Race: 2002 campaign for Massachusetts governor against state treasurer Shannon O'Brien.
Democrat's Charge: O'Brien imported Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., to campaign for her and talk about all the jobs lost at the paper plant. "Perhaps if they hadn't insisted on driving these workers to the wall, they could have still made a very handsome profit and could have saved the tragedy in those people's lives and for that community," Bayh said, according to an Oct. 23, 1994, Associated Press report. An ad airing in late October featured a narrator -- not the testimonial of hurting workers -- saying:
"Hold it, Mitt Romney. 'Trust you on jobs?' Remember it was Romney's firm that bought an Indiana paper company. They cut workers' wages, slashed health benefits, eliminated their retirement plan, and instituted a 12-hour work day. "Romney said, quote, 'This is not fantasy land. This is the real world.' And now Romney wants us to trust him with our jobs and our economy?"
Romney's Response: Romney made the same "rich person doesn't care about other people's money" attack against O'Brien that she was trying to make about him. Romney ran a devastating ad showing O'Brien as a guard dog sleeping while suit-wearing bad guys looted the state pension fund. It noted that her husband was a lobbyist. A Boston Globe story from Oct. 1, 2002, reporting that Bain attacks were coming previewed exactly why they didn't stick on the second try:
Romney advisers, however, are confident that they can blunt the attacks by emphasizing his recent triumph -- taking over the troubled Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and running it successfully. In addition, they feel that O'Brien, because of the state pension fund's investments in Enron, and her position with the failed health care firm Community Care Systems, is vulnerable on the same issue. They note that her chosen running mate, venture capitalist Chris Gabrieli, was a partner in a firm that has invested in some of the same deals as Bain Capital.
With that fresh accomplishment in Salt Lake City, it didn't sound quite so heartless when Romney said, "No one can bat 1.000…. Those things do happen, they're terrible."
What Was Unique: O'Brien's campaign didn't start attacking Romney for his Bain career until October, according to news reports, a few weeks later than Kennedy. She wasn't able to use the newly laid-off workers to speak about events that were by then eight years old. Talking Points Memo's Benjy Sarlin writes that Romney's "slick tactic … simultaneously distanced Romney, Bain’s CEO until 2001, from the firings while accusing Gabrieli of having closer connections to the layoffs himself." Plus, he was able to accuse Democrats of "exploiting" workers.
Outcome: Romney won by 5 percentage points.