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Published: Sunday, 2/26/2012

Editorial

Romney's silence

Today, The Blade had planned to publish its endorsement in the Republican presidential primaries in Michigan on Tuesday and in Ohio next week. But we can't, not yet and maybe not at all.

We were ready to recommend former Massachusetts governor and Detroit native Mitt Romney. First, though, we wanted to know his position on the proposed new bridge from Detroit to Canada -- an issue of vital importance not only to Michigan and Ohio, but also to national security, international relations, economic growth, job creation, and trade.

The Blade repeatedly asked Mr. Romney that question as he campaigned in Michigan; he ignored direct inquiries. We sought comment from officials in his campaign and were rebuffed.

On Friday, Mr. Romney blandly asserted that the bridge issue is "up to the people of Michigan to decide." Such stonewalling won't do for a candidate who wants Michigan and Ohio voters to support his bid for the White House.

The border crossing between Detroit and Windsor, Ont., is this nation's most important, handling billions of dollars in commerce each month. It is essential to the economies of southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio.

Most traffic between the two cities now uses the decrepit, delay-prone Ambassador Bridge, which opened in 1929. It showed its age when Mr. Romney's father was governor of Michigan in the 1960s.

Canada, the largest U.S. trading partner, is so eager for a new bridge that it is willing to pay startup costs and allow Michigan to repay its share of those expenses out of future toll revenues. The project would cost taxpayers nothing. The Obama Administration says it will let Michigan use the project to leverage more than $2 billion in aid for needed repairs to the state's dilapidated roads and bridges.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who supports Mr. Romney, has made the new bridge a priority of his administration. The Detroit 3 automakers support the bridge, as do other major employers and business lobbies in Michigan. So do unions, Michigan political leaders of both parties, and Ohio state lawmakers.

But the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature has refused even to bring the issue to a vote. It does not seem a coincidence that key legislative leaders in Lansing have pocketed generous campaign contributions from the competition-averse owner of the Ambassador Bridge, billionaire Manuel Moroun.

Support for the project from the leading (for now) GOP candidate for president could help break that noxious nexus. Mr. Romney's empty assurance that he "has confidence that Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature will come to an agreement" is a default of leadership.

Mr. Romney won't get to evade tough issues as president. He shouldn't play duck-and-dodge now. Supporting the new bridge would be good policy and good politics, especially for a candidate who is desperate to persuade voters in this region that he is one of them.



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