The myth of Mitt Romney

With his confident style and crowd-pleasing smile, Ames, Iowa, straw-poll winner Willard Mitt Romney looks like a formidable contender for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. If he’s lucky, he can leave voters so dazzled that they ignore his record.

Rather than see stars, Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Boston’s Northeastern University placed Romney’s rule as Massachusetts governor beneath their statistical microscope. Let’s hope what they discovered is not contagious.

“Our analysis reveals a weak comparative economic performance of the state over the Romney years, one of the worst in the country,” the researchers wrote in the July 29 Boston Globe. Specifically, they found:

— As U.S. real output grew 13 percent between 2002 and 2006, Massachusetts trailed at 9 percent.

— Manufacturing employment fell 7 percent nationwide those years, but sank 14 percent under Romney, placing Massachusetts 48th among the states.

— Between fall 2003 and last autumn, U.S. job growth averaged 5.4 percent, nearly thrice Massachusetts’ anemic 1.9 percent pace.

Romney predicted Aug. 12 on “Fox News Sunday” that Massachusetts eventually will harvest his new-business-development seeds. “You’re going to see the product of that generate great results for years to come.”

Romney’s vaunted health-care plan also disappoints. It forces individuals to purchase medical coverage and fines those who refuse. Businesses with at least 11 employees either must offer health insurance or pay penalties.

(Democrats overrode Romney’s veto of this provision.) The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector, a government panel, defines every health policy’s “Minimum Creditable Coverage.” So far, the Pacific Research Institute’s Sally Pipes reports, monthly premiums average $380, not $200, as Romney forecast. The program may cost taxpayers an extra $276.4 million this year, more than double its original $125.4 million estimated expense.

Romney blames tinkering Democratic state legislators.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road as the Democrats get their hands on it,” Romney told the National Review Institute. “I was a little concerned at the signing ceremony when Ted Kennedy showed up.”

Romney’s Pontius-Pilate-like hand-washing is thoroughly unconvincing. Bay State Democrats would have struggled to hijack health reform based on tax incentives, choice and ownership — as GOP front-runner and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani recently proposed — rather than RomneyCare’s easily scaled universal mandates, regulatory boards and government-imposed standards. (Romney’s campaign did not return calls for comment.)

Romney’s administration fades badly beside Giuliani’s accomplishments.

— While Romney couldn’t persuade Democratic legislators to lower taxes, Giuliani convinced a Democratic City Council to reduce or scrap 23 taxes.

Consequently, Gotham’s top income-tax rate fell 20.6 percent, while Massachusetts’ remains stuck at 5.3 percent, despite Romney’s unheeded plea to cut it to 5 percent.

— Though Romney’s tax burden (revenue’s proportion of personal income) increased 10.8 percent, Giuliani sliced his 17 percent.

— Public-assistance rolls slid 5 percent under Romney (albeit, after most reductions already occurred), but they tumbled 58 percent under Giuliani, starting before President Bill Clinton signed federal welfare reform.

— Romney watched unemployment wane 5.7 percent while joblessness plummeted 40.8 percent under Giuliani.

— Personal income advanced 18.2 percent during Romney’s days, while it sped ahead 49.9 percent during Giuliani’s time.

It’s tricky to contrast Romney and Giuliani. The former mayor led a city of 8 million (up 9.3 percent during his mayoralty), and supervised 215,891 public employees (down 3.1 percent from his arrival, or 17.2 percent, excluding new cops and teachers). Though not a governor, Giuliani governed a metropolis one-quarter larger in population than Massachusetts. Its 43,979 state employees (down 1.4 percent under Romney) served 6.4 million residents (up 0.1 percent).

It would be easier to draw parallels if, like Giuliani, Romney had won re-election, rather than duck a second-term bid that experts widely predicted he would lose. Romney explained to the Globe that he stood aside because, “There was very little that had to spill into a second term that we had any prospects of ever getting done.”

So, what remains to recommend Romney? No doubt, he showed how to succeed in business by founding Bain Capital, which flourishes. Also, Romney is smooth, charismatic and handsome. Someday, he could portray George Clooney’s older brother in “Ocean’s 14.” But, given his flimsy gubernatorial legacy, that doesn’t mean much. In essence, Mitt Romney is just another pretty face.

(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. E-mail him at deroy.murdock(at)


  1. pondering_it_all

    Of course Romney’s religious affilitation has nothing to do with his qualifications. I never suggested it did. And yes, of course Washington is filled with nice-looking rich guys who tailor their messages to the audience on hand.

    Romney’s LDS values should make him a shoe-in for the Conservative Christian voters. But I’m just speculating that their xenophobia will override that.

    If you check out the family values of moderate American Muslims, they align pretty well with the Christian Right, but I doubt any of those people would vote for a Muslim candidate!

  2. JerZGirl

    You might want to read this article to see how Romney molds his responses to fit whatever political goal he has at the moment. To win in Massachusetts – he gave liberal responses, even though they were antithetical to his religious beliefs. To win in 2008, he gives the standard response of the evangelical neo-con. Just read the quotes. He says what he believes will help him win, not what he actually believes. Sound familiar??

    And they said Kerry flip-flopped!!!

    Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.

    Wisdom is knowing not to put it in fruit salad.

  3. JoshuasGrandma

    I have a good friend who works in Mass Public Health, who watched the development of the health initiative closely and said that Romney had no part in developing it – it was all in the legislature, and though he tried to veto some of it, the legislature had more than enough votes to override. So he is like Guiliani in taking credit for the accomplishments of others.


    The Moonies “elected” Bush. Maybe the Mormons will “elect”
    Romney. When will it be Al Queda’s turn? Oh, I forgot. Al Queda elected Bush too.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  5. pondering_it_all

    Does anybody really believe the (non-Mormon) Christian Right would vote for Romney? I think most of them would just stay home on election day, if their only choice was a Mormon or a Democrat. Or maybe they would mount a protest vote by going for a conservative third party candidate. Can a Republican candidate still win in America without their votes?

    Wait…Breaking news… Mitt Romney has just announced that he has had a revelation: God told him to join the Baptist church! :) :) :)

  6. JudyB

    Mitt Romney…A Wealthy, nice looking, well dressed man, known for saying to anyone who will listen, what they want to hear to get their vote. Though not entirely, Congress is made up of men like him, with the exception that they are all not AS wealthy, AS nice looking, or As well dressed. The fact that he is a Morman is NOT the problem he poses.
    PLEEEEEZE!!! We already have too many empty suits and self serving liars in Washington..the last thing we need is another one occupying the Oval office.