In 2012, Democrats successfully defined Mitt Romney as a heartless businessman who personally profited off of shuttered factories and lost jobs. The ad, launched by a pro-Obama Super PAC and featuring a worker laid off by a company bought by Romney’s firm, was deemed by some the most effective ad of the 2012 election.
Fast forward to 2014, the Democratic candidates in the Arkansas and Georgia Senate races are leveling similar attacks against their Republican challengers, tying them to devastating plant closures in order to define them as enemies of the working class.
Michelle Nunn Hammers David Perdue For Layoffs
The attack ad against Georgia Republican Senate nominee, David Perdue, from Georgia’s Democratic Senate nominee, Michelle Nunn, most closely tracks the anti-Romney line; in fact, according to the National Journal, she hired the same political consultants who made that powerful 2012 Romney attack ad.
Her ad “Kannapolis,” is named after the North Carolina town where a company briefly run by Republican candidate David Perdue shut down a textile factory and laid off more than 7,000 workers. Perdue was brought in as a turnaround specialist, but he concluded the company was beyond help and left, just before the layoffs. (One of Perdue’s Republican challengers accused him of “mismanagement” over the episode, a charge, which Politifact deemed “Mostly False,” but Nunn’s ad doesn’t make that claim.) As one of the workers in the ad describes it, “[Perdue] walked away with his $1.7 million, and didn’t care about if we had a dollar in our pockets.”
According to the National Journal, “The data suggest that while the Nunn ad isn’t quite as potent as the anti-Romney one, it’s grabbing hold of Georgians’ attention just as their Senate race starts to heat up.”
Mark Pryor Ties Koch Brothers Layoff To Tom Cotton
Unlike Georgia’s David Perdue, Arkansas’ Republican Senate nominee, Tom Cotton isn’t a business owner or chief executive. But his campaign is being supported by money from the infamous Koch brothers, who in 2009, shutdown the nation’s first Southern pine plywood mill in the town of Fordyce, eliminating more than 300 jobs. Incumbent Democrat, Sen. Mark Pryor is intent on making hay with the connection.
In Pryor’s ad “Fordyce,” one local remarks “they pretty much killed this town.” A former mayor angrily recalls, “They walked in two weeks before Christmas and said, ‘This plant is closed.’ … Now these same New York billionaires are backing Tom Cotton.” The narrator then connects the plant closure to Cotton’s support for existing tax breaks that Democrats say incentivize offshoring. (Aside: an American Bridge fact sheet details all the instances in which Koch-owned companies laid off workers and shipped jobs abroad, including the Fordyce plant closure.)
Both Southern Republican candidates will have arguments that could mitigate the damage from these attacks. Perdue can point out that Pillowtex’s problems predated his arrival. Cotton can stress he had nothing to do with the Fordyce closure. But those are defensive responses. What would really inoculate them from being associated with those layoffs is a credible plan to create good-paying jobs in their states. Since Republicans remain reluctant to embrace government action to create jobs, they remain vulnerable to attacks that they don’t care about creating jobs.