The third and final presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney on foreign policy will be held this Monday. Real Clear Politics has Romney and Obama tied in the national polls. Barring any unforeseen events, the debate and the October labor report should be the last two significant events leading into the general election. Ahead of the debate, the Obama campaign is driving home the message that Romney is a political panderer devoid of substance, who consistently has misled the public on his true record. A viewpoint supported by those who know him best, the citizens of his home states of Utah, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Michigan.
On issue after issue Romney has proven that he is not an ideologue, rather he is the type of politician we have come to despise, the guy who will say and do anything to get elected. Mother Jones’ David Corn was one of the first to document Romney’s ability to deftly “Etch-A-Sketch” his past. Back in June, Corn wrote “A Case of Romnesia” and in that article he stated that Romney has a “history problem.” Corn said that “past events and stances, [like], his implementation of an Obamacare-like reform in Massachusetts, or his 1994 call for "full equality" for gay and lesbians undermine his current efforts by calling into question his political integrity.”
In a campaign stop in Virginia, Obama said, "He's forgetting what his own positions are, and he's betting that you will, too. I mean, he's changing up so much and backtracking and sidestepping, we've gotta name this condition that he's going through. I think it's called ‘Romnesia.’” Obama went on to say, “If you come down with a case of Romnesia [#Romnesia] and you can't seem to remember the policies that are still on your website or the promises you've made over the six years you've been running for president, here's the good news, Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions. We can fix you up. We've got a cure. We can make you well. This is a curable disease.”
It was in Massachusetts that Romney mastered his skill of ideological flexibility. Politico reported that “As governor, Romney passed the nation's first universal health care law, supported stricter environmental and gun control laws and, before his famous conversion, vowed not to restrict stem-cell research or abortion rights.” Mother Jones, summarizing Obama’s speech said, “Romney has come down with a case of “Romnesia” because he is now forgetting what his own positions are on issues important to women and their families, like refusing to say whether or not he’d sign a bill that helps women fight back when they don't get equal pay for equal work, supporting legislation that would let your employer deny women coverage for contraceptive care, and saying that he’d be “delighted” to outlaw a woman’s right to choose in all cases.” But as Boston Magazine reported Romney will change his position to fit whatever political narrative is convenient at the time. The magazine said his chameleon nature and his penchant for half-truths, including taking credit for providing the blueprint to Obama‘s decision to save the auto industry, is not surprising. They said, “The former self-described “progressive” shifted his views on gay rights, abortion, and stem cell research to appeal to a more conservative audience” as he pursued his presidential aspirations.
The Salt Lake Tribune, the largest paper in Romney’s spiritual home of Utah, has endorsed Obama, primarily because of Romney’s penchant for vacillating from moderate to “severe” conservative and then as he did in the debates, back again to moderate. The Tribune endorsement of Obama, “Too Many Mitts” said, “We have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust. Where, we ask, is the pragmatic, inclusive Romney, the Massachusetts governor who left the state with a model health care plan in place, the Romney who led Utah to Olympic glory? That Romney skedaddled and is nowhere to be found.”
The significance of the Utah paper’s endorsement of Obama is that it is consistent with a stinging refutation of Romney by those who know him best. In Michigan, the place where the “trees are the height” and where, “no one’s ever asked to see [his] birth certificate [because] they know that [it] is the place [where he was] born and raised,” Romney is trailing Obama by five points overall and by twelve points among female voters. This is the state where Romney’s father was a popular governor, but it is also the home of the auto industry that Romney would have allowed to fail putting millions out of work. In New Hampshire, where Romney maintains a vacation home the race is a tossup. Romney trailed Obama in the Massachusetts neighbor from the end of the Republican primary through to September. However his recent performance in the first debate has pulled him even in the polls.
