The pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action lobbed a heavy-duty attack at Mitt Romney this morning, airing an ad that links the closure of a GST Steel plant in Kansas City to the loss of a family’s health insurance — and the death of a woman some time later.
The man speaking in the ad, Joe Soptic, says, “Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care and my family lost their health care. And a short time after that my wife became ill.” Soptic explains he’s not exactly sure when his wife became sick, but that when he took her to the hospital she had undetected, advanced cancer and died 22 days later.
The Romney campaign has pushed back on other GST Steel-related attacks by arguing that the plant in Kansas City closed after he stepped away from his management job at Bain. (Democrats counter that Romney was still listed as a top executive at Bain through 2002, and that he built up the private equity firm during the time it invested in GST Steel.)
In the case of this particularly jarring super PAC ad, it may also be relevant that Soptic’s wife died in 2006, years after the GST factory closed down.
A 2006 story in the Kansas City Star reported the death of Ranae Soptic, a former champion roller skater: “Soptic went to the hospital for pneumonia, but doctors found signs of very advanced cancer, and she died two weeks later on June 22.”
I asked Priorities USA strategist Bill Burton to explain the connection between Romney, Bain and a cancer fatality that happened near the end of Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts. The lapse in time between the plant closing and Soptic’s death doesn’t mean the ad is invalid, but it raises questions about the cause and effect relationship here.
“We’re illustrating how long it took for communities and individuals to recover from the closing of these businesses,” Burton responded. “Families and individuals had to find new jobs, new sources of health insurance and a way to make up for the pensions they lost. Mitt Romney has had an enduring impact on the lives of thousands of men and women and for many of them, that impact has been devastating.”
Like most of the outside-group ads in the 2012 race, the fairness of this one is open to interpretation. But both the Priorities attack and the new welfare-themed hit on Obama from the Romney campaign are provoking more intense outrage — both publicly and privately — than most of the other spots we’ve seen this summer.