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OP-ED | Foley = Romney? Don’t Bet On It, Roy

by Terry D. Cowgill | Dec 7, 2012 6:00am
(8) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Opinion

It’s happening again. You know, the phenomenon of running against someone other than your actual opponent. As I wrote in this space earlier this year, Republicans in legislative races used the tactic of running against unpopular Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, just as Democrats still run against George W. Bush.

Now, just as the 2014 governor’s race is in its nascent stages, the Malloy campaign, such as it is, has decided it wants to run not against Republican Tom Foley, the likely nominee, but against failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Malloy has tried to distance himself from the comparisons. It would be unseemly, after all, for a sitting governor to go on the attack against a potential opponent almost two years away from the next gubernatorial election. So he has sent his out tart-tongued henchman, Roy Occhiogrosso, to do the dirty work.

Occhiogrosso was all too happy to oblige. He immediately took to Twitter and tweeted like a chief spokesman on steroids — Mui Occhiogrosso, if you will. He dug up an old photo of Foley applauding Romney at a news conference in Connecticut with the caption “A match made in heaven.” Dubbing his boss’ likely opponent “Tom-ney” and “Mitt Foley,” Occhiogrosso then tweeted out an old Paul Krugman piece attacking supply-side economics, of which he insists Foley, a former private equity boss, is a blind disciple.

Then Occhiogrosso got into a virtual shouting match with Foley in separate interviews the two men gave to CT News Junkie’s Christine Stuart.

Foley, who lost to Malloy in the 2010 gubernatorial race by all of 6,000 votes of 1,145,799 cast, is itching for a rematch. And, given Malloy’s dismal approval ratings, Foley would be a strong contender, much stronger than any of the other GOP candidates who have been mentioned (House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, Senate Leader John McKinney, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton).

It’s a bitter irony that often the most damaging attack narratives originate not from general election opponents but from intraparty rivals during the primary process. During the 1988 presidential campaign, for example, it was candidate Al Gore who first raised the issue of a furlough program for violent offenders in Massachusetts, where the administration of then-Gov. Michael Dukakis gave a weekend pass to violent convict Willie Horton, who was serving a life sentence for murder and escaped from a weekend pass to commit a brutal assault and rape in Maryland. Upon hearing of this outrage, the campaign of Republican George H. W. Bush was all too happy to bludgeon a stunned Dukakis about the head with it.

Likewise, in the most recent presidential campaign, it was Romney rivals Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich who first accused the founder of Bain Capital of “vulture capitalism.” President Obama perpetuated that narrative even after Romney secured the nomination and it was surely a factor in Obama’s re-election victory.

Here at home, the first to raise Foley’s background in private equity was then-Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele (see above), who hit Foley hard over his company’s role in acquiring Bibb, a textile manufacturer in Georgia that eventually went bankrupt and slashed jobs, even as Foley’s management firm collected $20 million in fees. Foley, of course, accused Fedele of misrepresenting his record at Bibb. Malloy then took the ball and ran with it in the general election, producing an ad with former Bibb employees saying Foley was a liar. You’d be a fool not to think Bibb played a role in Foley’s razor-thin defeat.

But that was then; this is 2012. Malloy’s approval ratings are still below 50 percent. He rammed through a huge tax increase last year that has still left us almost half a billion in the red this year alone, with the outlook for the following two years even grimmer.

Mark my words: Tom Foley is no Mitt Romney. Romney had to run so far to the right in order to secure his party’s nomination that he had little credibility when he switched course in the general. Foley will be under far less pressure from the relatively moderate Connecticut GOP. Furthermore, Romney committed several gaffes (e.g. “The 47%,” “not concerned about the very poor,” “Corporations are people”) that reinforced the narrative that he was a clueless plutocrat. Foley, on the other hand, showed no such tendencies in 2010.

I’d say Foley will be a formidable candidate in 2014 and Malloy’s people know it. Why else would Occhiogrosso attack Foley with such ferocity two years out? Oh, I forgot. Roy might be doing this just for sport . . .

Terry Cowgill blogs at, is the editor of and was an award-winning editor and senior writer for The Lakeville Journal Company. He can be found on Twitter @terrycowgill.

