Watching Scott Brown being elected to the United States Senate during the special election last year was like watching an episode of the “Twilight Zone”. Months before Ted Kennedy’s death, if you told any Massachusetts native that the “Liberal Lion”; a man in office for almost half a century in one of the most progressively democratic states in the country would have his seat taken over by a relatively unknown GOP upstart, they would have laughed in your face. But then came election time, and it happened. Call it a panic for the newly scripted Obama healthcare bill or a poorly run campaign from Martha Coakley but all the same, it happened.
What’s next? The end of the “Massachusetts Liberal”? The commonwealth repealing gay marriage? The death penalty? Well, no. This state has been one of the leaders in their progressive ideas and that doesn’t seem like it’s going to change any time soon. When it comes to the 2012 elections, however, it does give the GOP a glimpse of hope. Could it be just any GOP candidate that sweeps Massachusetts off of its feet and defies all odds? Absolutely not. Ron Paul? Paul has tried too many times and may be too old in the eyes of many voters. Well what about Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann? Palin has become more of a reality star as of late and Michele Bachmann seems to be getting more press for her quotes then her politics. Plus both are Tea Party darlings, with the movements and messages causing much polarization among the party. Herman Cain has no real political experience so we can rule him out. Down the list we go, from Tim Pawlenty, to Newt Gingrich, to current U.S Ambassador Jon Huntsman and none of these candidates seem like they would even have a shot at Massachusetts. But wait…who’s that? Is it…yes I think it is! The frontrunner for the Republican nomination even before he announced his bid to run in 2012 has been none other than the former governor of Massachusetts himself, Mitt Romney.
If Romney wins the GOP bid for the 2012 election then it’s possible that we will see the closest Presidential election in this state in over 25 years. Not only does Romney have the Massachusetts credentials to possibly win over the state, his greatest strength over the years will become the focal point in this election: job creation. Sure job creation and the economy seemed to be the hottest issue in 2008, but in 2012 we should expect to see an even greater focus on these domestic issues. Osama Bin Laden’s death takes away focus from the war, assuming now that his demise enforces quicker departures from the Middle East. Moral issues such as gay rights, abortion, and the death penalty seem to garner no real interest except in state elections. Barack Obama rode in on a promise to fix the economy and create jobs, but many feel that he has been using the same old procedures to get the same results. This is where Romney has the potential to shine. He would be able to use his previous experience as a successful business man and challenge Obama on the economic issues that are expected to be biggest talking point by a large margin.
What does it mean for Massachusetts voters? For a state that has seen unemployment rates jump from 4.4% in January 2008 when Obama was inaugurated to 7.6% as of May 2011, it should mean a lot. If Romney does get elected as the Republican nominee for 2012, his biggest hurdle will be the Massachusetts healthcare bill being compared to “Obamacare” that so many Republican despise. But why should Massachusetts voters care about that at all? It will matter to voters in other states who believe Romney’s healthcare bill was too similar to Obama’s, but it shouldn’t matter to us. Our state reformed healthcare long before Obama was a household name within the Democratic Party. The economy is our most pressing issue, and if Romney uses his “successful businessman” technique it wouldn’t be surprising if many Commonwealth natives turn to “the dark side”. Will the Special Elections in Massachusetts spill over into a national level, paint our state red, and get our state to vote for a Republican nominee for the first time since Regan’s landslide in 1984? Probably, not. But it’s early in the 2012 elections and much stranger things have happened in the last few years. If the Republican Party in Massachusetts wants to endorse Romney and try and wrestle some of the power away from one of the most traditionally liberal states in the nation, there has never been a better time then now.