This story about Romney’s accomplishments and problems as governor of Massachusetts illustrates the Romney many of us foresee entering the White House should he prevail against Obama. It’s a Romney who is unable to break away from the CEO mentality of “What I say goes”. One who can’t truly grasp what it means to work with other elected officials nor fully comprehend that members of state legislatures, or Congress for that matter, are not his employees who will obediently follow lockstep with every decision he makes. Given his past as governor, one would think Romney would comprehend better than most the frustrations Obama has faced in his attempts to move his policy forward amidst an ideologically driven opposition.
Whether President Obama or Republican Mitt Romney comes out on top in November, the man who occupies the Oval Office next year will bring exactly four years of experience as a top political executive.
Obama has gotten his experience in the White House; Romney got his as governor of Massachusetts, from 2003 to 2007.
Romney clearly did not relish having to work with a Legislature that was 85 percent Democratic. He pushed hard during his first two years as governor to boost the number of Republicans on Beacon Hill. But that effort was a failure; Republicans ended up losing seats in the midterm elections.
Romney gave up on party building. “From now on,” he told The Boston Globe, “it’s me-me-me.”
Within weeks, Romney had unveiled a universal health insurance plan that would become his signature accomplishment as he launched a 2008 bid for the White House.
But apart from health care, Romney defined success not with big-picture legislative accomplishments but with confrontation. In a 2008 campaign ad, Romney actually bragged about taking on his Legislature: “I like vetoes; I vetoed hundreds of spending appropriations as governor,” he said.
Romney issued some 800 vetoes, and the Legislature overrode nearly all of them, sometimes unanimously.
Standing outside that chamber [the Massachusetts Statehouse], Democrat Ellen Story recalls a Gov. Romney who had a policeman screen visitors and who did not allow lawmakers to use the bank of elevators just outside his office:
“He was aloof; he was not approachable,” Story says. “He was very much an outsider, the whole time he was here.”
And Story remembers something else about the former governor: “The Republican reps would grumble that he didn’t even know their names.”
George Peterson was one of those Republicans; he does not take issue with his colleague’s characterization of Romney: “It took him a little bit to get used to dealing with elected officials, let’s put it that way,” he says.
At the time, Tisei says, people in Massachusetts really appreciated Romney’s effort.
But by the end of his term, Romney’s approval rating in Massachusetts was only 34 percent. In recent polls, the number has barely changed.
For political historian Whalen, that’s not surprising: “I think Romney’s biggest problem here in Massachusetts is not that he necessarily did a disastrous job. He didn’t. But he raised the expectation bar so high that, you know, he just didn’t deliver. “
Which is the same critique often leveled against the president whom Romney seeks to unseat.