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(8) Comments

posted by: kenneth_krayeske | December 7, 2012  11:11am

Actually, Terry, Foley is worse. At least Romney hasn’t violated international laws pertaining to war like Foley did when he worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority. The Hague Convention of 1899 stated that an occupying power’s role is stewardship. Foley more than once said his job with the CPA was privatization. Of course, he has long since denied this, but the printed record stands. If I were Malloy, I’d focus on Foley’s record as a war criminal. But, given that Malloy buys into the imperialist model of American global dominance, that is unlikely. The rest of us then must challenge Foley on his status as unindicted war criminal: not as bad as Henry Kissinger, but a willing participant in illegal plunder and invasion of a sovereign nation.

posted by: ctperson13 | December 7, 2012  11:30am

I’m not sure, given the flogging that the Repubs. took during the recent election, that Foley would be such a formidable candidate, regardless of how detestable the Malloy administration has been over the past two years. I think the American public is beginning to wake up to the fact that, just because someone has managed to amass a fortune for themselves doesn’t mean he or she would be the best person to represent the needs of the average voter. In fact, it often proves to be just the opposite, doesn’t it? Neither Malloy nor Foley is/would be good for CT. We need a viable third option. How about a Green candidate?

posted by: Terry D. Cowgill | December 7, 2012  4:48pm

Terry D. Cowgill

@ctperson13: Bear in mind that I’m not necessarily saying Foley would be the Republicans’ best candidate. But I am saying he’s not Romney.

Who do you think would be the strongest GOP contender? Of the names I’ve heard mentioned and have cited above, none of them look to be in a stronger position than Foley, unless Shays or Simmons get in.

posted by: ctperson13 | December 7, 2012  6:34pm

“House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, Senate Leader John McKinney, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton”

Of these three? Honestly, I don’t know enough about any of them to be in a position to say. What I do believe is that more Americans are beginning to realize that, for the past 30 years, politics have been geared toward making the rich, richer. Consequently there is a certain degree of distrust re Gold Coast residents like Foley. He is perceived by some as someone who would like to buy his way into office for the opportunities it would provide to further enrich his own bank account, and that of his cronies. Similar to Linda McMahon.

What CT residents will be looking for, those who have been paying attention, in any case, is a viable alternative to a Gold Coast Romney-type opportunist or a faux-Dem. like Malloy.

posted by: Lawrence | December 7, 2012  8:08pm

I think both Foley and Romney had an amazing lack of specifics regarding how they would handle the most pressing fiscal and public policy issues of the day. That is the most disturbing similarity to me.

In an interview with the CT Mirror, Foley said he would not have to raise income taxes on the wealthy to help close a multi-billion dollar budget deficit because he anticipated that CT would recover 100,000 of the jobs it had lost during the recession, and that would bring in $1.5 billion in income tax revenue at exisiting rates. That hope of his, of course, turned out to be a farce. CT has recovered less than 2% of Foley’s predicted resurgence. Now he is blaming that lackluster job growth on the income tax hikes (almost all of it exclusively on CT’s top 7-11% of wage earners) but, once again, he has no proof—only allegations.

But Mr. Foley’s toughest battle may not be fighting a Romney comparison, but fighting his own Republican Party, whose chairman has already said Connecticut does not need another “self-funded millionaire” to run for higher office. House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, another potential GOP gubernatorial candidate, has also publicly said the same thing.

So there seems to be little appetite for Foley’s breed at the top levels of CT’s Republican Party. He will have to fight his way to the convention and through a possible primary, spending gobs of cash all the way—just like Linda McMahon and, um, that other guy.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | December 8, 2012  9:38am

Krayeske - sometimes it is better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. The CPA was controversial for sure and there were all sorts of allegations regarding the expenditures, the contracting process, Halliburton, private security, and the like. But it seems to me that if your going to throw darts you should back them up with facts, not opinion, who do you think you are? Occhiogrosso?


posted by: ALD | December 8, 2012  12:00pm

“I think the American public is beginning to wake up to the fact that, just because someone has managed to amass a fortune for themselves doesn’t mean he or she would be the best person to represent the needs of the average voter. In fact, it often proves to be just the opposite, doesn’t it?”

I can’t say this comment is wrong, but I am hard press to find I agree with it.  There seem to be plenty of examples in both parties of people with great wealth who have been time and time again re elected to represent the needs of us all.  It does seem to me however that if the multi millionaire we are talking about is a Democrat the voters seem more inclined to ignore their great wealth and to feel they earned their money.  If the person is a Republican for some reason the voters seem to find success to be offensive, and conclude that they somehow got their wealth some other way.

posted by: Todd Peterson | December 9, 2012  12:29pm

For starters Malloy can’t win a second term.  I think he knows that but he won’t make himself a lame duck governor two years out from the election.

Roy Ochiogrosso, aka the Angry Android, has to have his boss’ back.  The fact that he’s quite possibly the nastiest man in Hartford doesn’t hurt either. 

There is an awareness within the CT GOP that the fratracide that’s been practiced recently has to end.  There has to be a sprited campaign run without simply writing the copy for the Democrat ad machine to use after the primaries are concluded.

I am wondering if any possible GOP candidate for governor is willing to really get down to the job of, if you’ll excuse the cliche, reinventing state government and moving away from the endless cycle of remediating from Hartford.