By Joe Harris
The decision by Mitt Romney last weekend to name U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his presumptive vice presidential nominee may be the kind of political cover the Republican presidential contender needs as he shifts his campaign from primary season-mode to a general election campaign status—a “calibration” the former Massachusetts governor may find more to his liking, especially as it relates to the values stuff with which he seems most uncomfortable.
Despite his credentials as a returned Mormon missionary, a graduate of Mormon Church-owned Brigham Young University, a captain of finance, and an active Republican (since 1993, anyway; prior to that, he was a registered Independent, who had previously voted for some Democrats, including the late Paul Tsongas during the 1992 Massachusetts presidential primary), Romney has been viewed with suspicion by the social Right and other values voters.
His single term as governor of the Bay State (2003 to 2007) did not endear him to fiscal and small governmentconservatives outside—or frankly, inside—of “Taxachusetts,” especially after his 2006 signing into law of the state’s health care reform legislation (or, more informally, “Romneycare”), the first of its kind in the U.S., which provided nearuniversal health coverage access via statelevel subsidies and individual mandates to purchase insurance.
Although in Massachusetts he presided over eliminating a projected $3 billion deficit—in part by reducing state funding for higher education, and cutting aid to municipalities—the pragmatic Romney approved the raising of fees, and his public austerity was aided by an unanticipated windfall of federal funds, and unexpected revenues generated via a capital gains tax hike.
Conservatives can be forgiven for being confused about where Romney actually stands on the subject of gay civil rights, and Democrats like to point to the candidate’s perceived contradictions on the subject, as when, during his 1994 campaign against Ted Kennedy for the late Liberal lion’s U.S. Senate seat, Romney promised the Log Cabin Republicans of Massachusetts that he would seek “full equality” for LGBT persons, and went so far as to say that he was more supportive of gay rights than Kennedy.
In May, when President Obama announced his support for gay marriage, Romney acknowledged that, “Benefits of that nature may well be appropriate, and states are able to make a provision for the determination of those kinds of rights.” The practicing Mormon has said that his opposition to marriage equality stems from his religious beliefs.
In 2003, when the Massachusetts courts legalized same-sex marriage, the governor complained that the state was becoming “San Francisco East.” He also warned in (mock?) horror a conservative audience that “some are actually having children born to them.”
How will his Ryan selection impact this election cycle’s yet-to-be-seen Romney, particularly for gays? It may have already started, with the announcement last week by a Romney campaign spokesperson confirming the candidate’s opposition to the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay leaders, something which he publicly expressed during his failed 1994 Senate bid. Andrea Saul told reporters that the former governor believes “all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.” That won’t play well with the people most uplifted by Ryan’s selection for the ticket. Stay tuned.