The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

27 February 2005

MA: Blame Bushes For Mass. Image Problems

Many articles have been written this week about Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney's split personalities, the Yankee Republican in-state, the Red State conservative when he speaks outside of New England.

They do have a point that conservatives and liberals can agree on: that Romney can't be all things to all people. Romney needs to figure out soon which way he's headed- for another term, which is starting to look unlikely, or to make a presidential run. Republicans are already pushing Mass. native Andrew Card to get ready for the campaign trail.

Whether Romney is really harming the state's image by highlighting its blue state politics is up for debate. It's not the messenger's fault when many Americans don't like Massachusetts.

My eyes are again drawn to a strange allegation made twice recently, that the Bush family is somehow responsible for the serious image problem Massachusetts faces elsewhere in the country (in New England as much as anyplace).

Somehow, during the course of campaigns in 1988 and 2004, the Bush family single-handedly ruined the Bay State's reputation. Never mind the family's ties to the state.

Amazing how provincial this viewpoint truly appears! Think Ted Kennedy hasn't hurt the state's image?

How about John Kerry's own actions? Dukakis's own ineptitude? The crackdown on the Bush-supporting pizza place owner during the DNC convention last year in Boston, or a trillion other examples?

The Bush family didn't create animosity toward the Bay State, they merely took advantage of it for political purposes. It was fair game.

(Boston Globe)

Running against Massachusetts helped President George W. Bush and his father, both Texans, win White House races against Governor Michael S. Dukakis and US Senator John F. Kerry. But because Romney leads the state he is critiquing, his rhetoric is raising eyebrows at home, where politicians and business leaders alike are turning to him to help tackle issues such as healthcare and education and to revive the state's economy.

''Personally, I'm not excited about it. I don't think it helps. It reinforces the perception that we're a difficult place to do business," said Brian Gilmore of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, who said he was speaking for himself because his organization has not taken an official position on the governor's remarks. ''We have a perception problem in the national marketplace -- why add fuel to that?"

Now, as Romney heads into a reelection campaign for governor in 2006 and possibly a bid for the GOP presidential nomination, strategists say using the state as a foil won't be enough to win votes -- he will need to point to examples of successful leadership. Garrison Nelson, a political scientist at the University of Vermont, said Romney would need to impress presidential primary voters with his Massachusetts accomplishments, rather than explain that he fought valiant but unsuccessful fights with Democrats to cut income taxes or reinstitute the death penalty.

''If you say, 'I was governor, but I failed,' you don't have the track record to show you'll be a successful president," Nelson said.

On Beacon Hill, Romney has often argued that Massachusetts is out of step with the rest of the nation on issues such as same-sex marriage, welfare, capital punishment, and unemployment insurance. In recent weeks, he has taken that message on the road, poking fun at the Bay State in front of conservative audiences in Missouri, South Carolina, and Utah, and comparing himself to ''a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention."


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