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August, 25th 2007

Paul Cellucci disses Romney on taxes

– Liz Mair

I hate to quote CBN News, but it appears that they reported this first.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci is supporting Rudy Giuliani for President, instead of his fellow Bay Stater, Mitt Romney. And he has some pretty negative words about Romney's tax record, as contrasted to Giuliani's:

The Mayor is not just talking about taxes… He has a record of doing it in New York City. I certainly respect Mitt Romney. But I supported Rudy Giuliani because he’s an extraordinary leader…The difference is that Rudy Giuliani has done it (cut taxes) and Mitt Romney has not. He was Governor for four years…Mitt has not cut any taxes as Governor of Massachusetts. He proposed raises [sic] corporate taxes. (my emphasis added)

That Romney sought to raise taxes, not cut them, is a point I've made for some time.

Romney's team describe his record on taxes as "outstanding." But, like Cellucci (and CBN, which makes the point that Romney was not "outstanding" on taxes by reference to CATO's Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors), I beg to differ.

Here's the list of Governors that did better on fiscal governance for their overall current term, according to CATO, than Mitt, as of 2006:

Matt Blunt (R)* Missouri 63 A
Rick Perry(R) Texas 61 B
Mark Sanford (R) South Carolina 60 B
Phil Bredesen (D) Tennessee 60 B
Mike Rounds (R) South Dakota 59 B
John Huntsman (R)* Utah 59 B
John Lynch (D) New Hampshire 58 B
Sonny Perdue (R) Georgia 56 C
Bill Richardson (D) New Mexico 56 C
Brad Henry (D) Oklahoma 56 C
Tom Vilsack (D) Iowa 56 C

Got that? 11 other Governors, including 5 Democrats, got a better overall term rating than Mitt did in 2006.

In 2004, the story wasn't any better. Here are the other first-term Governors that beat out Mitt that year:

Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) California 84 A
Craig Benson (R) New Hampshire 82 A
Mark Sanford (R) South Carolina 70 B
Tim Pawlenty (R) Minnesota 69 B
Bill Richardson (D) New Mexico 69 B
John Baldacci (D) Maine 68 B
Mike Rounds (R) South Dakota 68 B
Phil Bredesen (D) Tennessee 68 B
Don Carcieri (R) Rhode Island 66 C
James Doyle (D) Wisconsin 66 C

So, that's 10 of his fellow first-term Governors, then, including four Democrats. And how did Mitt's grade stack up against Governors in their second term, as of 2004? His score looks much worse, when you take into account that a further two Governors earned a better score than him (Bill Owens and Judy Martz) and a further five earned a better grade than him (including the Democratic Governor of Washington State).

One Romney team member that I've raised these points with before claims that all of the above should be disregarded because a) CATO seems "biased" (I beg to question how, or why) and b) Massachusetts is just so much more liberal than the rest of the US that it's ridiculous to not treat a "C" rating earned in that state like an "A" earned in Texas.

The former claim I think is absolutely absurd, in the extreme, and the latter, well, it may be true that Massachusetts is pretty liberal. But that's where Cellucci's record comes into play-- remember, he ran the Bay State, too, yet somehow managed to not just earn an "A" from CATO, but actually earn the top rating of any Governor in the entire country (as a side note, Jane Swift, who took over after Cellucci, managed to earn a "B" rating, again better than Romney).

Now, if we want to have a debate about whose record on taxes and other fiscal matters is "outstanding," those details make Romney's team look pretty silly. Clearly, he only managed a "C" for reasons other than him operating in a pretty liberal state, if the two Republican Governors who preceded him did noticeably better. Those reasons might include that he is actually more tax-friendly than he's currently pretending, or that he's not as good at saying "no" to tax-hiking Democrats.

Either way, for people who think taxes are the bread and butter of Republican appeal to voters, it's pretty obvious that Romney isn't the stellar candidate his team pretend. That conclusion is reinforced by reading the Club for Growth's report on Romney's record, which is tellingly titled "Romney's Record: Promise and Puzzlement".

As the Giuliani team heads into their two week or so stretch focusing on taxes, these are all points that they should be eager to raise about Romney-- together with continuing to underline Giuliani's strong record of fiscal conservatism (whether it's 23 tax cuts, or 15, it's still a substantially better record of tax-cutting than the so-so record that Romney garnered).

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