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Associated Press
The Monument to Joe Louis statue is displayed in downtown Detroit, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. What exactly is Chrysler selling with "It's Halftime in America Super Bowl," ad which aired during Super Bowl XVLI, on Feb. 5? Chrysler's recovery or Detroit's or the country's? The city is fighting to stay out of financial receivership, for one, and its image as a symbol of recovery is incomplete. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DETROIT — People rarely pick a fight with Dirty Harry. But Chrysler's "Halftime in America" ad featuring quintessential tough guy Clint Eastwood has generated fierce debate about whether it accurately portrays the country's most economically distressed city or amounts to a campaign ad for President Barack Obama and the auto bailouts.

The ad equates Detroit as a model for American recovery as idealistic images of families, middle class workers and factories scroll across the screen.

"People are out of work and they're hurting," the 81-year-old Eastwood says in his trademark gravelly voice. "And they're all wondering what they're gonna do to make a comeback. And we're all scared because this isn't a game. The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together. Now, Motor City is fighting again."

Conservatives, including GOP strategist Karl Rove, criticized the ad as a not-so-thinly veiled endorsement of the federal government's auto industry bailouts.

Others questioned basing a story of economic resurgence in a city that remains in fiscal disarray, with a $200 million budget deficit and cash flow concerns that have it fending off a state takeover.

But is it political? It depends on who you ask.