The Massachusetts Curse
RightWatch: Mitt Romney, like Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, can't connect with national voters.
What is it about Massachusetts that produces such lousy presidential candidates? Has some strange brand of bipartisan political devolution been at work in the Bay State since the heyday of John F. Kennedy, bringing forth such hopeless hopefuls as Michael Dukakis, John Kerry and, last and least, Mitt Romney? Or is it, as Rick Santorum might suggest, the devil?
Whatever its cause, all three of these Massachusetts figures have suffered from the same politically fatal affliction: the inability to connect with average voters. Dukakis, you may remember, lost whatever chance he had of winning the White House by responding to the question, "If [your wife] were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" with a tepid reaffirmation of his lifelong opposition to capital punishment. Then Kerry, the richest man in the U.S. Senate at the time, provided unmistakable evidence of the distance between his effete lifestyle and the unwashed masses by asking for Swiss cheese on his Philly cheesesteak sandwich.
Now we have Romney, campaigning in his home state of Michigan, bragging about his wife's Cadillacs and his friendship with billionaire sponsors of NASCAR racing teams, while proclaiming that General Motors and Chrysler should have been allowed to go bankrupt instead of being rescued by the government. With clumsy rhetoric like that, is it any wonder that on Tuesday, he only narrowly eked out a win in Michigan against the looniest extremist politician currently on the loose in America? (I refer, of course, to Santorum.)
Romney's tendency to portray himself as a real-life Thurston Howell III (for you youngsters, he was the fatuous super-rich buffoon on the TV show Gilligan's Island) brings to mind a series of anatomical metaphors. He has a tin ear. He also has a foot in his mouth. He keeps tripping over himself.
It also raises serious questions about the only rationale that Romney has ever put forth for his White House aspirations: that as a successful businessman, he knows better than President Barack Obama how to get the economy back on track and put millions of Americans back to work.
That assertion is in serious doubt after Romney doubled down on his claim that GM and Chrysler should have been allowed to go through a managed bankruptcy financed by private capital instead of benefiting from an $80 billion federal bailout. That view, to be blunt about it, is absurd. As Steven Rattner, who led Obama's auto-industry task force has pointed out, no private financing was available for a restructuring. Even Romney's old firm, Bain Capital, declined to participate in a bailout deal.
If the federal government, starting with President George W. Bush and continuing with Obama, had not intervened, GM and Chrysler would have gone down the tubes, with the loss of millions of jobs. And Romney, along with his fellow Republicans, would have been bashing Obama for failing to take action to save a vital U.S. industry.