Romney explains ’92 vote for Tsongas

By Florian Heinhold

Feb 16, 2007 5:07pm

ABC News’ Jonathan Greenberger Reports: Republican presidential candididate Mitt Romney offered a new explanation today for why he supported a Democrat in 1992.

That year, Romney, then a registered independent, voted for former Sen. Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary.  He told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, in an interview that will air Sunday on "This Week," that his vote was meant as a tactical maneuver aimed at finding the weakest opponent for incumbent President George H.W. Bush.

"In Massachusetts, if you register as an independent, you can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary," said Romney, who until he made an unsuccessful run for Senate in 1994 had spent his adult life as a registered independent. "When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I’d vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican."

But 12 years ago, the Boston Globe reported that Romney was giving a different explanation for his vote for Tsongas. 

"Romney confirmed he voted for former U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas in the state’s 1992 Democratic presidential primary, saying he did so both because Tsongas was from Massachusetts and because he favored his ideas over those of Bill Clinton," the Boston Globe’s Scot Lehigh and Frank Phillips wrote on Feb. 3, 1994. "He added he had been sure the G.O.P. would renominate George Bush, for whom he voted in the fall election."

Romney’s contention that his vote for Tsongas was a vote for the weakest opponent for Bush – a phenomenon that political scientists refer to as "raiding" – surprised Professor William Mayer of Northeastern University in Boston.

"That would have been a strange election to have done that in, in the sense that Paul Tsongas was obviously going to carry his home state" of Massachusetts, said Mayer. Tsongas won the Massachusetts primary with 66 percent of the vote.

While statistical evidence of "raiding" is hard to come by, Mayer said most political scientists believe it is rare, since typically only 3 to 4 percent of voters in a Republican primary are actually Democrats, and vice versa.  It is rarer still, he said, for an independent, as Romney was, to "raid": "If you’re so determined to help George Bush in 92 that you’re willing to vote for Paul Tsongas, it probably means you weren’t an independent."

Romney has previously come under fire for donating to a series of Democratic candidates in the 1992 election, including then-Congressmen Dick Swett, D-N.H., and John LaFalce, D-N.Y.

For the full interview with Romney, tune in to "This Week" on Sunday. 

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