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The Romney Dilemma

Mitt Romney has boasted that Massachusetts received an upgrade from S&P during his governorship. Ben Smith and Jonathan Weisman report that Romney's pitch to S&P boasted of tax hikes his predecessor had just signed. Weisman:

Documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal Wednesday through the Freedom of Information Act show the Romney administration’s pitch to S&P in late 2004included the boast that “The Commonwealth acted decisively to address the fiscal crisis” that ensued after the terrorist attacks of 2001. Bulleted PowerPoint slides laid out the actions taken, including legislation in July 2002 to increase tax revenue by $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion in fiscal 2003 and $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion in fiscal 2004; tax “loophole” legislation that added $269 million in “additional recurring revenue,” and tax amnesty legislation that added $174 million. The final bullet: “FY04 budget increased fees to raise $271 million yearly.”
The efforts contradict the position that Mr. Romney took during the federal government’s crisis over raising the statutory limit on federal borrowing, in which he said the debt ceiling should only be increased if federal spending was first cut, then capped, and a balanced budget amendment was passed by Congress. The Republican presidential front-runner ruled out tax increases, as Mr. Obama pressed for “loophole closures” of his own.
The presentation also laid out other steps that restrained spending increases, although spending was projected to rise above fiscal 2004 levels by 5.8% in fiscal 2005, according to the presentation.

Most people's first reaction to this is as a political story -- it's another way in which Romney has run afoul of party orthodoxy. But the policy implications are interesting as well. Romney was a good governor. He was a good governor because he did things that the national Republican Party won't let you do -- provide universal health coverage, and conduct balanced fiscal policy. Now, frequently governors will run for national office by boasting of accomplishments that are orthogonal to the national policy debate. Here Romney has done things that are completely diametrical to party orthodoxy. It makes it pretty hard to figure out how he would like to govern if not for the political constraints he'd face, let alone how he actually would govern given his need to hold together his base. I still think Republicans won't give him the chance to win the nomination.