Tom Foley, a Greenwich Republican repeatedly depicted by opponents in the 2010 race for governor as a hard-hearted businessman, is presented by his wife in the first television ad of the 2014 race as “a regular guy” and “a great dad, who would make a great governor.”
Foley, 62, is reintroduced to voters as a smiling husband and father in a soft-focus, 30-second spot built around scenes of domesticity: Foley in a blue jeans and a black T-shirt tinkering under the hood of a car with Tom Jr., the 23-year-old son from his first marriage; and Foley romping with Grace and Reed, the 2½ year old twins from his current marriage.
“I’ve never met a more thoughtful, effective person than Tom Foley,” says Leslie Fahrenkopf Foley, his wife of five years and narrator of a commercial that debuts today. “Tom’s incredibly smart. He can fix anything. He’s a regular guy, whose ideas and humor bring people together.”
The piece by Doug McAuliffe Strategic + Creative, a national Republican political shop that did Foley’s ads in 2010, opens with a shot of a smiling Foley touching his wife’s shoulder. He married Fahrenkopf, a News Corporation lawyer and former White House associate counsel, in April 2009. Her father is Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., a Republican national chairman during the Reagan administration.
Biographic pieces are standard fare to open a political advertising campaign, but McAuliffe’s commercial also reflects an awareness of a significant gender gap facing the front runner for the GOP nomination.
In the most recent public survey, a Quinnipiac University poll released in March, Foley was locked in a dead heat with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the first-term Democrat who beat Foley in four years ago in what was Connecticut’s closest gubernatorial election in 56 years. But Malloy led among women by eight percentage points.
Foley is the GOP convention-endorsed candidate who faces an Aug. 12 primary with Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney of Fairfield. A self-funder in 2010, Foley is a publicly financed candidate in 2014 living on a budget.
By opting into the voluntary Citizens’ Election Program, Foley is agreeing to abide by strict spending limits: $1.6 million before the primary; if he wins, then he can expect an additional $6,500,400 in public financing for the general election.
Foley’s commercial says nothing of his 2010 race, his business career or his service to the administration of George W. Bush as the director of private sector development for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and then as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
The piece is composed entirely of family scenes, including video of Foley at a table at home with his wife, coffee mug and open MacBook laptop in front of him.
“Tom’s an optimist who gets things done,” Leslie says as the video cuts to scenes of Foley working and playing with his young twins, who turn three in September. “He’s a great dad, who would make a great governor.”
Foley speaks to the camera midway through the commercial as he stands next to his wife.
“I’m Tom Foley. Connecticut’s problems can be fixed with smarter policies and a new direction,” he says. “Nobody should be doing better than right here in Connecticut. It’s time to restore prosperity and optimism in our great state.”
Two taglines set on fields of blue appear in quick succession as he speaks: “A New Direction” and “Connecticut Strong Again.”
In 2010, the role that Foley’s investment company played in the demise of a Georgia textile mill, the Bibb Co., was fodder for attack ads in the GOP primary and general election. Foley saw a 35-point lead over Lt. Gov. Michael C. Fedele shrink to 8 points before the primary.
A commercial aired by Fedele featured Bibb workers who blamed Foley for them losing their jobs, while his company made millions.
Foley’s investment and management company, NTC Group, received about $20 million in payments from The Bibb mill during its final five years. Foley said the payments covered payroll, human resource and other services rendered, while Fedele said they included excessive management fees.
McKinney, his only remaining rival for the nomination, has indicated he has no intention of revisiting the Bibb Co., saying he will limit any criticism of Foley to policy differences.
Fedele endorsed Foley last week.
Records on file with the FCC show that Foley’s campaign purchased about $40,000 of time on three stations in the Hartford-New Haven market. The campaign is spending $18,657 on WTNH, Channel 8 in New Haven, $13,945 on WFSB, Channel 3 in Hartford and $7,161 on WTIC, Channel 61 in Hartford.
It is expected the commercial also will be shown on cable systems in Fairfield County.