Not to turn this into too Mass-centric a blog, unless Shawn wants to chime in, but: Bill Weld is the real point of comparison for Mitt Romney when you want to evaluate gubernatorial efforts at building the Bay State Republican Party.
Weld was the most popular of the three elected Republican governors the commonwealth had over the last 16 years. (If Jane Swift had tried to run for governor in her own right in 2002, the Democrats would have returned to the corner office four years earlier.) His election in 1990 swept in Republicans in down-ballot races, giving the GOP 16 seats in the state senate (more than enough to sustain a veto) and 40 in the house. Weld was re-elected with 71 percent of the vote and would still have a viable political career if he hadn’t left Massachusetts to embark on a disastrous New York gubernatorial bid.
But, aside from a few good appointments to fill vacant county offices, Weld did very little to build the Massachusetts party. So by the end of his time in office, the numbers in the legislature dwindled and the House delegation became unanimously Democratic. Weld was more interested in building his own career and didn’t want any of his star power tarnished by competitors — such as an upstart 1994 Senate candidate named Mitt Romney.
Romney, by contrast, did make a serious effort to recruit candidates for the legislature in 2004. He raised a record amount of money on their behalf. Romney’s Reformers produced some near-misses but ultimately the GOP’s numbers in the legislature sank even lower. The question is whether Romney adopted a more Weld-like approach to party building after deciding to run for president or whether he decided a more Republican legislature just wasn’t in the cards.
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