With the ascension of Newt Gingrich to the top of the GOP presidential field, perennial silver medalist Mitt Romney has recently sought to contrast himself with the former House Speaker by casting himself as a political outsider, resurrecting a long-running theme. A new ad from American Bridge PAC torpedoes that notion, in hilarious fashion, with a Proustian collection of clips from the start of Romney’s political career, including that iconic slow-speed chase.
Using the OJ Simpson footage is an audacious move that will surely get this spot talked about, but that surreal pop culture moment serves as the best collective marker for 1994, the year Mitt Romney began his political career. The ad begins with a clip from Romney’s now-ubiquitous interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, in which he attacks Newt Gingrich as a “career politician,” followed by another recent clip in which Romney says “I’m in this race, not because it’s the next step in my political career. I don’t have a political career.” (Try using a line like that in your next job interview.)
Then, it dissolves into a 1994 ESPN Special Report on Simpson’s flight in that infamous white Bronco, followed by some priceless clips of 1994-edition Mitt Romney engaging in some awkward retail politicking. In one bit, he tells a woman, “Don’t run away, I’ll shake your hand anyway,” and as he approches her, jokes “I know, you haven’t got your makeup on, right?”
To complete the time capsule, the ad features that hilarious Today Show “What is the internet?” bit, and a clip from the debut episode of Friends, then winds up with one last parting shot at Mitt: his 1994 declaration of support for a woman’s right to choose.
That parting shot highlights the unusual nature of the ad. While most attack ads are about policy positions and/or statements the candidate has made, this one is really about only one thing: 1994. Sticking to that theme by recreating the vibe, rather than stringing together a bunch of Romney’s 1994 policy positions, makes the ad particularly effective at achieving its goal, which is to put Romney squarely next to Newt Gingrich as a career politician.
In fact, when I read the Bill Burton memo that accompanied the ad (in which Burton reveals that his first car was a 1984 Chevelle), I had to double-check to see that it wasn’t actually an attack on Gingrich. That focus on 1994 made me think, first and foremost, of Gingrich’s ascent to Speaker of the House during that year’s “Republican Revolution.”
Obviously, Newt Gingrich has been around longer, but Romney’s protestations about not being a politician actually highlight another key difference between the two. They both have many years of political experience, but as Romney points out, he only held office for four years. A much greater proportion of his experience is in electoral politics, not governing politics. For all of his faults, Newt Gingrich has much more experience doing the job, as opposed to Romney, who has much more experience at trying to get the job.
Here’s American Bridge’s new ad, via YouTube:
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