In Massachusetts, Romney is trailing Obama by fifteen points and his approval rating is 35%. This is the state where Romney has his only political experience. It is extremely rare that a candidate does not carry his home state (Gore, Tennessee, 2000 comes to mind) especially when he was Governor of the state. Romney is not only not doing well in Massachusetts, the incumbent Republican Senator of the state, Scott Brown, is in a dog fight with Obama surrogate, Elizabeth Warren and has not made any overtures to have Romney campaign for him in the state. Romney and Brown have made virtually no campaign appearances together. Given that the challenger Warren is the architect of many of the regulations that Romney opposes is an indication that he is toxic in the state. Boston Magazine said, “today he’s so unpopular here he’s barely bothering to campaign in the state.”
Many people try to point to Romney’s election as a Republican in a “liberal-leaning” state as an eye-opener, but that fact is belied by the history of Republicans holding the governor’s office in the state. Romney was the last of 4 straight Republican governors that led the state from 1991 to 2007. The current governor, Deval Patrick is the first governor from the Democratic Party in 16 years. Romney supporters also tout his supposed success as a governor of Massachusetts, but Massachusetts’s natives dispute Romney’s assessment of his four years in office. By the time Romney left office his approval rating was 33%.
The Boston Globe reported,” during Romney’s four years in office, the state added a net 31,000 jobs, a growth rate of about 1%, compared to 5% nationally during the same period. State unemployment fell to 4.7% from a peak of 6% but remained above the U.S. average (then 4.4%). Meanwhile, as the state’s recovery lagged other parts of the country, a net 233,000 people — 3.5% of the population — left the state, many seeking jobs elsewhere.” The paper said, “only a huge outflow of Massachusetts workers to faster-growing states kept the unemployment rate from climbing higher.” ThinkProgress said that during Romney’s tenure as governor, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of the 50 states in job growth. “The state’s total job growth was just 0.9%, well behind other high-wage, high-skill economies in New York (2.7), California (4.7), and North Carolina (7.6). The national average, meanwhile, was better than 5%.” They went on to say “only Louisiana, which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, saw a bigger decline in its labor force than Massachusetts during Romney’s tenure as governor.” ThinkProgress reported that the state lost 14% of its manufacturing jobs, experienced below average economic growth often near the bottom and had the highest per capita bond debt of any state in the nation.
Romney’s vaunted approach to balancing the budget came at the expense of the middle class and small businesses. By the end of his term the tax burden in Massachusetts had risen, property taxes had increased, funding for local schools had been cut, government fees on everything from marriage licenses, to property deeds and gun permits had increased and the climate for business expansion and growth had deteriorated. David Tuerck, executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute, a conservative think tank, said in the Boston Globe, “Romney’s strategy was ill-conceived and at odds with efforts to change Massachusetts’ reputation for high business costs.”
Romney’s perceived ability to lead and collaborate also is not supported by the people who worked with him in government. Boston Magazine reported, “dealing with people has never been [Romney’s] strong suit.” In the magazine, William Scanlon, the longtime mayor of Beverly and an independent, said, “every other governor has been somebody you could talk to. There’s just nothing there. [There was] no relationship with the man. He totally ignored the mayors.” John Barrett, then the Democratic mayor of North Adams, described Romney’s budget cuts to local aid by saying, “what bothered us more than anything else is that he never talked to us prior to making the cuts.”
Romney’s condescending attitude and inability to respect any but those who he views as being on his level, which has been on full display ever since the Republican primaries, was felt by those working in the Massachusetts state legislature. Jason Aluia, then a top aide to former Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi, a Democrat, told Boston Magazine, “we couldn’t even walk near the governor’s office. He didn’t have relationships in the building whatsoever. I just don’t think he tried to build them.” Robert Dolan, the mayor of Melrose said, “what [Romney] never did is walk downtown and enter nonscripted, politically unsafe environments.”
Boston Globe and Boston Magazine both agree that the big problems that have been plaguing Romney on the campaign trail, that he’s personally inaccessible, that he’s had trouble unifying his party, that he’s become known as a flip-flopper, all have their roots in Massachusetts. If Romney didn’t see a political advantage in building a relationship, more often than not, he wouldn’t. Boston Magazine said, “bending reality to fit his narrative is something Romney’s made a habit of while running for president. It’s difficult to recall a presidential candidate who has relied so much on falsehoods and out-of-context quotes.”