There’s a traditional model for presidential candidates when it comes to their pre-announcement career trajectory. It’s pretty straightforward: an official gets elected to a prominent office, he/she does well, his/her constituents are impressed, and the official parlays that success into a national campaign.
In recent decades, this is the path Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Reagan all took from statewide office to the White House. It’s always fascinated me how poorly Mitt Romney fits this model.
He was governor from 2003 to 2007, and as Edward Mason and Tom Mashberg explained the other day, Romney failed to impress much of anyone.
“His favorability was basically a straight line down from his honeymoon,” said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center and a longtime Massachusetts pollster. “Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt.” […]
Romney entered the Massachusetts State House in January 2003 with a flashy favorability rating of 61 percent…. By November 2004, voters were souring, and a Suffolk poll found his favorable rating had dropped to 47 percent.
A year later, that rating sank another 14 points. Just 33 percent of Bay State voters had a favorable opinion of Romney in 2005, according to Suffolk, while 49 percent were unfavorable.
Things did not improve in 2006, when Suffolk found that his unfavorable rating had risen to 55 percent while his favorable remained stagnant.
By November 2006, as he closed out his increasingly absentee term, his overall job approval rating had cratered to 36 percent.
Thomas Whalen, a Boston University political science professor, put it this way: “To know Mitt Romney is to dislike him. That is the moral of the story.”
Maybe he looks better in hindsight? No, Romney’s former constituents still don’t like him and still don’t want him to be president.
Maybe it’s because he was a GOP governor in a reliably “blue” state? No, Massachusetts has had plenty of modern Republican governors — Weld, Cellucci, Swift — and all were more popular with their Bay State constituents than Romney.
This is all generally overlooked, which is a shame because it seems pretty important. We’re talking about a politician who’s held public office just once, for a grand total of four years. During that one term, his constituents got a good look at his leadership, and came to actively dislike him.
Romney looked at this and thought, “Hey, now I’m ready for a promotion to the White House!”
This really ought to come up on the campaign trail more often. Here’s the sample question reporters can ask Romney: why were you so woefully unpopular with your own constituents when voters gave you a chance to lead?
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