There's an old saying that "you can't go home again." Especially if you're Mitt Romney and home is Massachusetts. After all, Governor Romney ended his tenure with a dismal 34 percent approval rating and now trails President Obama by as much as 20 points in his own state. Worse still, Romney launched his perpetual quest for the presidency by mocking Massachusetts to woo conservative Republican primary voters. And most damning of all, Massachusetts Mitt has betrayed his fellow Bay State residents by renouncing almost every pledge he made to them, including his signature health care reform law.
That Mitt was using the governor's mansion in Boston as a rest stop on the road to the White House was clear to many in Massachusetts even Romney took the oath of office. But as the Washington Post reported in September 2005, Romney's disdain for his neighbors was a stump speech staple two years before the first votes were cast in the 2008 GOP primaries:
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, exploring a possible presidential run in 2008, has a message for his fellow Republicans. Take my state. Please!
"Being a conservative Republican in Massachusetts," he told a GOP audience in South Carolina, "is a bit like being a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention."
Bada-bing. For months, this blue-state governor has been pitching himself to conservatives in a way that campaign experts say is highly unusual -- perhaps even historic. Instead of talking about his home state with the usual lip-quivering pride, Romney uses it like a vaudeville comic would use his mother-in-law: as a laugh line.
As in: "There are more Republicans in this room tonight than I have in my state!" -- another joke he used in South Carolina.
At the time, his spokesman Julie Teer said the jokes would continue and insisted, "Of course, the Governor loves Massachusetts." His constituents weren't so sure. As the Boston Globe reported that spring, "Only 28 percent of those surveyed said Romney should seek the presidency, while 53 percent said he should not." After hearing about Romney's Massachusetts mockery, one Brookline resident asked, "Well, what are you doing here?"
Michigan residents might have asked the same question when Romney announced his 2008 candidacy for president at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. After all, while Mitt spent his childhood in Michigan, Massachusetts is where he got two graduate degrees after hanging out in the Harvard faculty lounge, raised his kids, made millions at Bain Capital and became governor. (That last one almost never happened. Mitt narrowly avoided a residency crisis by paying $54,000 in property taxes on the Utah resort home he had claimed as his primary residence from 1999 through 2001.) Of course, Massachusetts Mitt also hired illegals for Pete's sake, ran as a "progressive" pro-choice Republican, ranked a dismal 47th in job creation and signed into law the health care law he repeatedly cited as a "model" for the nation. Which is also why Romney announced his 2012 run in New Hampshire, a would-be swing state and location of one of his three homes.
Of course, Mitt Romney ran away from Massachusetts because he calculated the GOP's ultra conservative base would require him to. But back in his home state, voters remember Mitt's words and deeds he recanted after crossing the border.
Running for Senate against Ted Kennedy in 1994, the Bain Capital CEO pleaded that "I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush; I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush." Eight years later, would-be Governor Romney explained to Massachusetts voters:
"I think people recognize that I'm not a partisan Republican; that I'm someone who is moderate; and that my views are progressive."
During that 2002 race, Mitt enlisted his wife Ann to make the case for his progressive bona fides.
Ann assured Massachusetts voters they need not worry about moderate Mitt protecting the right to choose:
ANN ROMNEY: I think women also recognize that they want someone who is going to manage the state well. I think they may be more nervous about him on social issues. They shouldn't be, because he's going to be just fine. But the perception is that he won't be. That's an incorrect perception.
MITT ROMNEY: So when asked will I preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, I make an unequivocal answer: yes.
Back then, Mitt similarly pledged to help preserve and protect Planned Parenthood. In an April 2002 questionnaire he submitted to the group (to which his wife had written a $150 check eight years earlier), Romney stood by his unequivocal answer:
Do you support the substance of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade? YES
Do you support state funding of abortion services through Medicaid for low-income women? YES
In 1998 the FDA approved the first packaging of emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after pill." Emergency contraception is a high dose combination of oral contraceptives that if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, can safely prevent a pregnancy from occurring. Do you support efforts to increase access to emergency contraception? YES
Now, of course, Mitt Romney has promised, "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that."
As it turns out, Romney also wants to get rid of his Massachusetts health care law, the same one that lowered the uninsured rate from 12.5 percent to a national low of two percent. But the former Massachusetts governor isn't merely promising to "kill it dead" at the national level. Inevitably, Romney's plan for draconian cuts to Medicaid would strangle the popular and successful program he put in place in Massachusetts, the one he once touted as "a model for getting everybody insured." Put another way, what Governor Romney giveth, President Romney would taketh away.
As ThinkProgress recently explained, Romney in the past had been very up front about the crucial role federal funding - and flexibility - played in making his signature achievement possible:
"[F]rom the beginning the plan was a 50/50 deal between the federal government and the state government. The Feds fund half of it, they have from the very beginning." The Boston Globe notes that "approximately 56 percent of the gain in coverage was related to increased federal Medicaid support" in Massachusetts, and of the newly insured, "18 percent gained coverage through Medicaid, and another 38 percent gained coverage through Commonwealth Care, a program that federal Medicaid dollars pay half of."
But now, Romney like his new GOP twin in Congress Paul Ryan has proposed steep cuts to Medicaid spending and pledged to hand-over the shrunken pool of funds as block grants to the states. And it is precisely that formula, the Boston Globe warned, that would smother his once-beloved Romneycare in its cradle.
"It would have been impossible for Massachusetts to do what it did without increased federal Medicaid support,'' said John McDonough, a major architect of the state's health care overhaul law and now director of Harvard University's Center for Public Health Leadership. "What he's proposing is in direct opposition to what he did as governor,'' said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care for All in Massachusetts, citing the Bay State's 98 percent coverage rate, the highest in the nation. "That kind of expansion would not have been possible under a block grant program,'' as Romney has proposed. Block grants give states more flexibility in spending federal money, but restrict funding increases.
As the Globe documented, President Romney "would probably cripple the Massachusetts health care law."
But that should come as no surprise to Massachusetts residents, who long ago came to expect such treachery from their former governor. As for Mitt Romney, he can still come back to the Bay State as he did this week to raise money from his former Bain Capital colleagues. But if home is where the heart is, Mitt Romney's home isn't in Massachusetts.
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)