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Romney never overcame bailout opposition

As Mitt Romney's long, hard-fought race for the presidency came to an end, the campaign faced a stinging loss – and at one point even cut out the audio on broadcast screens in the campaign's election night ballroom as the results poured in. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

 

As Republicans sort through what went wrong for former Republican nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday, they might look back ruefully at four words that became forever associated with the GOP nominee: "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

There are varied reasons for President Barack Obama's re-election to a second term, from changing demographics to superior campaign organization and beyond. And Obama's broad margin in the Electoral College meant that no single state was responsible for his victory over Romney.

David Goldman / AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives to his election-night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 7, in Boston.

But as Republicans begin to pick through the aftermath of Romney's loss, Romney's struggles to address his opposition the 2009 rescue of General Motors and Chrysler stymied an effort to gain a foothold in Obama's Midwestern "firewall," and turn his attention to other key battleground states.

Related: Romney's chances in Ohio tied to softening auto bailout stance

It was an issue with which Romney struggled for the duration of the campaign, as Obama traipsed across Midwestern states, hammering away against his Republican opponent on the issue, while touting the resurgence of GM and Chrysler following the billions in aid provided to the companies.

A strong majority - 60 percent - of voters on Tuesday in Ohio said that they had approved of the auto bailout, and Obama beat Romney among those voters by a healthy 73 to 25 percent difference.

In Wisconsin, another state that composed Obama's firewall (along with Iowa), a majority of voters - 53 percent - said they had approved of the bailout. Obama bested Romney among those voters, 79 to 20 percent.

Republican political strategist Mike Murphy joins Chuck Todd to talk about Mitt Romney's struggle to court the popular vote.

Those numbers suggest that Romney's effort over the past year to recast his opposition to the bailout, put bluntly, failed.

Romney's New York Times op-ed opposing then-President George W. Bush's efforts to extend aid to the troubled automakers came just weeks after the 2008 election -- four years ago next Saturday, to be exact.

And while it's unlikely that the former Massachusetts governor himself wrote the provocative headline that would stick with him through his 2012 campaign, he wrestled and struggled with the issue throughout his battle with Obama.

Even in the primaries, Romney's conservative challengers argued it was callous for him to have supported the Wall Street bailout while opposing the auto rescue, especially as a native son of Michigan whose father ran a car company when Romney was young.

Romney reasoned that the managed bankruptcy endured by GM and Chrysler was actually his idea in the first place. And then he pivoted to argue that bondholders and dealers were shortchanged in that process, to the benefit of autoworkers' unions, which had backed Obama in 2008.

But neither of those arguments seemed to resonate in the long term, prompting Romney in the closing weeks of the campaign to address his deficiency with a deeply misleading pair of radio and TV ads stoking fears that Jeep was planning to move production from the U.S. to China.

Those ads were ostensibly an effort to make gains with swing voters in the outlying areas surrounding Toledo, the home to a major Jeep production facility.

But Obama carried Lucas County, which includes Toledo, last night by the same margins as 2008. The president also carried nearby Ottowa and Wood Counties (albeit by a slimmer margin than '08), despite Bush having won both in 2000 and 2004.