Detroit

ALBION, Michigan – It’s easy to think of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum as a study in contrasts – cold and hot, technocratic and theocratic, blue-blooded and blue-collared. And on this final, frenzied day of campaigning in Michigan, it was easy to think of the two men traveling in opposite directions, geographically and ideologically. Romney was moving west to east, which in Michigan Republican politics means conservative to moderate. His first event was just outside of Grand Rapids – home of Amway and large numbers of religious conservatives, many of them Dutch-American.

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DAVISON, Michigan – Mitt Romney is the candidate from Michigan. But on Sunday night, Rick Santorum was the one making a personal connection here. And it wasn’t quite the one that I expected. Santorum was speaking at a banquet hall, just a few miles east of Flint. About 300 people attended, filling the floor and a seating deck above. A pair of matching staircases led up to the deck, lending the hall the appearance of a church – which was altogether appropriate, given what was transpiring inside. Santorum was preaching to the faithful.

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By now, you may have heard about Mitt Romney's Detroit speech and what he said about the family cars. In what I can only assume was an overzealous attempt to prove his loyalty to the American auto industry, he boasted that he had a Ford Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck – and that “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs actually.” Yes, that’s quite a lot of automobile for one couple. And, yes, it will remind a lot of people about how little Romney has in common with them. Still, that wasn’t the statement from Romney’s appearance that stuck with me.

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In case you missed it, Mitt Romney today decided that the way to endear himself with the state he grew up in was to brag that he buys a lot of the cars it makes. This included uttering a line that will resonate far beyond the all-but-empty football stadium in which it was spoken: “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs.” Not surprisingly, Michigander Jon Chait has the best theory on what the heck Romney was thinking with this riff, which will take its place as number, what, 27 on the clueless list: It does make sense, in an extremely narrow way.

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Before the week’s out, and while the cheers of the barely 1,000 people arrayed within the Detroit football stadium for Mitt Romney’s big speech today are still ringing in our ears, I wanted to be sure to recommend that everyone read Jason Horowitz’s in-depth Washington Post piece last weekend about Romney’s college years at BYU. This is one of the least-examined chapters in Romney’s life, the years after he returned from his mission in France. Even The Real Romney, the comprehensive new biography by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, skips relatively quickly through the BYU years.

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MILFORD TOWNSHIP, Michigan -- Mitt Romney on Thursday night visited Tea Party country, or what passes for it in these parts. He was the guest of honor for about 500 tea party activists at a banquet hall in northwest Oakland County, on the very outer edge of the Detroit suburbs. Ideologically, Milford occupies a sort of a no-man’s land between more moderate, urban communities to the east and more conservative, rural communities to the west. It’s close enough to Bloomfield Hills, Romney’s childhood home, to give Romney an advantage but far enough away to keep that advantage small.

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Mitt Romney is on the air in Michigan, with an advertisement that plays up his ties to the state. “I grew up in Michigan,” Romney says. “I remember going to the Detroit auto show with my dad, that was a big deal.” Then, after cataloguing the state’s problems and the damage President Obama has supposedly done, Romney returns to the favorite son theme. “Michigan’s been my home. And this is personal.” The ad follows Tuesday’s op-ed in the Detroit News, which opened with the line “I am a son of Detroit.” It’s true: Romney grew up in Michigan.

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Mitt Romney is talking about the auto industry rescue again. But his latest argument is even more convoluted, and misleading, than his previous ones.  Romney makes the argument in an op-ed that appears in Tuesday’s edition of the Detroit News. (You may have seen it; Greg Sargent flagged it this morning). Romney starts by reminding readers of his connection to the state (he was born and grew up here) and to the auto industry (his father, George Romney, ran the American Motors Company before becoming governor). “Cars got in my bones early,” Romney writes.

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A Son Of Detroit?

Mitt Romney, not surprisingly, just put out a new campaign ad touting his Michigan roots.  It shows photos from his childhood in the state and footage of his present-day self driving around Detroit as he laments the decline of the city in recent years. “How in the world did an industry and its leaders and its unions get in such a fix that they lost  jobs, lost their future?” he says. “President Obama did all these things the liberals wanted to do for years and the fact that you’ve got millions of Americans out of work, home values collapsing, people here in Detroit in distress ...

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As a friend of mine* once said, quotes from Karl Rove aren’t important for what they say. They are important for what they reveal. Rove’s statements about Sunday’s Super Bowl ad from Chrysler are a case in point. By now, you’ve probably seen or heard about the ad, which Chrysler calls “Halftime in America.” It stars Clint Eastwood, narrating the story of Detroit's comeback and turning it into a metaphor for America.

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