This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Correction: A headline over a story published Tuesday about former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney should not have contained quotation marks around the phrase good riddance. No one in the story used those words.
BOSTON - Fresh from running the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Mitt Romney quickly launched a bid for governor of Massachusetts. The Republican won 50 percent of the vote despite the state's liberal leaning, and by November, polls showed two of three residents were pleased with his handling of the job.
Four years after taking office, though, Romney left his post with a high disapproval rating. Critical Bay Staters contend now that Romney always had his eye on the White House and used Massachusetts as a pad from which to launch his campaign.
"You can have him back in Salt Lake," lifelong resident Roberta Kilduff said on a recent chilly morning in downtown Boston. "Have another Olympics."
Romney, 59, formed a presidential exploratory committee on his last day as governor but has been laying the groundwork for months, or even longer, for a potential bid. An analysis in December by The Boston Globe said Romney spent all or part of 212 days in 2006 out of state, in many occasions flying to early primary states or stumping for Republicans across the nation.
"He was basically never here," says Kilduff, a Republican who says she was annoyed when Romney poked fun at Massachusetts and also when he swooped in to take over the Big Dig project after a woman was killed in a tunnel accident.
"I don't think anyone should be micromanaging when they're not here."
A Nov. 17 poll by Survey USA and WBZ-TV found that 65 percent of residents disapproved of Romney's performance, a figure that dropped to 59 percent a month later in Romney's waning days in office. The Globe and WBZ reported 54 percent of those surveyed in October viewed Romney's performance as unfavorable.
"Within Massachusetts the enthusiasm about Romney is not as high as it is in some parts of the country for his [potential presidential] candidacy," says Julian Zelizer, a historian and professor at Boston University. Romney's stature diminished over time as many residents saw their governor focusing more on his own agenda and not the state's, Zelizer says.
"Any sitting governor who is running for president is going to face that," he says. "That's the nature of our political system. There is pretty much no way he could avoid this criticism."
Even more difficult for Romney was his need to finesse and show his conservative credentials as he courted Republicans for support in his potential bid. Romney took hard stands against gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research and abortion. The positions eroded Romney's reputation among voters in the blue state of Massachusetts.
Romney, a venture capitalist, first landed in the national spotlight when he was tapped in 1999 to head the scandal-plagued Winter Olympics. After the successful Games in February, Romney was rumored to be considering running for office in Utah but, instead, he plunged into the Massachusetts gubernatorial race.
In retrospect, some residents wish he had stayed in Utah.
"He was a big disappointment for the state," says John Henry, taking a lunch break near historic Faneuil Hall. "He didn't do anything on all those hopes and promises he made. . . . You elect him and you expect him to take care of the state."
Some Bostonians randomly asked about Romney simply scoffed. One dubbed him the "invisible governor" while another called him an "absentee governor."
Some weren't as harsh.
"I don't think I saw anything he did that was horrible or spectacular," says James Stoehr, an eight-year resident of Massachusetts who runs a souvenir shop at the Quincy Market.
Nearby, Ron Crowley says he was a little irritated when Romney was missing from the state so often.
"You pay him to do a job and he wasn't here," he says, but added that it was no surprise Romney was using the state as a steppingstone to higher office. "Everyone knew he was going to disappear."
Romney's camp defends his performance as governor and says he did a lot for Massachusetts. Spokesman Kevin Madden says Romney faced challenges that required tough action and he handled it as a Republican in one of the bluest states "by governing with fiscal responsibility and strong leadership."
"Leaders are not judged by polls, but instead by a benchmark of having made the government work better, and [having] protected the taxpayer," Madden says. "The state is in better shape because of Governor Romney's leadership and that is the best measure of his record."
That may be, says Medfield resident Brad Garnett. But Garnett charges that Romney gave up being governor a while back.
"It was just like trying to lay a foundation for something else," Garnett says of Romney's tenure as governor. "He used it to benefit himself."