MITT'S ANTI-FAMILY APPEAL. Q: What's the difference between Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney? A: Hatch is the liberal. Check out this morning's Salt Lake Tribune, in which the Utah senator and Calvin Coolidge look-alike explains his support for embryonic-stem-cell research. Romney, of course, has come out against such research as he moves forward with his campaign for president and against the people of Massachusetts.
But the surest sign that Romney has decided not to run for re-election as governor in 2006 is his increasingly strident rhetoric about same-sex marriage, and even civil unions. It's true that Romney has never favored either one. But last spring, when the issue was being hashed out on Beacon Hill, Romney could have played a significant obstructionist role and chose not to. Good for him. Now, though, he's re-inventing himself as the Mormon version of James Dobson, and it's unattractive, to say the least.
Today, both the Globe and the Herald report on Romney's remarks in Salt Lake City yesterday, in which he called the Goodridge decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which legalized gay marriage, as a "blow to the family," and said: "America cannot continue to lead the family of nations around the world if we suffer the collapse of the family here at home." Ugh.
Julie and Hillary Goodridge immediately came forward and read a statement making the common-sense observation that gay marriage has made it a lot easier for some families to attain the recognition and equality they deserve. But Romney was clearly not directing his remarks at the home-state audience. Rather, he's trying to appeal to the hardcore right-wingers who control the presidential nominating process in the Republican Party.
I believe it was Globe columnist Scot Lehigh a couple of years ago who first noted the phenomenon of Romney campaigning against the very state he purportedly governs. Still, until this past week, I had thought Romney would seek re-election in 2006, since a big win would probably stand as his surest credentials for a presidential run. Now it seems pretty obvious that he's decided otherwise.
By campaigning against gay and lesbian families, Romney is hurting himself with the suburban independents who elected him in 2002. If you took a survey of these people, they might tell you they don't like the idea of gay marriage, although they'd probably support civil unions. But that's not really the point. This is all about tone. Most people have a gay child or sibling or co-worker or three. And whether they love the idea of same-sex marriage or not, they're not going to like the idea of the governor they voted for publicly trashing their family members and friends.
Gay marriage has been legal for almost a year now, and the sky hasn't fallen in. By all indications, Massachusetts is becoming increasingly comfortable with it. And now Romney wants to drag us backwards. It might wow them in South Carolina and Utah, but it's not going to wow anyone here (nor, I suspect, in notoriously libertarian New Hampshire in '08).
So, see ya, Mitt. And here's a distinctly minority point of view: if Romney leaves early and Kerry Healey gets to become governor, she's going to make folks forget her predecessor in about two weeks. (I mean that in a good way.)