And then there are the cars _ the product of the industry that's driven Michigan's culture and economy. Romney loves them, and easily recalls exactly what he was driving during memorable moments in his life. On the campaign trail, he frequently mentions the Rambler, the car his father seized on as a way to revive a struggling American Motors.
In Troy, Ohio, on Sunday, Romney climbed into the front seat of an immaculately maintained 1961 Rambler owned by 20-year-old Michael Scheib. "I've got a `63, but it's not in as good condition," Romney told Scheib as the young man took his burger order at the local hamburger shop.
"Brings back memories," he told reporters afterward.
Still, cars caused Romney some problems before the Feb. 28 Michigan primary. During one event, Romney mentioned that Ann drives "a couple of Cadillacs," a comment that helped paint him as out of touch with Americans struggling in a bad economy.
And while Romney's opposition to federal support for General Motors and Chrysler wasn't a big issue in the GOP primary, Democrats are already criticizing him for it. Romney has struggled to clarify his position, saying that he supported the managed bankruptcy that eventually structured GM. Still, he was opposed to facilitating it with the federal money that the Obama administration sent, and Romney attacked the bailouts during the primary campaign.
There are already signs he plans to soften his tone. "He's going to acknowledge, as he has, that President Obama and he ultimately shared the same goal, which was to see the auto industry survive and thrive," said Gage, the deputy campaign manager. "They just had different ways of going about it. He's pleased to see that he does seem to be getting stronger."
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