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Don't bet on Mitt Romney winning in Massachusetts

Wednesday - 5/16/2012, 3:36pm  ET

By STEVE PEOPLES and THOMAS BEAUMONT
Associated Press

BELMONT, Mass. (AP) - Don't bet on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney winning his home state or even trying.

"That's not been a topic of discussion," Romney campaign adviser Kevin Madden said when asked if the former Massachusetts governor would compete in the heavily Democratic state.

Aides say there are other ways he can win the White House and deny President Barack Obama a second term without banking on Massachusetts' 11 electoral votes.

That political reality illustrates the degree to which Romney's efforts to curry favor with conservative Republicans in the primaries has alienated the moderate base that launched his political career.

If Romney were lose Massachusetts and still defeat Obama, he would be the first presidential candidate elected without carrying his home state since 1916, when Democratic President Woodrow Wilson retained the White House despite New Jersey's absence from the win column.

In 2000, Democrat Al Gore, who had spent years in Washington as a senator and vice president, fell short of winning Tennessee in his losing White House bid. Other notable home-state losers include Democrats Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota in 1968 and Adlai Stevenson of Illinois in 1952 and 1956. Republicans need to go back to 1936 to find a nominee who didn't carry his home state: Kansas Gov. Alf Landon.

Romney aides argue that it would be a waste of money to run TV ads and compete in a state Obama carried by 25 percentage points in 2008.

Some Massachusetts residents agree, feeling that Romney used the state as a springboard for his national political ambitions. Some seem to resent him for it.

"He doesn't know where he lives," said Mike Egan, a retired independent sitting at a Dunkin' Donuts in Belmont, near Romney's home.

While Romney's permanent address is the home he keeps in this upscale Boston suburb, he spends considerable time, including holidays and vacations, at his homes in California and New Hampshire.

Egan and others say Romney seemed to have his eye on the White House as soon as he arrived at the Massachusetts State House in 2003.

The following year, he made his first trip to Iowa, home of the leadoff presidential caucuses, to speak at the state GOP's fall banquet some weeks before President George W. Bush's re-election.

He would visit Iowa three times in 2005 and nine times in 2006. That year, Romney spent 212 days outside of Massachusetts. One trip included a visit to Iraq and Afghanistan to enhance his international credentials, just as his state grappled with a devastating flood.

"By the time he left, it became clear to everybody that he was committed to national politics," said Massachusetts Republican Sheldon Binder, a retiree who supported Romney, as he sat near Egan.

Republicans had held the governorship for 12 straight years by the time Romney took office in 2003.

Voters were comfortable supporting candidates with right-of-center fiscal profiles. Romney's moderate profile, including support of abortion and gay rights, fit in with other Republicans.

But some in Massachusetts were turned off by what they saw as Romney's effort to project a more conservative profile on hot-button issues, in part to prepare to court socially conservative activists in states such as Iowa that hold early nominating contests in election years.

Romney reversed his position on abortion while in office. After advocating full equality for gay and lesbian couples, he publicly condemned the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision in 2003 to allow gay marriage.

"He's a moderate. He's not a conservative Republican in the true sense of the word," said Matt Walsh, a 36-year-old advertiser from Mansfield who sat with his mother at the doughnut shop. "That's why he played well at first. He won the voters in the middle."

Romney was elected governor with 50 percent of the vote. His approval ratings, while never soaring, topped 50 percent in public opinion polls at times during his one term. But by the October before he left office in 2007, Romney's approval had dipped to 34 percent in a Boston Globe poll.

With Massachusetts apparently out of reach, Romney aides are trying to claim his native Michigan as the campaign's home turf. But while Obama can bank on winning his home state of Illinois, Michigan is no lock for Romney.

Romney, 65, was born in Detroit and grew up nearby in Bloomfield Hills, but hasn't lived in Michigan since he was a teenager. Despite Michigan being viewed as competitive in recent campaigns, no Republican has carried the state since George H. W. Bush in 1988.

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