U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow issued the following statement today regarding news reports that Mitt Romney joked to Wisconsin news outlets about his father George Romney closing a plant in Michigan and moving production to Wisconsin when he served as the head of American Motors:
"The people of Michigan know better than anyone that it's no laughing matter when our jobs are exported to other states or other countries. Outsourcing has had a devastating impact on the middle class. Americans deserve leaders who understand the challenges working families face. It’s no laughing matter when jobs are shipped away."
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Romney said the following earlier today:
“One of most humorous I think relates to my father. You may remember my father, George Romney, was president of an automobile company called American Motors … They had a factory in Michigan, and they had a factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and another one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” said Romney.
“And as the president of the company he decided to close the factory in Michigan and move all the production to Wisconsin. Now later he decided to run for governor of Michigan and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign.”
Full news reports follow:
Romney calls in to Wisconsin voters from Texas, embraces Walker and Ryan
By Craig Gilbert of the Journal Sentinel
March 28, 2012 2:04 p.m.
While he is yet to campaign in Wisconsin, Mitt Romney worked the state’s Republican voters from Dallas on Wednesday, holding a “telephone town hall” in which he embraced Gov. Scott Walker’s labor policies, endorsed U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s House budget, and joked about the time his father was head of American Motors and moved car production from Michigan to Wisconsin.
In a 35-minute conference call with several thousand potential primary voters, Romney mentioned his chief GOP rival Rick Santorum only once in passing, aiming his fire at President Barack Obama over foreign policy, the economy and health care.
While Santorum put in his fourth day of campaigning here on Wednesday, Romney’s first announced appearance in Wisconsin is not until this coming Saturday, three days before the April 3 primary. He leads Santorum by eight points in a new poll taken March 22-25 by Marquette Law School, and has enjoyed a huge edge in television advertising here.
Romney said on the call he would be in Wisconsin “for the weekend and of course through the primary on Tuesday.”
In the first of six questions he took from voters, Romney was asked by a woman from Kewaunee what he thought about “the governor of Wisconsin taking away people’s collective bargaining rights.”
Romney called Gov. Scott Walker an “excellent governor,” adding:
“I believe he is right to stand up for the citizens of Wisconsin and to insist that those people who are working in the public-sector unions have rights to affect their wages, but these benefits and retiree benefits have fallen out of line with the capacity of the state to pay them. And so I support the governor and his effort to rein in the excesses that have permeated the public sector union and government negotiations over the years.”
Asked about Janesville Republican Paul Ryan’s House budget, Romney re-stated his support for the fiercely debated spending plan Ryan rolled out last week that ends the current entitlement structure of Medicare and Medicaid, calls for major cuts in domestic programs, and proposes lower tax rates on corporations and individuals.
“I do support the Paul Ryan approach,” said Romney, saying he worked with Ryan on this Medicare proposals.
At the outset of the call, Romney said he has some connections to Wisconsin. “One of most humorous I think relates to my father. You may remember my father, George Romney, was president of an automobile company called American Motors … They had a factory in Michigan, and they had a factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and another one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” said Romney. “And as the president of the company he decided to close the factory in Michigan and move all the production to Wisconsin. Now later he decided to run for governor of Michigan and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign.”
Romney said he recalled a parade in which the school band marching with his father’s campaign only knew the Wisconsin fight song, not the Michigan song.
“So every time they would start playing ‘On, Wisconsin, On, Wisconsin,’ my dad’s political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop, because they didn’t want people in Michigan to be reminded that my dad had moved production to Wisconsin,” said Romney, laughing.
Romney talked up his proximity to Wisconsin growing up but didn’t pretend to know the state too well. When a man from Janesville (where Santorum campaigned Tuesday) came on the line, Romney asked him, “Now, where is Janesville?” Told it was just north of the Illinois border, Romney wondered whether it was near Kenosha, before the caller explained that Janesville is west of Kenosha. Asked whether Romney is running any risks by not arriving in Wisconsin until just a few days before the April 3 primary, former state lawmaker and Wisconsin Romney campaign co-chair Ted Kanavas said: “My own personal opinion is that people understand his message very clearly already. The fact that we can get him for whatever time we can get him is going to be valuable and we’re going to use that.”