I assume that you regularly read Charlie Pierce's new political blog at Esquire.com, because as wise and insightful as I obviously am, if you're reading my blog and not his you need to seriously re-evaluate your web-surfing habits.
So perhaps you've read Pierce's new take on the half-assed governorship of the Barnstormin' Mormon, Mitt Romney. But to summarize, Pierce argues that Romney's current recollections of his severe conservative leadership run somewhat afoul of reality, and that Mitt pretty much gave up the task after the 2004 Team Mitt GOP state legislative slate got pummeled at the polls, and turned his full attention to his Presidential positioning. That, Pierce suggests, required a signature accomplishment, which meant getting health care reform passed -- the one thing now shaming him among Republican voters.
This is all pretty much accurate. But I want to expand briefly on an important point here -- the idea of accomplishments.
Romney, as governor, made the understandable but critical error of thinking that the way to get promoted from Governor to President was by demonstrating actual achievements. He did not foresee the harsh libertarian turn in the Republican base, which now allows former governors to boast of two things only: the dollar amount you cut from the budget, and the number of vetoes you sent back to the legislature. (Read Tim Pawlenty's book, or Rick Perry's, and try to find anything they did beyond that.)
As Pierce notes, those budget cuts and vetoes are the actions Romney speaks of now. But back then, Romney was looking for actual achievements with government that would make solid, impressive bullet points on mail pieces. Hence, for example, the Adams scholarship program, designed to give him a nice bullet point under education, but which he now never mentions.
Health care reform, in my opinion, was always intended as one in a series of intended achievements. But it did take on special weight for him, as the others on the list turned sour.
I would argue that perhaps the biggest of these was the humiliating failure of his fabulous, new, fool-proof death-penalty scheme. I wrote its epitath in 2005.This was a big, big loss for Romney, and left him, in my opinion, particularly in need of a major accomplishment, with health care the last one left in the quiver. In other words, health became important to him after death was no longer an option. (I would also argue that health care got accomplished not so much because of Romney, but because of the organized left in the Commonwealth, who forced the competing interests to compromise under threat of an actual universal-health-care ballot initiative; read more about it here.)
I just think it's kind of sad and unfortunate that Romney is getting so much grief for a pretty good "signature achievement" that he more or less did accomplish, and none for an absolutely atrocious, addle-brained "signature achievement" that he was stopped from accomplishing. So, I like to remind people -- like Charlie Pierce for instance! -- about the death penalty flop, when I see a chance.