McCain Opposition File Overstates Romney Not Being a Real Republican

The gist of a recently released opposition research document from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is that the former Massachusetts governor is not a real Republican because some of his centrist positions and alliances with Democrats. Researchers working for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) reportedly authored the file during the 2008 Republican primary.

But some of the claims may simply illustrate a man who is committed to his own ideals, loyal to those around him and perhaps trying to do what is morally right–maybe even by hiring advisers to offer him objective perspectives so that he doesn’t just have people around him who mimic his own views. Among some of the exacerbated criticisms are the following with an alternative counter-point below each allegation:

1. “Romney voted for Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary”

Tsongas was a Senator from Massachusetts, Romney’s own state.

2. “Romney was an independent until deciding to run for the Senate in 1994.”

Mitt Romney’s 1994 bid for U.S. Senate was his first attempt at running for political office. It should be no surprise that he was independent before then since independents make up the majority of Massachusetts voters–some of whom remain non-party affiliated or “unenrolled” so that they can opt to vote in either primary in each election. According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Elections Division online records, in February 1994 there were 418, 298 registered Republicans, 1,283,986 registered Democrats, but 3,174,759 total voters, which leaves 1,471,500 unenrolled voters. Romney was no different than the largest class of Massachusetts voters.

3. “Romney has surrounded himself with policy advisors – like Gregory Mankiw, Vin Weber, Kerry Healey, Bill Weld and more – who do not share his beliefs on key issues.”

Bill Weld was a Republican, but also socially liberal. Romney wanted advisers who would actually enlighten him instead of just parrot his own beliefs.

4. “In Late 2002, Romney Described Himself As ‘Progressive On Social Issues.'”

Not all Republicans have conservative social views. It has been rumored that socially liberal Republicans are on the decline, but Romney’s nomination could potentially help draw in moderates and centrists who are undecided.

5. “Romney Has Made Political Contributions to Democratic Candidates.”

He believed in those candidates. Was Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman wrong to support President George W. Bush and his decision to liberate Iraq?

Romney’s critics always portray him as a flip-flopping closet liberal, but they fail to recognize the inconvenient truth that Massachusetts is one of the most Democratic states in the union. It would be difficult to hire advisers or appoint good people who do not have some history with the Democratic Party. It would also be difficult to win in Massachusetts without being able to relate to some of the more centrist or even liberal positions the general state population has.

The document describes Romney as having “praised Kennedy almost as much as he criticized him” and quotes a November 1994 article in the Christian Science Monitor, which said that “Romney… is socially liberal in the tradition of many Massachusetts Republicans.”