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Where's Mitt?

As the entire political world looks to Massachusetts today to see what its voters (or at least those willing to vote in a special election) do about an open Senate seat, Republicans, of course, are excited by the possibility that they can kill health care reform by denying Democrats the 60th vote they need for final passage of the reform plan in the upper chamber. But it kinda makes you wonder why in all the obsessive coverage of the MA race, we aren't seeing the last Republican to win a major statewide office in the Bay State: you know, Mitt Romney, supposedly the front-runner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

Politico's Alex Isenstadt raises that question today, and the bottom line is that, well, Romney's just not that popular in Massachusetts:

Romney’s White House run, said Jeffrey Berry, a Tufts University political scientist, left a sour taste in the mouths of state voters.

“Mitt Romney is an unpopular former governor. He left the state to run for president and people feel he was insincere when he ran for governor in the first place,” said Berry. “He hasn’t really been a part of Massachusetts political culture since he left office. I think people thought he ran for office merely to run for president.”

Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, explained that voters in Massachusetts had recoiled after Romney took a sharp right turn on social issues during the presidential campaign — and the former Massachusetts governor went so far as to criticize his home state over its legalization of gay marriage.

“He sort of lost credibility among voters in the state,” said Smith.

This certainly helps explain why Republican candidate Scott Brown hasn't been anxious to recruit Romney to run around the state with him, but there may be something else going on that is keeping Romney out of the picture: Brown's support for the Massachusetts health system, which is by all accounts a major albatross for Mitt in his future presidential aspirations.

After all, Brown's number one talking point in recent days has been that his state doesn't need federal health care reform because it's already enacted a strikingly similar set of reforms on its own. National action, he argues, will just mean Massachusetts taxpayers will have to help other states get up to speed in covering the uninsured.

This may be an effective argument in Massachusetts, but it's not terribly appealing to Republicans elsewhere, who typically view the kind of reforms enacted under Romney's leadership in the Bay State as rampant socialism. The last thing Romney needs is to put himself in the middle of that particular debate.

And so, irony of ironies, the most famous Massachusetts Republican is out of public sight on the day when Massachusetts could give the GOP a very famous victory. That doesn't bode well for Mitt's 2012 prospects, and for that matter, for Republican claims that a Brown victory can be exported elswewhere--say, to the 49 states who haven't enacted a health care reform initiative much like the one they are trying to kill in Congress.