The 1994 Senate race in Massachusetts between Mitt Romney and Teddy Kennedy was utterly amazing to watch first-hand. For all his flaws, Senator Kennedy was a brilliant politician who was able to connect with voters in an awe-inspiring way. I remember watching every minute of this debate, and passed by the Faneuil Hall venue a few hours or so before to see a sea of people with Kennedy signs and a smaller lake of people with Romney signs taunting each other back and forth. Romney gave Kennedy his first real re-election scare that year, and the Senator re-recruited a lot of the people who helped get him there in the first place – and keep him there after the death of Mary Jo Kopechne on the bridge to Chappaquiddick.
The Senator turned his campaign around during this debate, which showed that he was still the feisty lion of the Senate, and that he shared Massachusetts’ voters’ values. A little less than a decade later, Romney returned from Utah to become governor after some lackluster performances from Governors Cellucci and Swift.
In 1994, I got to see Senator Kennedy speak to a packed, enthusiastic audience at an IBEW hall in Waltham, MA. He was bounding with energy, and the crowd loved every minute of it. It’s not too often that hard-working, blue-collar workers are given honor and respect anymore in contemporary America. Kennedy gave them that, and he fought his entire career to ensure that America’s workers had the health care, social security, and freedom from want that we all deserve as citizens of a first-world nation that doesn’t always act like it.
At the DNC last night, a video tribute to the late Senator was shown, and this clip was a big hit: