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Matthews: America needs more moderate Republicans

Let me finish tonight with the long tradition of moderate Republican governors of Massachusetts.I speak with some experience.

Let me finish tonight with the long tradition of moderate Republican governors of Massachusetts.

I speak with some experience. I went to college in Massachusetts at Holy Cross, then worked for a half dozen years as top aide to Tip O'Neill.

Let me say that moderate Republicanism is in the blood up in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It goes back in my lifetime to Leverett Saltonstall and Henry Cabot Lodge and Edward Brooke in the U.S. Senate but especially in the governor's chair.

We've had popular Republican governors of the Commonwealth.

John Volpe gave my commencement address at Holy Cross. Bill Weld was a big hit up there, a governor who became in many ways a kind of folk figure, a Yankee who seemed to really "want" to be an Irishman, who even wrote novels with one as his hero and, I'd say, personal wanna be.

You know whose part of this tradition of moderate Republican governors in Massachusetts? The guy who's announcing for president tomorrow: Mitt Romney.

When he served in the State House up on Beacon Hill, Romney was the leader of the effort to ensure that people take responsibility for their health care; he made it a law to carry health insurance just like you have to carry car insurance. It's to protect "other" people from having to pay for you when society has to step in and fill in for what the individual failed to do.

The Boston Globe just did a glowing account of Romney’s fine leadership in this effort.

Mitt Romney is now running for president on the basis of his executive experience as governor of Massachusetts. Yet he is not running on his record of achievement in those four years. That is what gives his candidacy its inauthentic look: he's not running on what he's done but, in a strange way, running from it. If he had not been governor of Massachusetts he would not have the foundation to run for president; yet we see him working tirelessly to kick that foundation of accomplishment out from under him.

This country needs moderate Republicans again. They are a bridge between left and right in this country. More than that, such men and women have over the years been among the true producers of positive government in America.

So here's a thought: if some people believe that positive government is out of fashion, being a solid moderate Republican is out of step, then maybe Governor Romney should take them on, instead of taking on his own record of solid governmental service.

I have a feeling that is unlikely to happen - and that, as much as anything, explains the cloud cuckoo land that's become the Republican presidential nominating process - a land of Palins, Bachmanns, Newts and who-knows-whats.