Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Human, all too human
Why this year was bad for Mitt Romney, and why next year will be even worse

IN OCTOBER 2004, one day after the Red Sox won the World Series, Governor Mitt Romney could be seen high above Storrow Drive, laboring to remove the legendary REVERSE THE CURSE sign hanging from Longfellow Bridge. It did not go well. As he climbed a platform and approached the sign, Romney gave himself a nasty bump on the head; down below, traffic ground to a halt, annoying commuters who hadn’t anticipated a midday publicity stunt on one of Boston’s busiest roads. Afterward, a gubernatorial press release — which described the sign as an "eyesore" — suggested Romney’s enterprise had been aesthetic in nature. It was an absurd explanation. Romney didn’t remove the sign because it was ugly; he removed it because he wanted to mug for the cameras. Instead, he ended up taking needless risks, irritating his constituents, and looking silly. Which, when you think about it, was Mitt Romney’s year writ large.

NOVEMBER 2, 2004, was a dark day for Romney and his inner circle. For the better part of a year, the local media (including the Phoenix) had taken seriously Romney’s efforts to revivify the Massachusetts Republican Party. Unlike former Republican governors Jane Swift and Paul Cellucci, both of whom allowed the Massachusetts GOP’s grassroots to wither, Romney seemed to have both the desire to build the party and the ability to do it. In March, when Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Angus McQuilken in a special election for the Norfolk, Bristol, and Middlesex state Senate seat vacated by Cheryl Jacques, Romney spun the victory as a harbinger of things to come. "The Democratic machine up on Beacon Hill worked for Angus and didn’t win," he gloated. "Against all those odds, a candidate stepped forward, fought with a message of reform, and was able to win. That’s a great symbol for what we hope to have this fall." In May, a beaming, fist-pumping Romney stood on stage at the Omni Parker House and introduced 131 Republican candidates he’d recruited to finish the job. THE "R" IS FOR "REFORM," trumpeted a huge blue-and-white sign. But it might as well have stood for "Romney."

The election made fools of everyone who believed the hype. When the votes were counted, not a single Republican challenger had won; instead, the Republicans managed to lose a seat, and now control only 21 of 160 seats in the House and six of 40 in the Senate. In subsequent weeks, Massachusetts Republicans have sought to save face by making two different arguments. First, they claim the loss of a seat obscures subtle but significant gains; after all, they say, the Republicans made the Democrats work, and created a farm team for future races. Second, they plead impotence in the face of the inexorable political force that was John Kerry. "There was this tsunami of a Kerry presidential campaign that had a definite effect on the governor’s ability to pull any votes out for his individual candidates," says one Republican consultant. "I just think it was something he couldn’t overcome."

This Kerry-as-tsunami explanation may help Republicans cope, but it also gives Romney a free pass. True, Massachusetts voted 60 percent to 40 percent for Kerry. But margins in many of the state’s affluent second-ring suburbs, where Romney had fared well in the 2002 gubernatorial election, were far smaller. Hypothetically, Kerry’s candidacy might have doomed a strong Republican candidate for US Senate who was running statewide — but Romney’s reformers were running in 100-plus different districts. Even taking the power of incumbency into account, a handful of these races should have been winnable. And they might have been, if the Republicans hadn’t recruited mostly unimpressive candidates (another Republican consultant bemoans the party’s "unattractive" reliance on "wealthy businessmen") who were supplied with a generic faux-Romney script and supported with advertisements so negative they bordered on kitschy. (For more on the tenor of the campaign, see "Road to Nowhere," News and Features, October 22.)

It might also have helped if Romney hadn’t gotten cold feet as the campaign entered its stretch drive. An ad blitz featuring the governor’s face and voice was hinted at, but never materialized. Romney chalked this up to insufficient funds, but he may also have balked at deepening his connection to a bunch of soon-to-be losers. Furthermore, in the campaign’s final days, Romney largely turned his attention elsewhere, campaigning in New Hampshire for George W. Bush and incumbent Republican governor Craig Benson before coming home to give quick, last-minute plugs for a few favored state Senate candidates. (Bush and Benson both lost in New Hampshire.) Had Romney’s aura been put to better use in local races, the governor might have put a candidate or two over the top. But he had other priorities.

Most of all, Romney deserves blame for creating absurdly inflated expectations. Had he downplayed the possibility of a seismic pro-Republican shift — for example, by reminding Republican voters and the local media that party-building is a slow, painstaking process — the setbacks of 2004 would have seemed less dramatic. Instead, Romney seemed to yield to his love of the spotlight, and oft-jilted Republican die-hards allowed themselves to dream, yet again, that this could be the year. In upcoming election cycles, the devastation of 2004 could seriously limit the Mass GOP’s ability to raise funds and recruit candidates. And if that happens, Romney’s gambit won’t merely have been an electoral embarrassment — it will have pushed the party to the brink of permanent irrelevance.

page 1  page 2 

Issue Date: December 24 - 30, 2004
Back to the News & Features table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group