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State House Roundup: Romney 2.0

If Mitt Romney is writing thank you cards today, one should be addressed to the Cambridge home of Elizabeth Warren.

Without Warren, what would Republicans have latched on to in Tampa as their partisan rallying cry? "No, you didn't?"

President Obama trail-tested his 2008 "Yes, we can" slogan with Gov. Deval Patrick first, and Patrick rode "Together We Can" all the way to the State House. Now that Obama has picked up on Warren's populist message that no one builds a business without some government help, David Axelrod must be wondering somewhere in Chicago if he jumped the gun.

Elizabeth Warren was asked some weeks ago if she regretted making those remarks, which were uploaded to the Internet by an eager supporter early in her campaign and sparked a great deal of enthusiasm for her campaign as she started to clear the primary field. It hasn't had quite the same effect for Obama.

"Nobody showed up in their place to open the door at five in the morning. Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them. After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn't help to hear from their president that government gets the credit. What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that," said U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, talking about small business owners, during his acceptance speech Wednesday night on day two of the Republican National Convention.

And on and on. The "We built it" theme was as ubiquitous in Tampa this week as Romney grandchildren. And the MassGOP delegation had a front seat for it all. Their hotel, also home to Romney headquarters, was like Grand Central for V.I.P. conventioneers. Front row forum seats, credentials for a Thursday after-party with the Romney brain trust. All part of the package.

Massachusetts has produced its fair share of White House candidates, but the last time one of those men was a Republican was when Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. ran as Richard Nixon's running mate in the 1960 election.

So when former Gov. Romney accepted the GOP nomination for president in Tampa on Thursday night, it's not hard to imagine why a bunch of Bay State Republicans were looking on with unfamiliar pride. Someone finally made it out of the deep blue wilderness, and that was cause for celebration - hexagenarian Ron Kaufman at a Kid Rock concert type of celebration.

If Romney's goal coming out of the convention was to reintroduce himself to America, those in Tampa were declaring mission accomplished. With a speech equal parts personal, critical of Obama and aspirational, Romney showed a side of himself that Massachusetts Republicans who know him said has been lacking on the trail, but always just below the surface.

Not counting the late start to the convention forced by Tropical Storm Isaac, the only other major hiccup of the week came from RNC mystery guest Clint Eastwood, who performed a rambling comedy bit with an invisible Obama on stage. He got a huge ovation. But the earlier introduction of Winthrop's own Mike Eruzione to "USA, USA" chants had a similar - and less awkward - effect.

To say it's extremely unlikely that Romney will win his home state (Massachusetts) in November would be generous. But the delegation in Tampa had another mission. "We can be the truth tellers here," Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey told them on the first day of the festivities.

Not so curiously absent from the talking points was Romney's signature achievement in Massachusetts: health care reform. The most Romney himself did to broach the topic was promising to "repeal and replace" ObamaCare. That appeared enough to satisfy GOP delegates who've finished comparing candidates and are now sizing up Obama.

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's late arrival in Tampa came with a nugget of news that shocked no one. He was, in fact, offered a speaking role at the RNC and turned it down to focus on his race at home. Between Romney, Brown and Richard Tisei, the MassGOP was clearly back on the national map in Tampa.

With the Democratic National Convention on tap for next week in Charlotte, the current Gov. Patrick was tying up some loose ends of his own. Transportation finance reform next session is poised to become the next casino gaming, or the next gay marriage, and Patrick is readying the troops.

The governor asked all of the MassDOT board members to reapply for their positions, an apparent indication that he's not happy with the direction and prepared to make some changes.

As bureaucrats glided into Labor Day weekend, revelations of widespread mishandling of drug evidence at a state crime lab presented itself as another big issue to watch. The State Police Superintendent warned problems could have caused wrongful convictions and "miscarriages of justice." The state's Jamaica Plain crime lab was closed and state officials declined to delve too deeply into investigation details, other than to flag its serious implications.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Welcomed Massachusetts Republicans finally got to feel what it's like to be the center of attention. And they wore it well.

This program aired on August 31, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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