Mitt Romney’s latest play for Ohio – which remains the touchstone of the entire election, desperate plays for Minnesota and Pennsylvania aside – apparently involves straight-up lying about the intentions of Chrysler to “build Jeeps in China,” to the extent that Jeep factory employees are calling their managers wondering if they still have a job.

Bruce Baumhower, the president of the United Auto Workers local that oversees the major Jeep plant here, said Mr. Romney’s initial comments on moving production to China drew a rash of calls from members concerned about their jobs. When he informed them Chrysler was, in fact, is expanding its Jeep operation here, he said in an interview, “The response has been, ‘That’s pretty pitiful.’ ”

Fiat’s chief executive reiterated today that there are no plans to move Jeep production to China.

White working-class voters are precisely the demographic Romney needs to pull to his side in Ohio to win, and he’s taken a chunk of them in the auto industry – 1 million strong – and needlessly provoked them, to the extent that they actually feared for their livelihoods. How could this be a winning strategy?

Maybe there’s something to be said for hitting at your opponent’s strong points. And a spate of negative newspaper publicity will not offset the force of a now-expanded ad buy which will reach millions more people. If Ohio wasn’t saturated with auto workers, maybe counting on the ignorance of the electorate would pay off. But if all it takes to debunk this is a call down to the union shop steward, then you’re just pissing off a lot of workers who will be sure to tell everyone they know about it.

But maybe that will be localized as well. Maybe a key subset of Ohio swing voters will remain blissfully ignorant. And lying in TV ads has never bothered the Romney campaign before.