Saturday, May 26, 2012

What does it tell us that Mitt Romney won't win his "home state?"

Massachusetts State House

Something I had mentioned briefly a few days ago in the context of Democrat Elizabeth Warren's chances to unseat incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts is how unpopular former Governor Mitt Romney is in the state he once led.

My point was that, if Obama ends up spanking Romney like recent polls suggest, it can only help Warren in a race that is likely to be very tight. Coattails and all that.

A few days ago, The New York Times noted a Suffolk University/7 News poll conducted last week that showed President Obama ahead of Romney by 25 points among likely voters. Romney clocked in with only 34 percent of the vote in a state where he was once governor.

Katharine Q. Quayle, of the Times, added:

The interesting point is how this fits into history. It turns out to be rare for a candidate who loses his home state to go on and win the presidency. (Some may quibble with the definition of "home state," but it generally refers to the state where the candidate lives, not where he was born.)

There are exceptions. James Polk, who was governor of Tennessee, did manage to win the presidency in 1844 despite losing Tennessee. Woodrow Wilson, who was president of Princeton and governor of New Jersey, lost the state when he won the presidency in 1916. Richard M. Nixon happened to be living in New York for a few years when he won the presidency in 1968, though he lost the state.

And then there was the obligatory presidential historian, who threw in a hypothesis:

James Thurber, a presidential historian at American University, said that presidents who lose their home states become estranged from their base. "It depends whether the individual has moved away from the core voter in their state, and certainly the story there is that Romney has," Mr. Thurber said.

It was a strange little story in the Times, actually. On the one had, it says that candidates who can't win their home states have a hard time winning the general election. Then it cites an expert who says that this may be because the candidate is no longer able, for some reason, to connect with the voters who presumably helped him get his career started and who were instrumental in helping him form his political identity.

Professor Thurber then offers the obvious point that Mitt Romney's identity has shifted more recently away from one that would be typically popular in his "home state" of Massachusetts.

In other words, Romney no longer considers himself, and is no longer packaging himself, as the kind of politician who would be popular in a liberal Northeastern state like Massachusetts. He's running as a "severe conservative." Of course he's going to lose his home state.

In other words, the theses kind of falls apart. What I think it does validate is the proposition that Romney's political identity is malleable and that he is not trusted by those who had, at least at one point, voted for him in Massachusetts and is also not fully trusted by those conservatives who more and more define the state of the Republican Party in 2012.

Yes, I know, conservative voters will get behind Romney. I just think that if enough voters don't have a strong sense of who you think you are, or don't believe you when they think you have remade yourself for the sake political expediency, you are probably going to have difficulty at the polls.

No, Romney won't take his "home state," but that may be important for more complex reasons than some people think. I guess one way to put it is that any person who was once the Governor of Massachusetts has no business running for the presidency under the GOP banner this year unless they are pathologically dishonest with themselves and the voters they are trying to court.

Sad truth is that this may define Willard Mitt Romney to a tee.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home