Ted Kennedy would approve. President Obama took down Mitt Romney the same way the late Massachusetts senator did.
In battleground states, it was all about Bain Capital. As veteran political analyst Charlie Cook recently explained, voters encountered an unending barrage of attack ads aimed at Romney's tenure there. The ads highlighted plant closures, layoffs, and outsourcing — the same themes Kennedy used to beat Romney in 1994. Like Kennedy, Obama turned Romney into a businessman with a heart of cold. Once tagged that way in America's heartland, it was hard for Romney to change minds, even after a much-lauded first debate performance.
Beyond Bain, Romney failed the larger trust test. At the end of the day, Americans need to believe in a basic reliability in the person they send to the White House. On Election Day, Americans still didn't know which Romney they would be electing. The Salt Lake Tribune put it best in an editorial explaining why the newspaper was endorsing Obama: There were "too many Mitts."
Would President Romney be the moderate Mitt who won the governor's office in Massachusetts or the "severely conservative" Romney of Republican primary days?
Romney promised to create 12 million jobs, but never explained how he would do it. What was his magic formula for cutting taxes and increasing defense spending? He never shared it. Would he repeal Obamacare or salvage parts of it? No one could be sure.
In the final days of the campaign, Team Romney ran an ad claiming that Jeep production would be outsourced to China. Chrysler and GM, which was similarly accused, angrily refuted Romney's charges.
The Jeep ad took special chutzpah, since Bain was criticized for acquiring companies that outsourced jobs to China. It underscored the Romney trust problem that Kennedy — and then Obama — exposed.
Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globecom.