In response to Romney’s bragging in the debate about his record of bipartisanship as Massachusetts governor, the NYT sent a reporter to Beacon Hill and found, not surprisingly, a different story. The account rings true with me, and also resonates with a conversation I had this week with state Rep. David Linsky, a Democrat that has been touring swing states, beating up on Romney on the Obama campaign’s dime.
“I get the sense that at some point early on — and I don’t know this for sure — that the leaders of the Legislature let Romney know that ‘you don’t run this place; we do.’ And after that, it was all about running for president,” Linsky said.
The Times’ Michael Wines summed up Romney’s term by comparing it to the Obama narrative:
He came into office with a mandate to shake things up, an agenda laden with civics-book reforms and a raging fiscal crisis that threatened to torpedo both. He sparred with a hostile legislature and suffered a humiliating setback in the midterm elections. As four years drew to a close, his legacy was blotted by anemic job growth, sagging political popularity and — except for a landmark health care overhaul bill — a record of accomplishment that disappointed many.
I wrote my review of Romney’s governorship in January. Here’s more of the Times’ summary:
Bipartisanship was in short supply; Statehouse Democrats complained he variously ignored, insulted or opposed them, with intermittent charm offensives. He vetoed scores of legislative initiatives and excised budget line items a remarkable 844 times, according to the nonpartisan research group Factcheck.org. Lawmakers reciprocated by quickly overriding the vast bulk of them.
The big-ticket items that Mr. Romney proposed when he entered office in January 2003 went largely unrealized, and some that were achieved turned out to have a comparatively minor impact. A wholesale restructuring of state government was dead on arrival in the legislature; an ambitious overhaul of the state university system was stillborn; a consolidation of transportation fiefs never took place.
Mr. Romney lobbied successfully to block changes in the state’s much-admired charter school program, but his own education reforms went mostly unrealized. His promise to lure new business and create jobs in a state that had been staggered by the collapse of the 2000 dot-com boom never quite bore fruit…
Mike Widmer, a level-headed and non-partisan observer, put it this way:
“He put on the table in his inaugural address, and then in his budget, a series of proposed reforms like civil service reform, pension reform — going right to the heart of the lion’s den,” Michael Widmer, president of the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said in an interview. But excepting health care, “he never followed up. There was a handful of successes, but there was never a full-blown or focused program in the sense of saying, ‘Here’s our vision.’ ”
How any of this would translate into a very different political situation in Washington is hard to say.