On the trail, many of Kennedy’s and Bielat’s talking points sounded almost identical: They hoped to create a “pro-growth” environment that would inspire confidence in business owners too worried about the economy to invest their savings. Bipartisanship, they both say, is their aim. There have been testy moments. Bielat has repeatedly asserted that Kennedy relies on family connections and recently accused him of violating campaign finance laws, though Kennedy denied the accusations.
Two weeks ago, Bielat’s campaign released an online quiz — “Kennedy or Kardashian?” — comparing the candidate’s on-the-go tweets (“Lunchtime, stopping to chat with seniors before bingo”) to messages from the celebutante.
The next day, it released a 3-minute campaign video on YouTube, a mockumentary-style parody of the TV show “The Office.”
In one scene, a supporter says: “Joey 3’s staff is afraid to let him speak.”
Bielat looks up with the perfect comeback: “’Cause they probably haven’t told him what’s on his mind yet.”
In person, Bielat is more diplomatic.
“I think he’s a smart guy, he’s definitely been a nice guy the times that I’ve met him. I can’t say that for Barney Frank, but this guy is nice, you know?” Bielat said. “I just wish we could have, you know, an actual conversation or discussion about issues and why we’re both running.”
At town meetings and in debates, Bielat has homed in on fiscal responsibility, committing to lower the national deficit and cut federal regulations that he says discourage small businesses. Still, he said, the campaign has been grueling, and he is aware of the toll it has taken on his wife and two children, one was born last November.
“We’ve raised a million dollars, which is fantastic — for most races in the country. Not for this one,” Bielat said. “And I’m glad of the sources of that money. We’re not getting money from the PACs, and I think that’s how it’s supposed to be, but it’s really hard. It’s really hard when you’re running against people who have, you know, other sources.”
In downtown Attleboro the morning after Kennedy’s commuter rail meet-and-greet, Bielat and an entourage of campaign staffers hopped from store to store, making the case for each owner’s vote.
At Jonathan’s Coffee Cafe, Bielat was delighted to see a framed photo of himself on a previous visit — alongside photos of Kennedy and Senator Scott Brown.
“That’s what I love about Attleboro,” he said.
At a four-way intersection, Bielat approached a giant tooth — a waving white mascot for a local dentist’s office. Bielat expected a teenager — but inside the costume, he found 52-year-old Jack Graham.
Graham explained that he had lost his job in the health care industry because of illness, and struggled to find steady employment. His stint as a walking advertisement for a dentist’s office was not ideal. The outsourcing of American jobs overseas, he said, was at fault.
“You’ve got my vote,” Graham concluded.
Bob Ryan, a registered independent, rarely allows politicians inside his downtown sporting goods store to schmooze for a vote. On Thursday he made an exception for Bielat — the man’s got smart fiscal ideas, Ryan said. He voted for Bielat in 2010.
He couldn’t help but sound wistful.
“Well, I’d love to see you get in,” Ryan said. “But it’s an uphill battle, right?”