Romney’s 800 Vetoes Shatter His Bipartisan Myth

In the first presidential debate, Governor Mitt Romney claimed he had a bipartisan record as Governor, but history tells another story. In 2006, his last year as Massachusetts’ Governor (in which he was absent more than half of the year), Romney issued 250 vetoes, all of which were overturned by what the Romney camp dubbed a “hostile” legislature. It’s not just Democrats who didn’t get along with Romney, though.

Most of Romney’s vetoes were overturned, sometimes unanimously. Romney used the vetoes to claim he was a budget hawk, but in addition to his budget vetoes, he also vetoed a bill to raise the minimum wage, a stem cell bill and a bill to make the morning after pill available over the counter, among others. All were overridden. The Concord Monitor, observing Romney’s “frosty relations with legislators” noted in 2007 that this, “effectively remov(ed) Romney from the final stage of the state’s budget process.”

At the first Presidential debate, Romney said, “I figured out from Day 1 I had to get along, and I had to work across the aisle to get anything done.” But Romney liked vetoes so much, he used his vetoes in an ad titled “I like vetoes” during his 2008 run. Watch here:

In the ad in which Romney tells us how much he likes vetoes, and he ends by saying, “I can’t wait to get my hands on Washington.” These are not the words of someone who is bipartisan, but they are also not the words of someone who understands the power of the Presidency. Unlike a Massachusetts governor, the President can’t line-item veto.

Vetoes don’t scream bipartisanship, and Romney had so many of them that it’s obvious he was on bad terms with the legislators from both parties as Governor. All told, Romney issued 800 vetoes in his one term as Governor. 800. Nearly all of them were overridden – 707 to be exact. Romney doesn’t mention that part in his “I like vetoes” ad.

In fact, Romney didn’t like having to work with Democrats so much that he spent his first two years trying to change the party makeup of the legislature and when those efforts failed, he pulled a Palin. That is to say, he gave up. He was gone – out of state – for 212 days of his last year.

Romney was never around for the last two years of his governorship. A March 2005 poll found that only 32 percent felt Romney should be re-elected if he ran for a second term as governor. It got worse. In 2006, Romney spent 212 days out of state, campaigning.

A Republican grumbled that Romney was never there:

“He was basically never here,” says Kilduff, a Republican who says she was annoyed when Romney poked fun at Massachusetts and also when he swooped in to take over the Big Dig project after a woman was killed in a tunnel accident.
“I don’t think anyone should be micromanaging when they’re not here.”

Romney told the Boston Globe that he was giving up on party building, “From now on, it’s me-me-me.”

Jim Rappaport, a former chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, told The Concord Monitor that Romney “likes vetoes, but most of his were inconsequential. They were like writing in the sand: The waves came in and wiped them out.”

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom claimed in 2008 that this was due to the hostile makeup of the legislature, assuring the people that things would be different in DC because the legislature would be more “balanced” there. However, it looks likely that Romney would be facing a Democratic Senate if he does take the White House.

A Massachusetts political scientist noted “Romney’s veto record reflects his strained relationship with lawmakers.”

A Republican state representative said that Romney had a tough time dealing with the legislature, especially in his first year, because he was used to giving orders as an executive, rather than working with people to reach a consensus. Republican George Peterson said, “He was used to being a top executive, ‘and this is where we’re going, and this is how we’re going to do it.’ And this animal [the state Legislature] doesn’t work that way. Not at all. Especially when it’s overwhelmingly ruled by one party.”

Mitt Romney’s approval as governor tanked until 65 percent of residents disapproved of his job performance in 2006. It bounced back up as he left (not a good sign), to a whopping 59 percent unfavorable.

Obama is leading Romney by a wide margin in Massachusetts. Not since 1916 has a candidate lost his home state and won the White House. The only saving grace for Romney is that while he is also losing his other home states of Michigan (where he grew up) and California, he has had residences in several other states that he could ostensibly call home, although certainly the folks in Massachusetts and Michigan know him best.

In contrast, President Obama has issued 2 vetoes in four years with 111 pocket vetoes. (A pocket veto occurs when the President doesn’t sign a bill within the 10 days allotted. It then becomes law without his signature if Congress is in session.) Who’s going to reach across the aisle again? But if the vetoes don’t tell the story, the story of the “Imperial Governor” is told by the ropes denying access to his office and the hijacked elevator (just for Mitt) do. “Mitt is always the star,” said one Massachusetts Republican to Vanity Fair. “And everybody else is a bit player.”

So dies yet another Mitt-perpetuated myth about Romney.

Additional Sources: Phillips, Frank (March 11, 2005). “Poll shows Romney bid for president faces hurdles, The Boston Globe. Wangsness, Lisa (December 26, 2006). “Voters voice regard, regret over Romney – Huge potential unment, some say”. The Boston Globe.

Update 7:18PM: Corrected “raise” for “wage” in second paragraph.

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