Yesterday’s blogosphere was filled with old campaign ads for Senator Ted Kennedy, from his 1994 race against former Bain Capital chief Mitt Romney. Specifically, television spots that the HuffingtonPost claims “kept Romney out of the U.S. Senate.”
The ads were designed to highlight the underbelly of private equity, as they are a series of interviews with striking workers at an Indiana company called SCM – which had been acquired by Bain portfolio company Ampad. The basic storyline goes that SCM plant workers got laid off and then offered their jobs back at reduced wages. They went on strike, at which point Kennedy’s campaign sent a film crew. The message was clear: Romney doesn’t care about workers. Left out, of course, was the fact that Romney had taken a leave of absense from Bain several months before SCM was purchased.
Things like this will keep popping up the better Romney does, but it’s worth reminding HuffPo and others that Romney didn’t lose in 1994 because of the ads. He lost because Ted Kennedy wiped the floor with him in their first televised debate (although I was told it played different on radio). It was that simple.
Massachusetts voters had come to assume that Kennedy was a washed-up drunk, and that a more responsible voice was needed. But the Kennedy who showed up on debate night was alert, articulate and feisty – persuasively arguing that voters should choose experience over novice. It was the real knockout blow from which Romney never recovered.
The ads certainly didn’t help, but Romney’s experiences with Bain did not decide the election in 1994. And it’s equally unlikely that smilar ads would have much effect in 2008 — win or lose.