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Massachusetts Democrats Relish Attack Role on National Stage

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) took to the stage Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention and delivered a strong rebuke of his predecessor’s record.

“In Massachusetts, we know Mitt Romney,” Patrick said, taking aim at the GOP nominee for president. “By the time he left office, Massachusetts was 47th in the nation in job creation during better economic times and household income in our state was declining.”

Patrick, a top Obama ally and surrogate, then ticked through a laundry list of ways the Bay State was worse off when Romney left office in 2007.

“Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he’s fixed. I can tell you: Massachusetts was not one of them,” Patrick said.

He’s not the only Bay Stater reveling in a rehash of Romney’s record this week. The Massachusetts delegation here has embraced its role as basher-in-chief of the White House hopeful’s political qualities and accomplishments in the Bay State.

State House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D) joyfully delivered a stinging critique of Romney at a delegation breakfast on Tuesday morning. He jokingly used an empty chair as a prop – a reference to actor Clint Eastwood’s awkward speech at the Republican convention – before slicing at the Republican nominee’s character.

“By and large, Mitt Romney was more interested in being governor and running for president than in actually governing,” he said.

“That’s right!” a man shouted from the crowd.

Romney’s campaign has pushed back hard against the attacks on his tenure in Massachusetts.

“As governor, Mitt Romney presided over a historic turnaround of Massachusetts. Under Governor Romney’s leadership, Massachusetts’ unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, the economy created tens of thousands of new jobs, and the state’s rainy day fund grew to over $2 billion,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul in a statement.

One line of attack Bay State Democrats are using: Romney holds political expediency over core values.

“What I tell people about Mitt Romney is: I don’t know what he believes. I have no idea,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D) said in an interview. “Whether you’re going to get the right-wing Mitt Romney or you’re going to get the progressive Mitt Romney or you’re going to get the moderate Mitt Romney, I guess it just depends on where the wind is blowing.”

McGovern, one of the more liberal Members of Congress, said even conservatives should be wary of the former governor. “They want to be able to trust that the candidate they are voting for is actually going to do what he says he’s going to do,” he said. “I think that’s Romney’s Achilles heel.”

It’s a theme that Boston Mayor Tom Menino touched on as he chatted with reporters Tuesday in the lobby of the state delegation’s hotel.

“We have a guy running for president now, we were all at Faneuil Hall – all of you folks were there, TV cameras blaring, [and he said] ‘This is great for Massachusetts,'” Menino said, referring to Romney’s signing of the state’s landmark health care reform act.

“Now: ‘It’s the worst thing to happen in America.’ It’s like a windmill: back and forth, back and forth,” Menino said.

Romney’s backers, of course, insist he has strong core values. Indeed, many speakers at the GOP convention last week in Tampa, Fla., painted Romney as a deeply decent man with a strong moral compass.

Massachusetts Democrats haven’t been all negative in their discussion of Romney’s time leading the state. They have spent a lot of effort here heaping praise on the health care reform law that he signed.

“He did one profoundly important thing – really, profoundly important,” Patrick told a press gaggle at an event on Tuesday. “And that’s health care reform.”

The state Democratic Party helped arrange a panel titled “Romneycare Works” with experts explaining and lauding the law. The twist is, of course, the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – which Romney says he will work to undo if elected – was largely based on the Massachusetts effort.

James Roosevelt, Jr., the general counsel for the state Democratic party, who also happens to be the president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan, made the case to Roll Call earlier this week that what Romney signed was incredibly effective. And he said that Romney was a key participant in influencing the legislation.

“The individual mandate was his idea and he convinced the rest of us that that was a good idea,” he said. “We were all very skeptical.”

But even with all the discussion from the delegation about Romney, there were signs that maybe Bay Staters wanted to talk about other things too.

“I don’t think we ought, as Massachusetts residents, to be too drawn into … all the questions we get about the former governor of Massachusetts. We’re not here for Mitt Romney,” Patrick said to the delegation breakfast. “We’re here to defend a vision of this country.