Romney Finds No Place Like Home
ALISON STEWART, host:
So over the past week or so, we've been getting the hometown perspective on various national presidential candidates. And up today, Republican Mitt Romney. But we have this little bit of a debate, Luke, in the meeting about which home state to choose for Romney.
LUKE BURBANK, host:
STEWART: Do we go to Michigan?
BURBANK: Where his dad was governor.
STEWART: Yup, where he grew up. Or do we reach out to somebody in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Romney made a name for himself as the CEO of the '02 Olympic Games? Or do we go to Massachusetts way? He went to graduate school at Harvard. He made oodles of money as a businessman in Boston, and then went on to become the state's 70th governor for one term.
All right. Since we're talking politics, we decided to go to the Old Colony State and Beantown route because we're talking about Romney and his political aspirations.
So Frank Phillips from The Boston Globe state house bureau, you're up. Hi, Frank.
Mr. FRANK PHILLIPS (State House Bureau Chief, The Boston Globe): Hi, Alison. How are you?
STEWART: I'm great. So you heard our dilemma, Frank, about where to choose to talk about Romney. So what do folks in Massachusetts think? Do they consider Romney one of their own?
Mr. PHILLIPS: Well, I don't think because where he grew up - I mean, he's been here, went to Harvard, Harvard Law School back in 1970, so he made a lot of money. His family's here. He's built that - he helped build the huge Mormon church in Belmont. People, you know, from that perspective, they felt very much that he's here. I think in the last couple of years, they feel a little alienated from this guy, particularly when he goes around the country disparaging, you know, the culture here, the liberal culture, and making fun of Massachusetts as he tries to cozy up to the Republican conservatives.
STEWART: You bring up an interesting point. The national media sometimes zeroes in on a narrative for a candidate. And two really have emerged for Romney. This one you sort of touched on, the political idea that Romney, as the governor of Massachusetts, is very different from the Romney running for the candidacy in '08.
Now, as a local reporter, what's the issue that you just shake your head when you hear Romney talk about and you say, that does not sound like Governor Mitt Romney?
Mr. PHILLIPS: Which issue?
(Soundbite of laughter)
STEWART: Just pick one. Just pick one for me.
Mr. PHILLIPS: I was the lead reporter with my colleague Scot Lehigh in 1994 when this young man - we were all young men then - appeared to run against Ted Kennedy. He looked like he was going to give him a good run. And, I mean, he was pro choice. He pledged to be better than Ted Kennedy on gay rights. No fan of Ronald Reagan. And, in fact, I voted for Paul Tsongas, our former Democratic senator for the - voted for him for - in the presidential primary here. He was a very liberal Republican.
Then, you know, in 2002, he came back from running the Olympics, where he'd straightened out that scandal. He was a lot more pragmatic, result-oriented. He focused more on the fiscal issues than things like abortion. But still, you know, socially moderate, refused to sign a constitutional amendment proposal to ban gay marriage, saying it went too far because it banned domestic partnership's benefits. And he refused to take a no new tax pledge, which every Republican governor or governor candidate had for years here in Massachusetts. Said it was silly stuff.
STEWART: Okay. So I see your confusion, deciding what's…
Mr. PHILLIPS: Oh, it - I mean we're…
STEWART: …which issue to focus in on.
Mr. PHILLIPS: We're wondering, was he lying to us then, or is he lying to us now? I mean, you can't have that kind of metamorphosis. It's amazing.
STEWART: What was his biggest contribution to the state as governor?
Mr. PHILLIPS: What was his biggest contribution?
