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Bay State of mind (continued)

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It doesn’t look all that different from his site during the 2004 presidential campaign. Slap a "2008" logo on it and he’s good to go.

Mitt Romney 2008

The governor is too discreet to have his own presidential-campaign Web site this early. But you can buy a campaign button.

Polling the presidency

No, it’s not too early. Well, actually, it is, but PollingReport.com is tracking the 2008 race anyway.

David Yepsen

Iowa’s premier political reporter will be following the comings and goings of Kerry, Romney, and the other 57 presidential candidates in the first caucus state. Just enter "Yepsen" in the search box.


All the links, plus plenty of original content, on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary. Mostly local stuff right now.

OF COURSE, the question of whether Kerry and Romney will be taken seriously or not depends very much on whom they’re competing against. As political observers are fond of pointing out, 2008 will be the most wide-open presidential campaign since 1952, with not even a sitting vice-president seeking to move up. Hillary Clinton seems to be everyone’s consensus pick as the Democratic frontrunner, but who knows if she’ll even run? And if she does, it’s hard to imagine her turning any of 2004’s red states blue. Other candidates who get mentioned — Vilsack, John Edwards, and Indiana senator Evan Bayh — lack Kerry’s stature at this point, though they have geographic advantages that Kerry does not.

As for the Republicans, the two best-known possible candidates — Arizona senator John McCain and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani — are moderates who are well to the left of Romney, and who presumably would have a difficult time in the primaries, especially in the South. In 2000, McCain blitzed Bush in libertarian New Hampshire, but faded badly after that. On the other hand, Romney himself is slightly to the left of Republican conservatives who are thought to be contemplating a campaign, including Senate majority leader Frist, Virginia senator Allen, and Kansas senator Sam Brownback. McCain and Frist will presumably both be in some trouble with the Republican right — McCain for helping to broker the compromise announced by 14 moderate senators this week that will preserve the judicial filibuster and prevent the so-called nuclear option from taking place (although his role should enhance his stature with the general public), and Frist for failing to implement the nuclear option in the first place. That puts Romney in the middle, leaning right — perhaps not a bad place to be. Thus, whatever else you may think of Romney and Kerry, their candidacies seem plausible, at least, when stacked up against the likely competition.

To invoke Giuliani and Allen is to raise yet another possibility — that Massachusetts will be one of three states to field two presidential candidates. In Virginia, not only Allen but also Democratic governor Mark Warner are thought to be considering a run. In New York, of course, the prospect of a Hillary Clinton–Rudy Giuliani race would place the Kerry-Romney scenario on the coolest of back burners. "The New York tabloids would go nuts," says CNN political analyst Bill Schneider.

At this point, though, Massachusetts seems the most likely state to produce two presidential candidates — something that could help give both Romney and Kerry a boost. "It would obviously be unusual," says Los Angeles Times political reporter Ron Brownstein. "Having said that, if both of them run, it would be a fascinating subplot." Moreover, in a multi-candidate field, Brownstein suggests that the Massachusetts hopefuls could capture the attention of the public and the media by staging one-on-one debates during the primaries.

ODDLY ENOUGH, James Pindell, managing editor of the online political dope sheet PoliticsNH.com, is worried that strong showings by both Romney and Kerry in the Granite State could spur efforts to do away with the New Hampshire primary. "If both parties go for a Massachusetts person, that is pretty much the death knell of the New Hampshire primary," he says, because it would feed into "this whole idea that it’s provincial — that it supports regional candidates" rather than "the best and most electable candidates." Of course, that would be true only if Kerry and/or Romney were to fizzle after winning New Hampshire; if they rolled to the nomination, then the Granite State would be hailed as a font of popular wisdom.

Here’s another oddity: Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi points out that if Kerry and Romney run, they’ll both be campaigning against Massachusetts. "Romney’s made it quite clear that his platform is ‘I may be the governor of Massachusetts, but I don’t think like those people do,’" Vennochi says. "Kerry again will have to prove the notion that he’s not a crazy Massachusetts liberal. He’s going to flat-out distance himself from any notion that he’s one of us." Well, now. So much for the idea of home-state pride.

And if they do beat the odds and win their parties’ respective presidential nominations? Boston Herald columnist Wayne Woodlief is already prepared to predict the outcome. "If that 1000-to-one should come about, and Kerry should be the Democratic nominee and Mitt the Republican, I think Kerry might win Massachusetts, but Mitt the presidency," says Woodlief. "That would be the nightmare scenario for Kerry, I think."

But there’s another way of thinking about this, too. For a while last year, it looked like there was a good possibility that the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs would meet in the World Series. What a match-up: the American League team that hadn’t won since 1918 against the National League team that hadn’t won since 1908. It would have been so cosmically perfect that it’s too bad the Cubs faded. On the political front, though, there’s still hope.

"It would be interesting to have a two-Massachusetts-politician race, because it’s become such a truism to the national media that a politician from Massachusetts cannot be elected president," says Timothy Noah, a columnist for Slate. "If it were a race between Romney and Kerry, that truism would be changed to someone from Massachusetts must be elected president."

Dan Kennedy can be reached at dkennedy[a]phx.com. Read his Media Log at BostonPhoenix.com.

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Issue Date: May 27 - June 2, 2005
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