said that Obama’s bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors were designed to "foster the interests of organized labor."

"The President finally came around to my own view that Detroit needed to go through managed bankruptcy,” Romney said. “But he gave the companies to the UAW (United Auto Workers) when he was finished with the process. That again is something which I think is consistent with the fact that he got a lot of money from organized labor and felt that he should give them a favor."


Romney repeated his attack on Obama and the auto workers union during a rally that followed the roundtable. He vowed to limit the power of "union bosses."

"He got hundreds of millions of dollars from labor bosses for his campaign, and so he's paying them back in every way he knows how,” Romney said. "I've taken on union bosses before, and I'm happy to take them on again."

While Romney has said he does not oppose all unions (he often cites the carpenters' union as an example of one he likes), the strategy of taking on labor unions is not without risk in Michigan, where 12 percent of the state's workforce belongs to a union, according to government records.

Building on a theme, Romney's campaign announced a conference call entitled “Rick Santorum's Defense of Big Labor and Big Spending."

Romney balanced his attacks on labor with cheery anecdotes about his upbringing in Michigan.

"I visited every county in Michigan, I think more than once, on my dad's campaign and my mom's campaign," Romney reminisced onstage at the rally. "I've gone to the country fairs. So I didn't always see the best of each county but I saw every county in this extraordinarily beautiful state. I love Michigan."

NBC ad tracking sources show the personal may also be political – Romney’s campaign has put $1.2 million toward advertising in Michigan – more than the deep-pocketed pro-Romney super PAC Restore our Future has spent here to date. His first television ad in the state touts his childhood in the Wolverine State.

Tomorrow, Romney will accept the endorsement of the state's Republican governor, Rick Snyder, campaign and GOP sources tell NBC News. Snyder, a former businessman who calls himself "one tough nerd," will appear alongside Romney at a midday event in Farmington Hills.