Regional politics

REGIONAL POLITICS…. In December, when then-President Bush wanted bridge loans for General Motors and Chrysler, the White House didn’t just run into Republican opposition, he ran into a specific kind of Republican opposition. The leading foes of the Bush plan were “Republican senators from Southern states where there are many foreign-owned auto plants.” The GOP lawmakers — most notably Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Richard Shelby of Alabama — insisted that autoworkers at U.S. companies agree to restructure union contracts in exchange for federal aid.

They were, oddly enough, the only politicians in America demanding that American workers have less money in their pockets.

But the regional nature of the wrangling was obvious. More than party or ideology, this was an instance in which the South wanted to undermine the North’s auto industry.

It did not go unnoticed.

A Michigan car dealership is using Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and southern Republicans as boogeymen in a new ad campaign.

Les Stanford Chevrolet Cadillac in Dearborn, owned by brothers Paul and Gary Sanford, has released commercials showing Shelby, a fierce opponent of bailouts for U.S. automakers, warning of the industry’s inevitable decline.

In one ad, an interviewer notes, “Some of these southern senators have stated that the American car companies don’t even deserve to be in business anymore. What’s your response to that?”

Sanford replies, “They say our autoworkers are overpaid and under-skilled? They ought to look in the mirror.”

In another spot, Shelby is shown saying the nation is “wasting our time” trying to save the U.S. auto industry. Stanford asks in his ad, “I wonder if the good senator would tell us how much Japanese car companies who make cars in his state gave to his campaign?”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.