Cash For Clunkers is Betty Sutton’s baby. She touts the wasteful program as the crown jewel of her dubious achievements in office. Under normal circumstances Cash For Clunkers would be a big fat target for any Sutton opponent to hit, but unfortunately our nominee seems unable to pull the trigger.
Judging from his lackluster performance to date, it will take a minor miracle for car dealer Tom Ganley to erase his earlier praise for the program:
Tom Ganley, owner of the Ganley Auto Group, estimates the government owes him $3 million for the cars he’s sold.
“In essence, I and other car dealers are loaning money to the federal government, interest free,” Ganley said. “I feel for some of the smaller dealers across the country. They could actually sell themselves out of business.”
And despite being owed millions, Ganley called the program an overwhelming success.
“It has certainly primed the pump and accelerated auto sales,” Ganley said.
That’s bad. Blatant flip-flopping for political advantage is worse, and that’s exactly the accusation that the Sutton campaign will use to tar her opponent. The Ganley campaign has so far made one weak attempt to backpedal:
Ganley and Renacci both maintain the sales program was a clunker and that they only participated to meet customers’ expectations. They said it sparked a temporary sales spike followed by a slowdown, and had negative long-term effects on the industry and used-car consumers who could have bought trade-ins the program destroyed.
“The program was, at its basic level, an unnecessary intrusion of government into the private business sector,” says Ganley campaign manager Jeff Longstreth, contending that the government payments helped car buyers, not dealers. “It was unnecessary federal spending that is indicative of the current administration’s policy of spend, spend, spend.”
The argument’s right on target, but how does Ganley plan to credibly criticize a program that reportedly paid him $20 million for selling somewhere north of 800 cars? Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. If he intends to pursue the “it was a temporary spike” line of attack, he’ll have to cast doubt on a Maritz Automotive Research Group report that suggests otherwise (hint, hint). Ganley’s campaign site makes no mention of the Maritz report, which was released three months ago. Nor is there any mention of Cash For Clunkers. Is the Ganley campaign waiting for an engraved invitation to deal with the elephant in the room?
Tom, I’ll be blunt. You’re a used car salesman looking to become a politician. That means you’ve got more than the usual public relations handicap to overcome. Unless you stop deluding yourself that you’ll win simply because you’re not Betty Sutton, and do it soon, you’re doomed. A lazy campaign is a losing campaign. Get off your butt and convince your potential constituents that you’re worth our votes.