The Democrats hope so. He's James (Bruzzy) Willders, the once-disenchanted bluecollar Democrat from Baltimore who starred in a 1980 Republican television endorsement of Ronald Reagan.
Now, he has returned to the fold, appearing in what could be called "Bruzzy II." Looking hardly older but trying to sound a lot wiser, he takes it all back right before your eyes in a 30-second television spot being aired this fall by the Democratic National Committee.
"Remember me?" says the 34-year-old worker, in what could be the beginning line for an American Express advertisement by, say, William E. Miller, Barry Goldwater's 1964 GOP vice-presidential running mate.
"In 1980, the Republicans paid me to go on television because they promised us they would make things better and I believed them. Well," he goes on, in the spot filmed at a just-closed foundry in northwest Baltimore, "since they've been in control, unemployment is the highest since the Great Depression and businesses are closing down every day.
"Millions of Americans are without jobs and we've got to do something," says the slightly built bachelor, picking up a dusty hardhat for effect and then dropping it in disgust. "I'm a Democrat, but I voted Republican once -- and it's a mistake I'll never make again.
Now comes the kicker, with Bruzzy pointing his finger right at you: "And, I didn't get paid to say this."
The Republicans discovered Bruzzy Willders among the Maryland unemployment rolls, and they paid him a total of $3,400, including residuals, for the television spot, plus another $310 for a radio ad a year later endorsing Ronald Reagan's tax program. But then their newfound star jumped off the bandwagon.
It wasn't just that the Republicans didn't invite him to the inaugural or help him get a postal job, as he says they promised. Or even that they had made him shave his beard for the TV advertisement, an act he repeated for the Democrats.
"It was just the unemployment situation," said Willder, who now works nights as a $5.75-an-hour assistant foreman at a plastic bottle cap plant. "I'd say about 90 percent of my friends are out of work, laid off or looking for a job."
Jimmy Carter, he said, "wasn't really doing the job, and everyone wanted a change. Now, I have people coming up to me and saying, 'Man, it's really rough out there.' They say, 'When's Reagan gonna get us out of this?' One guy said, 'Look what your boy did to us.' I said, 'He's not my boy.' "
Robert Hirschfeld, the Democrats' radio and television director, read about his disaffection in The Washington Post this spring and asked him for a remake. Willders willingly went along with the request. The spot was filmed Sept. 2.
Rich Galen, press secretary to the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, producers of the 1980 ad, said yesterday: "I guess actors are allowed to play different roles. They have him saying what the Democrat Party would have him believe, that everything bad started 17-18 months ago. Obviously, that's not the case."
On Wednesday, the Democrats paid his roundtrip bus fare to Washington so Bruzzy could view the videotapes and meet a family hero, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). While waiting to film the 1980 ad, he had asked his Republican escort to take him to the Democratic senator's office. "He said, 'I don't think that would look too good. You're with us,' " Bruzzy recalled.
Since his public turnabout, the fleeting fame that came to Willders with his first appearance has returned. Radio reporters from as far away as Wisconsin and Oregon have phoned, and network camera crews and representatives of local and national newspapers have found him.
Philosophical about his future, Bruzzy says he's not hankering for any more television roles, even paying ones. "The money's good, but all the anguish and stress you go through, I'd rather not be confronted with that," he said. "But if I got a chance to go to Hollywood and make a movie, I might consider that. You never know."