Romney and McCain are campaigning furiously in Michigan, and it’s tight. Romney, for whom Michigan is make-or-break, seems to have decided it’s in his best interests to sell fantasies:

Mr. Romney criticized the energy bill signed into law last month by President Bush that requires cars and trucks sold in the United States to achieve a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Substantial majorities in both parties in both houses of Congress approved the measure. Mr. McCain voted for it.

Mr. Romney said he opposed the new mileage standard, describing it as an anvil tossed to Detroit by a government that did not understand the auto industry or care about its workers. “As president, I will not rest as Detroit gets to see layoff after layoff after layoff,” he said.

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Raise your hand if you think a single layoff could be prevented with lower fuel economy standards, while Japanese auto companies that specialize in fuel-efficient vehicles are kicking American automakers’ asses.

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McCain responded sensibly:

"I am convinced that Detroit can not only meet these standards but exceed them. Maybe Governor Romney doesn’t think they can," McCain said aboard his Straight Talk Express bus.

But then counter-pandered:

McCain repeated an allegation he first made Saturday that Romney supported a tax increase on sport-utility vehicles. "I would not support a tax increase on SUVs," McCain said.

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What did Romney actually do?

While campaigning for governor, Romney proposed decreasing the excise tax on fuel-efficient cars. In newspaper interviews at the time, Romney said such a move could lead to higher taxes on SUVs, though he never proposed raising them.

Note that in both cases, sensible past choices by the candidates are now being hung around their necks as liabilities. Not only is it depressing, but it shows a stunning degree of condescension toward Michigan workers, who are, as it happens, adults who might like to be told the truth.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s popular governor Jennifer Granholm is an environmentally minded pragmatist who has long since moved past this stale, idiotic debate that pits environmental benefits against economic performance.