It would appear that President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney will have to stick to kissing babies: General Motors and the Chrysler Group have both banned the candidates from making appearances at their assembly plants and facilities until the general election in November has passed.
The 2012 presidential election is heating up: with this week's Republican National Convention and next week's Democratic National Convention, the country will have two formally-confirmed candidates for president crisscrossing the nation, jockeying for votes at various campaign stops. Aside from the typical barrage of state fairs, coffee shops, and baby-kissing photo ops, both candidates would have reason to visit either Chrysler or GM's assembly plants.
President Obama presided over the bailout of General Motors and the Chrysler Group and claims at least partial responsibility for saving both from breakup or failure. As a result of the bailouts of 2009, the U.S. government is the majority shareholder in General Motors. Obama is also cruising to a certain endorsement from the United Auto Workers, having secured it in 2008 and endorsements from the AFL-CIO in both 2008 and 2012.
Romney, meanwhile, would potentially inherit the situation between the government and GM if he wins the presidency. He is also tasked with explaining his November 2008 op-ed in the New York Times titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," a piece some saw as an attack on the American auto industry. Romney's explanation so far has been that the comments were taken out of context, and that his solution for the embattled companies--a managed, Chapter 11 bankruptcy--was identical to the final, government-proposed one, except that the bankruptcy and bridge loans to keep the companies afloat would have come from private banks instead of the U.S. Treasury.
While there's plenty of time to listen to each side's take on the issue, we won't hear either camp's speeches from the floor of a GM or Chrysler Group plant. Detroit News reported Sunday that GM had made the decision, and General Motors' corporate Twitter account announced Monday morning that "we're a car company--not a political platform." Chrysler Group spokespeople released a statement Monday morning in a similar vein, saying "this fall, Chrysler will not host campaign events inside its facilities. The company is focused on meeting production demands." Ford--which didn't participate in the 2009 bailout--says it has a "long-standing policy of not allowing political campaigning at...manufacturing or other facilities."
Will we hear both candidate's impassioned pleas and speeches laced with comments on the car industry, organized labor, and bailouts? Of course. Just don't expect to see Mitt Romney behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Volt or Barack Obama waxing nostalgic on the Chrysler 200 any time soon. It would seem the historical era of candidates stumping at plants in hopes of courting the labor vote is over.
Sources: Detroit News