Could Romney Lose Massachusetts?

1201273953That’s the question several media members are asking today. After a long campaign in which our former governor used the Bay State as a punch-line whenever it suited his political ambition, Mitt Romney is suddenly in danger of becoming a joke himself.

Because if he loses his home state (as an aside, didn’t he say Michigan was his home state?), the wisdom goes, not only would it be a huge embarrassment for Romney, it could very well portend disaster for his campaign.

It would seem the chickens have has come home to roost.

First, a quick point about last night’s GOP debate, where Romney continued to take it on the chin. The frontrunner, Arizona Sen. John McCain, landed shot after shot, leaving Romney to stagger around looking for the proper response. An accusation by McCain that Romney lost jobs during his governorship and raised taxes prompted Romney to start rattling off numbers for about five minutes in his own defense. It was like a math seminar. By my calculation, Romney bored half the audience to death, and put the other half to sleep.

Then McCain delivered the knockout blow:

“Let me note that I was endorsed by your two hometown newspapers who know you best, including the very conservative Boston Herald, who know you well better than anybody. So I’ll guarantee the Arizona Republic will be endorsing me, my friend.”

Quick, someone call a doctor.

Which brings us to whether or not Romney can actually lose the state that he governed for four years. (Well, two and half — running for president takes time, people.) According to the Herald, not much polling has been done in Massachusetts. A USA Today survey had Romney leading McCain by 30 points, but that poll was conducted through automated survey, which can be unreliable.

The more germane and potentially crippling figures, Jessica Van Sack writes, deal with Unenrolled voters (also known as Independents). That voting block outnumbers Republicans in the Commonwealth, and they apparently prefer McCain by a 47 to 20 percent margin. How ironic. It was, after all, the Unenrolled who helped Romney claim the governorship.

Unenrolled voters can cast a ballot in either primary, and there will obviously be a lot of people who want to weigh in on the Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton clash. But equally appealing to many of them will be the chance to sink Romney, who has obviously fallen out of favor among their lot.

Plus, there’s the little matter of the in-state Republicans Romney pissed off on his way out the door — pols who would like nothing more than to see him fall short here.

Rudy Giuliani’s exiting the race and endorsing McCain leaves some of his big-name fans here considering doing the same. They include former Gov. Paul Cellucci, ex-Treasurer Joe Malone and state Senate minority leader Richard Tisei (ex-Republican Gov. Jane Swift is already working for McCain).

“I think McCain will do very well in our primary,” said Tisei. “Romney didn’t leave our party in very good shape.”

Yikes. If you’re the Romney people, you probably don’t want to mention that last bit when you’re going on and on about being an arch conservative in a blue state.

Speaking of the Romney people, and this is as telling as it gets in the political world, they’re already lowering expectations and saying that if Romney loses here, no biggie — a far cry from the collective bravado the campaign exhibited in Michigan.

Former Gov. William F. Weld says fellow Republican Mitt Romney can withstand a hometown snub by Bay State voters in presidential balloting next week by simply dismissing the diss as little more than moonbat mania.

Asked whether his State House successor has to win Massachusetts in his bid for the presidency, Weld, a Romney backer, said, “Not in my view…Sen. McCain will probably run well in the Northeast; Gov. Romney will run well around the country.”

That’s the kind of spin you generally get from a camp that’s worried about losing. So what would happen if the previously unthinkable came to pass, if Romney is defeated by McCain here in Massachusetts?

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said Romney would be “laughed out of the race” if he can’t carry his own backyard.

Apparently a personal fortune just doesn’t buy what it used to.