"Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," was the headline of a 2008 piece he wrote on the bailouts.
In a newspaper column on Tuesday, Romney took a different tact. He didn't mention the bailouts and promoted his Michigan roots. He was born here and his father, George Romney, ran American Motor Corp. in the 1950s, a decade that saw the pinnacle of American cars.
"In Detroit, the city of my birth, far higher joblessness has brought a great city to the edge of ruin," Romney wrote. "There will be no one on that stage this week more pained by Michigan's struggles than I am."
At every opportunity, Obama's campaign attacks Romney for opposing the auto bailouts.
"If Mitt Romney was president, there would not be an American auto industry," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Tuesday. "Romney must explain to Michigan voters this week why he would have let Detroit go bankrupt."
It's an open question whether the debate will stay focused on Michigan's woes.
Three weeks have passed since the last debate — a period marked first by Cain's rise in national polls and then a media firestorm over allegations that the businessman sexually harassed multiple women during his time as head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Cain's troubles threaten to overshadow a discussion hosted by business channel CNBC and the Michigan Republican Party.
"It is a distraction for what could be a very good press day for Michigan and Michigan Republicans," Saul Anuzis, a Michigan-based member of the National Republican Committee, said of the Cain allegations. "I think it's in every candidate's interests to stay focused on the issues."
Cain repeatedly has tried to put the matter to rest, doing multiple interviews before finally holding a news conference Tuesday where he insisted he would not abandon his White House bid because of the allegations.
"Ain't gonna happen," Cain said.
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