The 'Moderate' Skeletons in Mitt Romney's Past

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks to a television interview following a campaign appearance at the Family Table restaurant, Jan. 1, 2012, in Atlantic, Iowa. Michael Douglas plays Gordon Gekko in Wall
AP Photo/20th Century Fox

Mitt Republican presidential rivals have ramping up their attacks on the former Massachusetts governor's more moderate past, as the GOP's quest for a conservative alternative becomes an ever-dwindling pursuit.

Rick Santorum said last week on Fox News that Romney's record as governor is "deplorable" and "not conservative." Rick Perry deemed his fellow governor a "conservative of convenience." And Newt Gingrich released three ads labeling Romney a "Massachusetts moderate."

"To the core constituencies [Romney] is trying to appeal to, it's a dirty word," Thomas Whalen, a political historian at Boston College, said of the "moderate" label. "It is something of an albatross to hang around him."

With the primary in South Carolina, a heavily conservative state, four days away, here's a look at some of the more middle-of-the-road positions Romney has taken since he served as Massachusetts governor.

Health Care

Three years after moving into the Massachusetts state house, Romney helped usher in the most sweeping overhaul of the state's health care system in recent history. The 2007 law requires all residents to buy health insurance, all employers to pay a portion of their workers' health costs and creates a state exchange that offers subsidized plans for people who cannot afford insurance.

This individual mandate is nearly identical to the one that has been at the root of Republican discontent with President Obama's health care law. Obama claims the Massachusetts law is the "exact same thing" as his national health care fix, but Romney claims his legislation was a "state solution to a state problem" that does not work on the national level.

Regardless of its national application, in the three years after the Massachusetts law was enacted in 2007, the percentage of people without health insurance fell 4 percentage points, from 9 percent in 2001 through 2005 to 5 percent by 2009. Massachusetts now has the lowest rate of uninsured people in the country.

But such near-universal insurance has not come without a cost. The price of premiums in Massachusetts increased nearly twice as rapidly as the national average in 2009.

Nevertheless, Romney has gone through the primary race virtually unscathed by his Democrat-supported health care overhaul.

Taxes

In an election where the economy reigns supreme, Romney's record on taxes comes in slightly to the left of some of his anti-increased revenue rivals such as Rep. Ron Paul. As Massachusetts governor, Romney managed to lower the state income tax rate ever so slightly from 5.6 percent when he took office in 2003 to 5.3 percent when he handed over the reins in 2007.

But that does not mean Romney did not increase state revenues. Facing a budget shortfall in 2004, Romney decided to raise state fees, and thereby increase revenues by $271 million annually, to supplement budget cuts, an option many Tea Partiers have denounced on the national level.

Climate Change

Now that Jon Huntsman has dropped out, Romney is the only Republican candidate who believes climate change is real and that human activities contribute to global warming.

Rick Santorum told Rush Limbaugh in June that climate change was "patently absurd," Rick Perry said in August that global warming is a "scientific theory that has not been proven," Ron Paul wants to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and Newt Gingrich claims there is no "compelling evidence" to prove or disprove climate change.

In 2004, one year into his governorship, Romney supported a climate protection plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent before 2012. He later pulled his state out of a similar multi-state pact in 2006 that aimed to reduce emissions, saying that it would cost too much.

Abortion

While Romney's position on abortion is far from moderate, his past statements on the topic lean significantly more toward the middle of the aisle.

While running for governor in 2002, Romney said he "will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose." But once elected, Romney said he was anti-abortion and vetoed a bill that would have expanded access to emergency contraception.

At a campaign stop in Greer, S.C., last week, Romney reasserted his stance, saying that "it was very highly publicized in New England and particularly in the Boston papers and the Boston stations that I became pro-life, described why I became pro-life."

The Gingrich campaign has hit the South Carolina airwaves with a 30-second ad attacking Romney for governing "pro-abortion."

"What happened after Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney changed his pro-abortion position to pro-life? He governed pro-abortion," the ad's female narrator says.

"He can't be trusted."

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