September 25, 2004


Romney's baaack, and with vengeance (Thomas Keane Jr., September 22, 2004, Boston Herald)

There's a ``be careful what you wish for'' aspect to the recent exploits of Gov. Mitt Romney [related, bio]. Mocked for his many absences from the state, he has returned with a vengeance, vowing to go all-out to defeat Democratic state reps and senators in November. Democrats, understandably, are cringing. Maybe he should have stayed away.

Many others are cringing as well. Mitt's a new kind of Massachusetts Republican: harsh, partisan and aggressive. We remember Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift with affectionate nostalgia. Romney, on the other hand, looks more and more like, well, a Tom Delay - a take-no-prisoners kind of fellow who would just as soon kick sand in your face as build castles together. [...]

A recent Boston Globe poll suggested as much, with Romney's favorable rating falling from 61 percent in the spring to 54 percent today. That's not much of a drop, and it's hardly a surprise - is there any other state that has such a great animus against George W. Bush? Still, the governor's political team couldn't let it stand.

So Romney returned, vowing to wage war on Democratic incumbents. This has been a long-standing plan and, with 134 contested races (a 14-year high) and a promise to spend millions, it has put Democrats on edge. The talking points are familiar: rolling back the state income tax rate, pushing for structural reforms and beating up on the Democratic establishment, which means taking on Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Thomas Finneran.

In truth, I'm not sure Democratic incumbents should worry too much. Many have noted that the GOP candidates aren't, as a group, particularly strong, and Romney almost seems to be conceding in advance when he says it would be ``a victory'' to pick up even one seat. Still, facing a challenger is never a pleasant experience. Moreover, it is yet another sign that Romney is far different from the Republicans to which Massachusetts is accustomed.

To a degree, most of those who follow state politics keep trying to put Romney into the Weld box, thinking him another version of that genial governor's centrist politician. But Romney is the opposite. Despite campaigning against State House leaders, Weld worked effectively with them. That comity, legislators say, is now gone. There is little communication and little compromise. On both sides, politics have turned acrimonious.

All of which makes for some uncomfortable times. Yet as uncomfortable as it may be, Romney may be on to something. The old model - of GOP acquiescence to the Democratic hegemony - kept state Republicans on the sidelines, trading off real power for minor influence. Romney, plainly, is no longer willing to do that. Whether it's for reasons of national ambition, personal belief or mere tactics, he's adopted a new model, the confrontational approach so effectively used by national Republicans. He doesn't want compromises; he wants wins. And whether it's campaigning for Bush or governing the state day-to-day, the only way he wins is when Democrats lose.

MA Democrats much preferred guys like Bill Weld who even John Kerry could beat. EWhat seems most significant here is that if you accepot the premises of the essay then 54% of MA voters approve of a more hard-edged Republican conservatism. The column, even down to its headline, reminds of the recently cited polling on Arnold Schwarzenegger that shows him maintaining his popularity even as he comes to be seen as a partisan Republican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 25, 2004 5:44 PM

A minority party can go down the Robert Michel path, on the way to permanent minority status, or get behind a strategy led by the likes of Newt Gingrich, which offers hope of victory. Looks like Romney is channeling Newt.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 25, 2004 6:57 PM

Mr. Judd;

Truly my heart bleeds for the Democratic Party candidates who will suffer the unpleasantness of actually facing a challenger. I guess that's what the author means by "hard-edged Republicanism".

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 25, 2004 9:31 PM

Ohh, they're answering us back!
How mean, how rude!

Posted by: Sandy P at September 26, 2004 12:07 AM

I actually think the suburban Republican
strongholds are starting to gel (I'm not talking
Wellesley + Newton), I'm talking Worcestor County and points west. Romney should ride this
wave and differentiate the battles they can win
from those they cannot. The Dem machine will
rule the cities because they are minority and
fruitcake strongholds. The Rebublicans should
have a long-term strategy to take everything west of Framingham and North of Salem.

Posted by: J.H. at September 27, 2004 10:03 AM