STILL, THERE’S no question that O’Brien demonstrated a lack of political savvy by inviting Gore to Massachusetts — especially when Kerry, a serious 2004 challenger to Bush, is already here. The point of Gore’s visit, of course, was to raise money for her campaign. But she didn’t collect enough to make up for the grief she’s gotten for hanging out with Gore. The former vice-president raised approximately $100,000, less than 10 percent of the money Bush raised for Romney through the Republican Party (roughly $900,000, plus $350,000 from the Republican Governors Association). And it’s much less than the $1 million former president Bill Clinton is expected to raise for O’Brien October 10. O’Brien probably would have done better simply to take the high road on the Iraq question and decline to comment on it while sticking to the issues relevant to the state governor’s race.
That said, Massachusetts voters didn’t need the spectacle of the Romney camp’s ham-fisted interpretation of Gore’s visit to make up their own minds about O’Brien’s association with the former vice-president. The paltry amount raised by his visit speaks for itself. But so does Romney’s appropriation of Todd Beamer’s last words to drum up support for tax cuts. The gubernatorial candidate may be rightly proud of the stirring moment that occurred earlier this year when he and Bush solemnly stood together as part of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony. Romney, to be sure, played an important role in a high-profile event that buoyed American spirits in the wake of the September 11 attacks. That’s on the record; almost everyone knows it, and a TV spot showing some of this footage would be entirely legitimate. But that service — and Romney’s support for, and even personal friendship with, Bush — does not justify a slur on his Democratic opponent for governor simply because she campaigned with Gore. Romney has the résumé and experience to be above all that. Why wasn’t he this week?
Seth Gitell can be reached at sgitell[a]phx.com.