I doubt we'll ever be able to quantify exactly how many votes in Ohio and Michigan Governor Mitt Romney lost for the way his campaign bungled the issue of the auto bailout.
But as I watched the returns come in at the Obama victory celebration in Chicago I continually thought about how poorly Romney's camp handled the issue. (Read More: Obama-Romney - Where They Stand on the Economy)
First of all, this is not my way of saying those who oppose the auto bailout are wrong. While it was the only true option on the table for the President Obama (his other choice was letting the GM and Chrysler slide into liquidation and blow a hole in the midwest manufacturing sector), I can appreciate those who think government intervention is not optimal.
That said, Governor Romney continually botched his approach to the issue before his campaign ultimately doubled down with campaign ads that were completely false. As a result, he made one of the successes for President Obama's first term a major campaign issue that reminded voters in Ohio and Michigan that they would have really been up the creek without a paddle were it not for the auto bailout. (Watch More: Obama, Romney Spar Over Auto Bailout)
What should the Romney team have done?
They should have left it alone completely. When it came up in the campaign, they should have said, "We don't believe government should be involved with private companies, but in this case it worked." With that approach, team Romney would not have faced far fewer auto bailout questions. (Read More: Obama Re-elected as Crucial Ohio Goes His Way)
Like it or not, the auto bailout worked. You can debate whether it was structured properly or if the GM bond holders were treated unfairly. Those are legitimate discussions, but portraying the deal as a case of the White House giving away Chrysler to the Italians who are planning to ship Jeep production out of the U.S. was the wrong move in my opinion.
Not only that, the campaign commercial about Jeep moving to China was flat out wrong.
With the campaign over, I'm looking forward to no longer covering how the Romney campaign feels about the auto bailout. Mainly because it devolved into a mess by the end of the campaign. Was the anti-bailout approach by Governor Romney what finally pushed Ohio to go for President Obama?
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-By CNBC's Phil LeBeau
Follow Phil on Twitter: @LeBeauCarNews