Missing Moderate Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney.Getty Images/file 2012

Occasionally you read something about someone you haven’t seen in a long while and it brings back fond memories. Such was the case the other day when I saw mention of my old moderate friend Mitt Romney.

Some of you may say: What are you talking about? Romney hasn’t disappeared since losing his 2012 presidential bid. No indeed. Mitt pops his head up every few months, perhaps to remind people that he’s around, just in case, say, a certain political party needs rescuing the way the Winter Olympics did a decade and a half ago.

But Moderate Mitt pretty much vanished when, early in his term as governor, Romney developed a severe case of Potomac Fever and decided he needed to remake himself into a rooting, tooting, rodent-shooting conservative. And yet, there MM was last week, being gracious and honest in an obituary for his friend Tom Stemberg, founder of Staples.


“Without Tom pushing it, I don’t think we would have had Romneycare,” Moderate Mitt observed. “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare. So without Tom, a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.”

Notice that Moderate Mitt seemed to think it a good thing that more people have coverage. Now, Conservatively Correct Mitt quickly intervened, noting on Facebook that he still wants to repeal Obamacare.

Still, the brief reappearance of MM got me thinking: What if, during his two-campaign quest for the presidency, Moderate Mitt’s reasonable instincts had prevailed?

Remember when Barack Obama adopted an individual mandate as the centerpiece of Obamacare and all the Republicans who had previously liked the idea did an abrupt about-face, just like those little fish at the New England Aquarium do when you press the button that changes the direction of the current in their tank? What if Mitt had said: “Jeepers Creepers, guys, Obamacare is really a victory for us, too. It’s based on private insurance and an individual mandate, like what Senate Republicans offered as an alternative to Hillarycare in the 1990s. So let’s mend it, not end it.”


And what if, when Fox News’s Bret Baier asked which candidates would reject a budget deal that got $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes, Romney hadn’t joined the GOP herd in rushing rightward? Maybe, as a late-developing Ronald Reagan fan, he could have said: “Gee whiz, the Gipper would have taken that deal in a heartbeat, and so will the Mipper!”

And what if the guy who told gay and lesbian voters in 1994 that he’d be better than Ted Kennedy on gay rights issues had responded this way when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its landmark 2003 gay marriage ruling?

“A court appointed mostly by Republican governors said our state’s constitution requires equal marriage rights. How in H-E double hockey sticks can a proud member of the party of Lincoln fight to take those rights away?”

Sure, all of that would have annoyed the right wing, but maybe Moderate Mitt could have helped steer the GOP back toward the middle. Certainly he would have had more appeal in the general election.

Ah, you may say, but then he would have faced a truly heated battle for the GOP nomination. Why, he might never have won it at all, and then he would never have had a chance to be elected president.

And maybe you have a point.

Why, then all he’d be today is just another disappointed presidential hopeful — albeit one admired for his backbone and independence.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.