CHARLOTTE—Since 1980, three Massachusettians have run for president—Mitt Romney, John Kerry and Michael Dukakis. Romney is not at the Democratic National Convention, obviously, and Kerry is somewhere away from the main floor. But Dukakis was mulling around the downstairs press area, talking to reporters and prepping for a radio show.
We talked for a bit about Mitt Romney, who, it seems now, has a good chance of joining the small club of losing, Massachusetts-based presidential candidates. When it came to Romney’s chances in November, though, Dukakis was much more bullish than other Democrats I’ve spoken to. “Don’t kid yourself, this is a tough race. Any time the economy is less than optimal, the incumbent is going to be in trouble—no matter who they are or what their ideology is.”
But as a challenger, he said, Romney has a unique weakness—his record as governor of Massachusetts. “On the other hand, we saw Romney in action for four years—at least when he showed up. When it came to economic growth and job creation, he was a big zero,” explained Dukakis. “I think that is a story the campaign needs to get to every single American voter. If it does, this race is over. Because the only thing this guy has going for him is I’m a business guy, I can fix the economy.”
It should be said that, for a few weeks this summer, that was Team Obama’s game plan. The Obama campaign ran several ads attacking Romney’s record in Massachusetts, hoping to nullify the assumption of Romney's "competence" that is the foundation of his pitch. It’s hard to say if this worked; it didn’t last long, and was quickly overshadowed by attacks on Bain Capital and scrutiny over Romney’s tax returns.
“Romney didn’t create jobs in Massachusetts” sounds like a strong argument but my guess is that it wasn’t—and isn’t—enough to make some voters question Mitt’s claim that he'll do a good job on the economy.