There are a handful of issues in which President Obama, as part of his 2012 re-election bid, will be able to point to unqualified successes, while pointing to Mitt Romney’s failures at the same time. The rescue of the American auto industry is one of them, and it’s why the president took a victory lap in Michigan yesterday..

Speaking at a General Motors plant in Orion Township, Mich., a plant the president said would likely have shut down without government intervention, Obama said his plan to “retool and restructure” the auto companies was “an investment in American workers.”

“One of the first decisions I made as president was to save the U.S. auto industry from collapse,” Obama said to a standing ovation.

The president recounted the administration’s narrative about how the Orion plant, which produces the Chevrolet Sonic, was set to close before government loans helped the company restructure its debt — a move the White House said saved 1,750 jobs.

“Today, I can stand here and say the investment paid off,” Obama said. “The hundreds of thousands of jobs saved made it worth it … taxpayers are being repaid, and plants like this are churning out groundbreaking fuel-efficient cars like the Chevy Sonic.”

Obama added that some people condemned the rescue policy in 2009. “There were a lot of politicians who said it wasn’t worth the time and wasn’t worth the money…. Well, they should come tell that to the workers here at Orion,” he said. “Because two years ago it looked like this plant was going to have to shut its doors. All these jobs would have been lost. The entire community would have been devastated. And the same was true for communities all across the Midwest. And I refused to let that happen.”

The president didn’t mention Romney by name — at least not yesterday — but I suspect he was on Obama’s mind. It was, after all, the former Massachusetts governor who said we should “let Detroit go bankrupt” and we could “kiss the American automotive industry goodbye” if Obama’s policy moved forward in 2009. Indeed, at the time, Romney called the administration’s plan “tragic” and “a very sad circumstance for this country.” He wrote another piece in which he said Obama’s plan “would make GM the living dead.”

Romney was wrong; Obama was right. A Chrysler exec said over the summer Romney’s thinking reflected someone “smoking illegal material.”

It’s a history that lends itself to videos like this one, released by the DNC over the summer.

YouTube video

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.