Mr. PHILLIPS: Well, I - you know, to his credit, I mean, he - and I don't mean to be so disparaging of him as governor. He brought fiscal discipline. He - if there was a crisis, like the Big Dig tunnel collapse, he took charge and understood all the intricacies of engineering and - better than probably a lot of engineering experts on it. If there was flooding up in the Meramec Valley here in Massachusetts, he was up there, and you felt confidence on him. The kind of thing if, you know, if another Katrina came along, he wouldn't let Brownie be…
Mr. PHILLIPS: …in charge. He'd be down there himself. He's very good at that. What he's not good at is, I think, more of the politics in the state house, working with the legislators. As legislators would say, he just doesn't like people like us. He's above us. And that's his big problem in politics. He does not exude a warmth.
BURBANK: If he was to manage to get the nomination, does he have a snowball's chance in hell of carrying Massachusetts?
Mr. PHILLIPS: I would say it's a very fair bet that he would lose it. He would lose it even in the Republican primary. He would have to fight. The Republicans here in Massachusetts are not pleased with him. But the Republican establishment, if you look, there's no unanimity about him. Our former governors are - at least one - two of them are supporting McCain or Giuliani. And he's not popular. He's not a popular figure here.
STEWART: We're talking to Frank Phillips. He's the state house bureau chief for The Boston Globe, talking about Mitt Romney. One of the reasons we decided to talk about Mitt Romney today was that he released this attack ad, targeting Mike Huckabee. He decided to go negative right as we're counting down to the Iowa caucus. Let's listen to a little bit of that ad.
(Soundbite of Mitt Romney campaign advertisement)
Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Republican Governor, Massachusetts): I'm Mitt Romney, and I approved this message.
Unidentified Man: Two former governors, two good family men. Both pro life, both support a constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage. The difference: Mitt Romney stood up and vetoed in-state tuition for illegal aliens, opposed driver's licenses for illegals. Mike Huckabee supported in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants. Huckabee even supported taxpayer-funded scholarships for illegal aliens.
STEWART: So, Frank, my question is did he campaign negatively when he was running for governor?
Mr. PHILLIPS: Yeah. He - you guys call it an attack ad. We - I think that's on the border, more of a comparative ad.
STEWART: Okay. That's fair.
Mr. PHILLIPS: I mean, everybody is. And I - we look at it here in Massachusetts, and that's not an attack ad. You know, we went through the swift boat attack ad.
STEWART: There you go.
Mr. PHILLIPS: That's an attack ad that can be vicious. And I think he's making a fair comparison. He's showing that Huckabee, you know, has a position, and he has position. And he wants to show he's more in tune with the Republican electorate out there.
BURBANK: Although it's funny to hear a guy who had, by your description was, you know, very, very liberal, trying to now out-conservative Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist who, you know, at one point alluded to quarantining people with AIDS.
Mr. PHILLIPS: I agree. It is funny.
Mr. PHILLIPS: I mean, he supported McCain and Bush initially on their immigration proposal, so - early on before he really got into the presidential race. So…
STEWART: And before I let you go, the other sort of national narrative about Mitt Romney is that his religion, being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, may be an issue. Was it an issue for him, his Mormon faith, when he ran for governor?
Mr. PHILLIPS: No. Two things: one, only when he would take positions being -trying to be pro-gay rights and pro-abortion, you know, and while he was a leader of the church here, he was taking - acting in a very different way. And secondly, it's kind of ironic that here he is, you know, in tolerant Massachusetts, it was not an issue. We could care less about him being a Mormon. We've been through that with Jack Kennedy. And now he is going out and pleading tolerance, you know, making fun of Massachusetts as tolerant culture, but he's now, you know, pleading at the Evangelicals to, you know, to be kind to him and not - to be tolerant of his religion.
STEWART: Yeah. A note to Mitt Romney: Dance with the one who brung you.
BURBANK: There you go.
STEWART: The state of Massachusetts.
Frank Phillips is the state house bureau chief with The Boston Globe.
Mr. PHILLIPS: Thank you, Alison. Thank you, Luke.
BURBANK: Coming up on THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT, we'll have The Best of The Best of, because we work harder for you here at THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT. Also, America's next top Santa. Exciting. That's in about a minute.
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