Republican challenger Mitt Romney speaks in the first presidential debate… (Rick Wilkin / AFP / Getty…)
Mitt Romney has long relegated his record as governor of Massachusetts to the bottom tier of topics that he brings up in his campaign for president.
But in his first debate with President Obama, the Republican nominee highlighted his leadership of Massachusetts on healthcare, education and taxes, framing his one term as governor, from 2003 to 2007, as a model for moderation in Washington at a time when Obama is portraying him as beholden to his party’s right wing.
Romney has barely mentioned his stint as governor in his campaign advertising and rarely talks about it in public remarks. He has fought especially hard to avoid the subject of the landmark healthcare law that he signed as governor, lest he remind conservatives of its close resemblance to Obama’s healthcare overhaul.
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So it was all the more noteworthy that Romney used the high-profile forum of a nationally televised presidential debate to contrast his work with Democrats on the Massachusetts healthcare law to Obama’s party-line passage of the Affordable Care Act.
“I like the fact that in my state, we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together,” Romney told the president. “What you did instead was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote.”
Instead of bringing the country together, Romney added, “you pushed through something that you and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid thought was the best answer and drove it through. What we did, in a legislature 87% Democrat, we worked together. Two hundred legislators in my legislature -- only two voted against the plan by the time we were finished.”
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In defending his own plan, Obama validated part of Romney’s point, saying “the irony is that we've seen this model work really well in Massachusetts, because Gov. Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model. And as a consequence, people are covered there. It hasn't destroyed jobs.”
Obama suggested Massachusetts could be a model for the nation. “And I agree that the Democratic legislators in Massachusetts might have given some advice to Republicans in Congress about how to cooperate, but the fact of the matter is, we used the same advisors, and they say it's the same plan,” he said.
On education, Romney said Massachusetts schools were ranked No. 1 in the country. He also took credit for cutting taxes 19 times as governor. Romney did not mention that he also increased corporate taxes and state fees by $750 million a year, outstripping his tax cuts.
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