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Popular Mass. governor to skip re-election bid

Massachusetts's Republican governor, Mitt Romney, announced Wednesday he will not seek re-election next year, and analysts believe that presidential ambitions may be behind his decision.
/ Source: The Associated Press

After earning two Harvard degrees, making millions as a businessman and turning around a scandal-plagued Winter Olympics, some political analysts say Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has created quite a list of accomplishments.

Those analysts believe the Republican announced Wednesday he will not to seek re-election next year because he did not want to risk tarnishing his resume if he decides to run for president in 2008.

By forgoing a second term, he will allow himself to campaign unimpeded for the presidency should he so choose, and not subject himself to the political whims of the heavily Democratic state in the run-up to the next presidential election.

“I don’t think he had a choice if he was serious about running for the nomination in ’07 or ’08,” said Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 GOP presidential campaign.

Stuart Rothenberg, an independent political analyst in Washington, had a similar assessment.

“He doesn’t want to run for re-election because he could possibly get beat,” Rothenberg said. “And he doesn’t want to run for re-election because he could possibly win, and then have to turn around and start running for president immediately. This allows him to leave with his record intact and turn his focus to the next challenge.”

Impressive accomplishments
Romney said he had been successful in closing a $3 billion budget deficit without raising taxes; presiding over public schools that recently scored first in national math and science tests; and reaching the cusp of a comprehensive overhaul of health insurance in Massachusetts.

“My decision comes down to this: In this four-year term, we can accomplish what I set out to do. In fact, we’ve already accomplished a great deal,” he said.

Democrats, though, pounced on Wednesday’s announcement, accusing Romney of abandoning the state.

“For the past 16 years of Republican rule in this state there hasn’t been one Republican governor with any long-term commitment to Massachusetts,” said Phil Johnston, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

The news was not a complete surprise since Romney declared earlier this year that he was “testing the waters” for a White House run. He said Wednesday only that the decision was “down the road” and “a lifetime away.”

He has spent considerable time traveling to early voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, and has sprinkled campaign cash across the country from a so-called leadership PAC used by presidential aspirants.

He also has distanced himself from the liberal political culture in Massachusetts, vetoing a bill to expand emergency contraception, and campaigning against a 2003 ruling by the Massachusetts’ highest court that made the state the first in the nation to allow same-sex couples to wed.

'Red speck in a blue state'
Romney, 58, is the son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney, who ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1968. Mitt Romney received his B.A. in 1971 from Brigham Young University, dual degrees in 1975 from Harvard Business and Law schools, and went on to found a Boston venture capital firm before running the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

His only major failing was an unsuccessful campaign against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., in 1994.

In an October speech to a Washington think tank, Romney cast himself as “a red speck in a blue state,” one of similar comments across the country that have been viewed as disparaging to Massachusetts, land of the Kennedys and two failed Democratic presidential candidates.

Should he run for president, Romney will need to break through a pack of more prominent Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.