In some ways, one of the more disappointing aspects of the 2012 campaign has been the lack of focus on Mitt Romney’s tenure as governor. It’s received some scrutiny, to be sure, but I’ve long believed the public hasn’t heard nearly enough, which is a shame – arguably nothing in Romney’s record matters more than his only experience in public service.
And after largely pretending he’d never been a governor, Romney himself is just now starting to put a positive spin on his one term in Massachusetts.
In this ad, released this week by the Romney campaign, a voiceover tells viewers Romney “turned Massachusetts around, cut unemployment, turned the deficit he inherited into a rainy day fund. All with an 85% Democratic legislature.” This came on the heels of another ad, in which Romney says he’ll bring Republicans and Democrats together: “I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again.”
Romney pushed a similar message at the end of Monday’s debate: “America’s going to come back. And for that to happen, we’re going to have to have a president who can work across the aisle. I was in a state where my legislature was 87 percent Democrat. I learned how to get along on the other side of the aisle.”
In terms of the specific claims, there’s quite a bit wrong with Romney’s boasts – his jobs record was abysmal and he left his successor with a deficit – but it’s especially important to realize that Romney never believed in bringing Republicans and Democrats together.
On the contrary, in his one term, the former governor issued more than 800 vetoes, over 700 of which were overridden precisely because of his reluctance to work with Democrats. As National Journal noted, Romney demonstrated a “relative disinterest in bipartisan collaboration” during his tenure.
The New York Times added, “[I]n contrast to his statements in the debate, many say, Mr. Romney neither mastered the art of reaching across the aisle nor achieved unusual success as governor. To the contrary, they say, his relations with Democrats could be acrimonious.”
I don’t doubt the focus groups respond well to Romney’s calls for bipartisanship, but the record he’s describing doesn’t have the slightest resemblance to reality. It’s one of the reasons Romney left office so deeply unpopular with those who saw his governing abilities up close.