Concord Monitor: Romney "Must Be Stopped"
By Alec MacGillis
CONCORD, N.H. -- Delivering the journalistic equivalent of a giant lump of coal three days before Christmas, the Concord Monitor editorial board has leveled an extraordinary broadside against Mitt Romney, declaring in an editorial to be published in Sunday's paper that the former Massachusetts governor "must be stopped" in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination.
The Monitor has not yet endorsed in either party's primary. Instead, it issued an unusual anti-endorsement dripping with scorn under the headline "Romney should not be the next president."
The piece begins: "If you were building a Republican presidential candidate from a kit, imagine what pieces you might use: an athletic build, ramrod posture, Reaganesque hair, a charismatic speaking style and a crisp dark suit. You'd add a beautiful wife and family, a wildly successful business career and just enough executive government experience. You'd pour in some old GOP bromides -- spending cuts and lower taxes -- plus some new positions for 2008: anti-immigrant rhetoric and a focus on faith.
"Add it all up and you get Mitt Romney, a disquieting figure who sure looks like the next president and most surely must be stopped."
It continues: "If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core."
And it concludes: "When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we'll know it.
"Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no."
The Monitor editorial board leans left, and the paper is often viewed as a liberal counterweight to the conservative Union Leader of Manchester. But with its anti-Romney assault, the paper finds itself on the same page with the Union Leader, which has endorsed John McCain for the Republican nomination and followed that up with harsh editorial critiques of Romney. For Romney, this may be a case of familiarity breeding contempt -- while his years as governor in the state next door may benefit him with some voters in New Hampshire, his proximity also means that close observers of his governorship are more aware than most of the discrepancies between his moderate record in Massachusetts and his rightward tilt on the campaign trail.
Romney's rough handling from the New Hampshire press is coming as he sees his months-long steady lead in the New Hampshire polls shrinking with the resurgence of McCain in New Hampshire, and the rise of Mike Huckabee in Iowa.
This weekend's broadside from the Monitor is all the more striking given that Romney appeared to leave a good initial impression in his interview with the editorial board last month. An editorial that followed that meeting declared, under the headline "Romney has good grasp of nation's problems":
"At campaign events, Mitt Romney can come across as insincere. In presidential debates, his performance has been uneven. In his television ads, he seems too good to be true - too handsome, too rich, too articulate and too wholesome to have much in common with the people whose votes he seeks. But put him in a boardroom and Romney shines.
"The former Massachusetts governor recently met with the Monitor's editorial board. His performance was impressive. He is articulate and knowledgeable. He doesn't come across as an ideologue -- that would be tough given his history of changed positions -- but as a pragmatist, a guy who gets things done. None of that was surprising. The surprise was that Romney, whose Mormon faith and mega-millions isolate him from the experience of many Americans, came across as a pretty regular guy."
Romney spokesman Kevin Madden responded to the broadside by saying: "The Monitor's editorial board is regarded as a liberal one on many issues, so it is not surprising that they would criticize Governor Romney for his conservative views and platform."
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