Mitt's Massachusetts Mess

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Begala

What's Romney hiding in his record?

In his speech on April 24 kicking off his general-election campaign, Romney began, sensibly enough, by promising to tell us a little bit about himself. He bragged about his picture-perfect family. He spoke with pride of how his father had lifted himself from struggling salesman to CEO and governor. Then he recounted his time as a businessman, helping build companies like Staples and Bright Horizons. Finally, he launched into how Barack Obama couldn't organize a one-car parade and how he (Romney) would make a much better president.

Wait a minute, Mitt. You missed something. Family: check. Wealth: got it. Gonna be a keen president: right. Wasn't there something else on the resume? Oh, yeah: Mitt Romney served as governor of Massachusetts.

It's weird. Most governors who seek the presidency can't shut up about how great their states are. Right now, there's an even-money chance that Bill Clinton is telling someone that Hope, Ark., produces the biggest, juiciest watermelons in the world. But not Mitt. In the most important speech of his presidential campaign thus far, he ignored the only time he has ever held public office.

That is a mistake. Romney should be defining his record in Massachusetts before his opponents can define it for him. Two days before Romney's kickoff speech, appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Obama strategist David Axelrod began carpet-bombing the Massachusetts record, noting that Romney is touting his business acumen, but also that he did the same when he ran for governor. "He said, 'I'm going to get the economy moving again. I'm a businessman. I know how to create jobs.' [The state] went from 37th in the nation in job creation to 47th in the nation in job creation. So we've tested the Romney acumen when it comes to creating jobs, and he's been found wanting."

Perhaps that's why Romney doesn't dwell on his record as governor. His state really was 47th in job creation, behind only Ohio and Michigan, both of which were being ravaged in the manufacturing meltdown, and Louisiana, which had been devastated by Katrina. Romney even trailed Mississippi and Alabama in job growth, breaking the iron law that Mississippi and Alabama have to be last in pretty much everything except cockfights and kissin' cousins. While the country as a whole enjoyed 5 percent growth, Romney's Massachusetts grew at 0. …