By Carol Cain
Senior Producer and Host
WWJ-TV CBS Detroit’s “Michigan Matters”

Republican Mitt Romney gets applause from Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer who mentioned his bold leadership as the former Massachusetts governor worked both sides of the aisle in getting healthcare adopted in that state.

“I like him,” said Brewer of the Michigan homegrown leader who is considering running against President Barack Obama.

“What he did was a forerunner of affordable healthcare act. He worked with Ted Kennedy. Kudos to Mitt Romney for having foresight,” said Brewer.

With the Republican presidential field still taking shape, Romney, son of the late former Michigan Gov. George Romney and CEO of American Motors, has formed an exploratory committee but yet to formally throw his hat into the ring.

It may be damning praise of sorts with healthcare being a wedge issue for some inside the GOP. Romney recently appeared at the University of Michigan to explain how the plan adopted in Massachusetts differed from what was prescribed by the Obama administration.

Romney has also inspired the wrath of some including former Gov. Jennifer Granholm for his stance three years ago against giving bailout loans to Chrysler and GM in 2008 as he said it would inhibit the restructuring the companies needed to go through to survive

This week, as Chrysler announced it was paying back its government loans, Romney’s camp said he deserved credit for first suggesting the auto companies needed to be reorganized.

It’s all fodder for more political talk if Romney dives in as expected.

Brewer, a 16-year party chair, made his comments during taping of “Michigan Matters” airing 11 a.m. Sunday on WWJ-TV CBS Detroit. He appeared with Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano,   Denise Ilitch and Bankole Thompson of the Michigan Chronicle.

Brewer is a strong supporter of Obama and expects he will win next year.

Brewer talked about what Democrats needed to do to regroup after losing the governorship and both state houses in 2010 which was part of the GOP sweep across the nation.

“We didn’t lose because they were voting for Republicans. We lost because they stayed home out of apathy and the economy. Our challenge is getting people re-energized.”

Brewer said he expected to see more of Obama in Michigan – an important swing state  known for its independent side too as it gave birth to the so-called Reagan Democrats.

Detroit’s auto makers are seeing glimmers of better times as General Motors and Chrysler Corp. both exited Obama administration led reorganizations and repaid government loans.

Ironically, the White House announced Obama would visit a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio next Friday to celebrate.

Toledo may be viewed as a sort of suburb of Detroit, but Ohio is hardly Michigan. And there is only one Motor City.

Brewer sounds off

Towing the party line, Brewer took issue with Romney’s record as an executive at Bain & Co. which he ran before entering politics.

“He was known for taking companies apart and outsourcing of jobs,” he said of Romney.

Brewer, who just returned from China, has made that country a boogeyman in recent gubernatorial contests.

“Rick Snyder and Dick DeVos sent American jobs overseas,” Brewer said of the two CEOs who ran as GOP candidates.

Snyder won but DeVos, who ran four years earlier, did not.

When it was mentioned corporations like General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and Domino’s Pizza are saving jobs by doing business in the Asian country, Brewer said it was merely a talking point.

“If Alan Mulally (Ford’s CEO) or Rick Wagoner (GM’s former CEO) were running for governor, we would have said the same thing,” he said.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, a Democrat who has made six trade missions to China, said those words are damaging.

“They read papers and hear what is being reported,” said Ficano.

Ficano also mentioned how Ohio, Illinois, California and other states are wholly embracing China unlike Michigan which did not under previous Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Snyder has said he would likely go to China at some point.

Despite the rhetoric, Brewer said China would be important to Michigan’s future.

“China is a rival to us but also an opportunity,” said Brewer, who sounded eerily like DeVos, the Grand Rapids businessman who made the same comment during a “Michigan Matters” appearance last fall.

Island talk

With the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference taking next week at Mackinac Island where 1,500 are expected, global issues and politics will reverberate along with conversation about reinventing the state.

Atop Brewer’s list heading to the island: make sure Sen. Debbie Stabenow who is facing re-election in 2012 is successful.

Republicans seem to be having difficulty finding a candidate with statewide recognition to go up against her, he said.

“Terri Lynn Land (former Michigan Secretary of State) dropped out. And Pete Hoekstra. The Republicans don’t have anyone,” he added.

Politics aside, Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the chamber, said the conference has been revamped with change the thread weaving it all together.

“Changing Michigan means doing things differently – and that starts with the Detroit Regional Chamber doing things differently including at our signature annual event,” Baruah said.

Carol Cain is Senior Producer and Host of the Emmy winning “Michigan Matters” airing 11 a.m. Sundays on WWJ-TV CBS Detroit. You can read her columns on business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. You can reach her at 248-355-7126 or via email.


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