From June 2011 to October 2012, through a blistering primary and general election of unprecedented rancor, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sadly but willingly renounced two decades of moderate conservatism for his present political identity: the sometimes farcical severe conservative.
This moniker, of course, is culled from his own comments at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC):
Romney's grotesque metamorphosis is not entirely his fault. Although it would have been refreshing to see a modern Republican defy his party's most disagreeable elements, perhaps true centrist governance is impossible in today's Republican Party. Indeed, the GOP, which has gradually been shifting rightward since the days of Barry Goldwater, is now controlled by a clan of extremist political amateurs calling themselves the Tea Party along with a small cadre of ubiquitous wealthy financiers who, despite holding no elected office, demand party homogeneity while punishing moderation. Against this milieu it's little wonder Romney necessarily had to out-conservative even the most radical Republican wingnuts the 2012 primary offered, from separation-of-church-and-state-hating Rick Santorum to the irrelevant egotistical gascon Newt Gingrich.
So for better or for worse, all that remains of the Massachusetts moderate of yesteryear is a model health care system he has since disavowed and some nearly-forgotten statements thankfully preserved for eternity in quaint YouTube videos.
But as November 6 approaches, Romney is attempting to sway the few remaining undecideds and placate a nervous Democratic Party with promises of bipartisanship, citing his putative inclusiveness while governor of Massachusetts as evidence of his harmonious nature. A close look at his gubernatorial tenure, however, demonstrates Romney is not the bridge-builder he claims.
It's important to note that, early in his governorship, Romney was far more moderate than he is today, though admittedly more conservative than most of his state. That all changed when Romney realized to win a GOP presidential primary, as he hoped to one day, moderation is anathema to the base.
For to Romney, the Massachusetts governorship was, in large part, a calculated stepping stone on the path to his 2008 presidential bid, so it's unsurprising his approval ratings were historically low in the deeply blue state and only worsened as he progressively embraced more conservative ideas. While they started strong at 67%, Romney's approval ratings plummeted to an abysmal 34% by the time he left office. Meanwhile, the largely absent Romney never was able to become an agent of bipartisanship, issuing hundreds of vetoes on issues ranging from stem cell research to to budgetary concerns, most of which were overturned by the heavily-Democratic Legislature, oftentimes unanimously. That's right: even Republicans joined the Mitt-bashing, most likely because he abandoned the state GOP as he began focusing his ambitions on the top prize. And while he touts his budget balancing and attempts at reforming the Massachusetts political culture as major victories, those accomplishment themselves are disingenuous: Massachusetts has a balanced budget amendment, and his reform movement was an abject failure.
Mitt Romney was never a reformer, never a bastion of bipartisanship. Instead, his Massachusetts record reveals what the Obama team has effectively been narrating all along: Romney was, and is, a conservative opportunist willing to do anything, say anything, betray anybody to achieve his goals.