The pups up here on the 13th floor are too young to remember the post-Watergate bumper sticker, "Don't Blame Me, I'm From Massachusetts." Massachusetts, you see, was the only state that didn't support Richard M. Nixon's 1972 re-election bid.
But everyone understands that Massachusetts is the bluest of blue states, the home both to Kennedys and gay marriages. That's what has made Republican Governor Mitt Romney's presidential hopes interesting to think about.
Democrats have had a lock on the Northeast in recent presidential elections, but Romney promises to pick that lock. Republicans, after all, govern New York and five of the six New England states (CORRECTION BELOW IN COMMENTS SECTION). They've done that by appealing to moderates and taking a soft stand on social issues.
But Romney is presenting a different face in the early-primary states, assuring GOP faithful in places like Iowa and South Carolina that he stands with them against Massachusetts heresies such as gay marriage and stem-cell research. But this road leads to some uncomfortable contortions.
Romney is the latest of a surprisingly long series of Republicans who have governed Massachusetts. No Democrat has been hired for the job since -- yikes! -- Michael Dukakis back in the eighties. The Welds and Celluccis have tried hard to play well with the dominant Democratic establishment, yet still had their problems.
Romney, by contrast, has been consistently confrontational against Democrats. Voters punished this behavior last year by stripping the legislature of some of the few Republicans they'd previously let in.
Now the governor is going around the country and putting distance not only between himself and his state's policies, but his state as well. Most politicians seeking federal office brag about their desire to bring "Texas values" or "Virginia values" to Washington, but Romney has been openly mocking his adopted home state, making remarks like, "Being a conservative Republican in Massachusetts is a bit like being a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention."
As the Washington Post reports, such statements have not exactly endeared him back home at vegetarian convention headquarters. And the fact remains that Romney's first job is to woo those same voters next year when he's up for re-election as governor. If he can't get re-elected as top Republican in Massachusetts, he'll never be the pick of his party nationwide.