Mitt Romney: From Social Moderate To All-Around Conservative

Download Audio
How does GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney differ from Gov. Mitt Romney? (AP)
How does GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney differ from Gov. Mitt Romney? (AP)

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has come a long way politically since his days as governor of Massachusetts. He’s transformed from a social moderate who supported a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion and helped pass a health care reform bill — to a more conservative Republican candidate.

The Massachusetts delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention, who’ve watched Romney’s evolution, say they aren’t bothered by his conservative platform and ticket.

Delegate Barbara McCoy doesn’t think he’d win if he ran again in Massachusetts but, McCoy says, that doesn't matter.

"The country is not Massachusetts," McCoy said. "Massachusetts is sometimes a very scary state. He’s running for the nation now. What he’s doing is for the nation, not for the state."

As Romney moved to the national political stage, his positions on some issues have changed, including abortion. He’s now pro-life.

Convention delegate Rep. Jay Burrows, R-Mansfield, says he knows Romney has evolved since he was governor, but says that's not the focus of this election.

"Right now our country is suffering tremendously from high unemployment, the housing industry has collapsed, the bailouts," Burrows said. "We need to get our budget in order. We need to get our fiscal house in order now. All that other stuff is just window dressing, it doesn’t really matter because you can’t address social issues, you can’t address a lot of things until the budget is fixed."

Other delegates agree. Patty Jennings, a first-time delegate, volunteered for Romney when he was running for governor.

"Honestly I think the No. 1 focus for this convention and for America right now has to be jobs and the economy. It has to be," Jennings said. "We can all stand in the unemployment line and talk about whether we are pro-choice or pro-life, but if we don’t have jobs it’s not going to work. And Mitt is a job creator."

Massachusetts Republicans, who make up only 11 percent of registered voters in the state, tend to be socially moderate and fiscally conservative. The same can’t be said for Republicans nationwide. It’s probably why the state has failed to produce a Republican nominee for president in 88 years.

Many delegates say Romney’s shift on abortion is a reflection of his growth.

"I wouldn’t say he’s necessarily changed but I think he’s grown on a number of issues and running for president, you are running to represent a larger electorate and you have to deal with more diverse issues," said Amy Carnavale of Marblehead. "So I think his positions today are a reflection of that environment."

None of the Massachusetts delegates I spoke with were concerned that Romney’s vice presidential pick, Paul Ryan, is far more conservative on a number of issues. And for some Bay State Republicans, Romney’s shift to the right is a welcome change.

"I tend to be a little more conservative and I’m very comfortable with Mitt Romney," said Judy Crocker of Centerville. "I’m comfortable with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. I think together the two of them can get our economy back on track."


Romney is running for president in part on his economic record as governor. His message is that he balanced the budget without raising taxes and left the state with a $2 billion rainy day fund. But he did it by raising fees and slashing funding to cities and towns.

Still, several delegates believe Romney would win again if he ran for governor because of his business experience and record.

"I believe he would win," said Linda Jewell. "He turned the state around and I think people in the state realize we need someone to keep us in the black instead of in the red, which we are in now."

It’s this economic message that Romney is likely to present to the convention Thursday night.

This program aired on August 29, 2012.


More from WBUR

Listen Live