Romney and Massachusetts — we haven’t heard much of that all through the primary and caucus campaign. The “M” word has barely been mentioned. Instead, the Romney campaign has focused on “businessman Mitt Romney.”
Well, my guess is that’s about to change. If Mitt Romney secures the GOP nomination in the coming weeks, you will see a pivot to a full-fledged defense of his role as governor of the Bay State. His role as a business-savvy entrepreneur will still be out there, but now that he doesn’t have to worry as much about those pesky primary voters, you will undoubtedly see a change.
You will see some of the George Bush 2000 argument: I can work with Democrats in Washington, I have done it in my home state. I can bring this country together, I did it as governor. I can balance budgets and make the tough decisions, I did it in Texas/Massachusetts.
When he ran for governor, as somewhat of an outsider, he characterized himself as “not partisan” and “a moderate” with “progressive” views. I doubt we will hear him use the word “progressive” in the coming months, but his move will be to the middle. He will attack President Obama on the economy, but he will become more “Mr. Fix-It” than the conservative ideologue, “Mr. Right-Wing.”
We probably won’t hear about the Massachusetts Miracle (didn’t work too well for Michael Dukakis!) but we will see a glossy description of Mitt’s Massachusetts.
Romney and the campaign will talk about inheriting a $650 million shortfall his first year, with a several-billion-dollar deficit on the horizon. They will point to working with the Democrats in the legislature to cut spending and close loopholes to raise revenue. They probably will not talk much about the dozens of fee increases and new fees he put through — on driver’s licenses, marriage licenses, guns, etc.
You won’t see Grover Norquist, the Harvard-educated anti-tax guru, attacking Romney for all these fees. You won’t see the Club for Growth running ads against Romney as a big taxer. You won’t see Romney back away from his pledge to never, ever, under penalty of death, raise taxes.
There are other things you will not see.
There will not be much discussion of how Massachusetts was 47th out of 50 states in job growth when Romney was governor.
The Romney campaign most definitely will not be putting up ads stating that he cut $140 million for higher education, resulting in a 63 percent increase in Massachusetts state college tuition over four years.
They will talk about how he both worked with Democrats in the legislature and how he stood up to their “big spending” ways by vetoing 250 items in an effort to cut spending. Even though the Democratic-dominated legislature by and large overrode his vetoes, he still balanced the budget and left office with a surplus.
I am sure there will be plenty of revisionist history on the Massachusetts healthcare law, but Romney will claim that he has the answer and it isn’t Obama’s program.
But watch for the pivot in the Romney campaign’s message to talking about Massachusetts and what a fine governor he was in those good old days. This will be an effort to go for independents, middle-of-the-road voters, leaners. Romney needs to establish himself as more than the Bain executive, as this could prove to be the bane of his existence.
The solution is to focus on Massachusetts, now that it is safe to go in the water and you don’t have to campaign for the votes of evangelicals, Southern Republicans and all those who hate the state of Ted Kennedy.
Peter Fenn is a Democratic strategist and a contributer to The Hill’s Pundits Blog.