Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts just six years ago. Today he’s so unpopular here he’s barely bothering to campaign in the state. There are reasons for that—and they could spell doom for his presidential campaign.
Illustration by Lincoln Agnew
Hello, America. Greetings from Massachusetts.
Or, for the moment, from New Hampshire.
It’s a gorgeous late-summer day, and I’ve driven from Boston up to St. Anselm College in Manchester to watch Mitt Romney host the 100th town-hall meeting of his presidential campaign. Supporters young and (mostly) old are streaming into the campus quad, a delightfully discordant mixture of old-line New England Republicans dressed in their Sunday best and apparent Tea Partiers—like the woman wearing an American-flag polo that’s emblazoned with the text of the constitution, or the walrus-mustachioed gentleman in a T-shirt declaring himself, “Pro-life to the Max.” A smiling, white-haired usher in a blue Romney T is herding folks along: “You may vote right, but today you’re going left. Go to the left!”
There on the left, a circle of bleachers has been erected, creating a sort of outdoor stadium. As patriotic country music blasts from the speakers (“It’s a man on the moon and fireflies in June and kids sellin’ lemonade / It’s cities and farms, it’s open arms, one nation under God / It’s America”), staffers hand out small U.S. flags to the 3,000 or so in attendance. Glistening on the side of an ivy-covered brick academic building is a three-story-high “America’s Comeback Team” banner adorned with the Romney logo. The stagecraft—something Romney became famous for as governor of Massachusetts—is remarkable. The only thing missing is the fife-and-drum corps he used at the Faneuil Hall bill-signing ceremony for his healthcare law.
After a string of warmup speakers, Romney and the man he’s recently picked as his running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, enter the quad to massive cheers. “Gosh, I feel like I’m almost a New Hampshire resident,” our former governor opens. “It would save me some tax dollars, I think.” That, it seems, is a dig at Massachusetts. He continues on, now speaking about Ryan. “I appreciate the fact that he’s learned how to work with people on the other side of the aisle. As you may appreciate, having served as governor of Massachusetts, you either did that or you perished, because my legislature was 87 percent Democrat.” As the crowd boos the Massachusetts Democrats, Romney’s response is magnanimous. “Oh, they’re okay, that’s all right. Anybody here from Massachusetts?”