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Election 2012: How Romney might lead on new Washington terrain

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The major exception came well into Romney's term, when he worked with Democratic state legislators to enact landmark health-care reform. But even there, the Globe reporters write, Romney left most of the horse-trading to others. Only when the effort appeared on the verge of failure did he intervene, at one point personally going on a Sunday morning to legislative leaders' homes to twist arms. He also got critical backing from the state's Democratic titan, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

When asked about Romney's ability to work across the aisle, his campaign is more likely to tout his economic record in Massachusetts – a balanced budget without raising sales or income taxes – than his health-care overhaul.

That points to one of the central conundrums of Romney's pitch for the White House: He can't talk much about his signature legislative achievement. As the model for "Obamacare," with its requirement that most individuals purchase insurance, "Romneycare" is anathema to Republican orthodoxy. During his first  debate with Obama, Romney did tout his health reform, emphasizing the states' right to choose their own path: "What we did in Massachusetts is a model for the nation, state by state." Lingering doubts about Romney will color his dealings with Congress if he's elected. He may, for example, find it impossible to give a little on tax increases in the name of reaching a "grand bargain" with Democrats on long-term deficit reduction – that is, if he did have a notion of reverting, even a bit, to his moderate approach.

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