Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had a good reason to tell voters in Dover, New Hampshire yesterday that if elected President, "I presume I would take the salary and then I would donate at least that amount -- or more -- to charity." Romney wants to prevent a repetition of his failed 1994 Senate campaign when his corporate success turned into a liability.
In that campaign, Romney was on the verge of taking down the most prominent Democrat up for election that year, Senator Ted Kennedy. In September, 1994, with just seven weeks to go, polls showed Romney slightly ahead. A wave of anti-Democratic sentiment then sweeping the nation would give the GOP control of both the House and Senate in November.
On election day, however, Kennedy crushed Romney by a 17-point margin, 58-41. One factor was Kennedy's unexpectedly strong performance in two debates, a sharp contrast to Romney's shaky stage presence. Romney said, "I believe that Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice. And my personal beliefs, like the personal beliefs of other people, should not be brought into a political campaign." Kennedy shot back: "I am pro-choice; my opponent is multiple choice."
The back-breaker for Romney was a series of television ads produced by Bob Shrum (author of the book, due out shortly, No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner). Charlie Baker, the Kennedy campaign's senior strategist that year, told The Huffington Post that the ads were designed "to get on the record all sides of Romney's business career" -- a hugely successful leveraged-buyout practice that Romney claimed had created jobs.
The Kennedy campaign discovered that Ampad, a company purchased by Romney's Bain Capital in 1992, had recently bought SCM, an office products company in Marion, Indiana. All 350 workers at the SCM plant were laid off, then offered their jobs back at reduced wages. They went on strike. The Kennedy campaign sent a crew to Marion to film the workers. A half dozen ads resulted from the interviews, most of them quoting workers denouncing Romney for lining his pockets at their expense. A women tells viewers: "I'd like to say to the people of Massachusetts, if you think it can't happen to you, think again, because we thought it couldn't happen here either." Romney nosedived in the polls.
Asked if this issue could resurface in 2008, Matt Rhoades, Romney's communications director, told Huff Post: "Governor Romney isn't a first-time candidate running against a Kennedy in Massachusetts this time. He is running on an agenda to bring real conservative change to Washington. He's the right man at the right time to turn Washington around."
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