Saturday, July 22, 2006

It all comes down to bolt-and-epoxy fasteners

Thank God for bolt-and-epoxy fasteners.
by Kevin John Sowyrda

A highly placed source in the Romney Administration has told me that early next week the Republican governor will announce his plans to suspend his underdog bid for president in lieu of assuming a new leadership role in the ongoing Big Dig investigation and repair efforts.

My source tells me that Romney's communications director, Eric Fehrnstrom, is working in concert with nationally known Republican political consultant Mike Murphy to draft a planned-to-be-televised speech that will "definitely use the word suspend," the source told me. Murphy, a Republican whiz kid with a batch of victories under his belt from years of running stunning national media campaigns, left the Romney headquarters months ago citing some potential political conflicts of interest. Apparently he's back; just as Romney's back is against the slurry walls of the Big Dig tunnels.

Romney's announcement is not prolific and does not nail the coffin in his presidential aspiration, necessarily. Most potential candidates are foregoing their campaign announcements until '07, and Romney inevitably leaves the governor's office, and the Big Dig mess, to his successor on January first of that year; allowing him to jump back into the national political waters with ease, he hopes. But for now, the man so often criticized for his out of state sojourns to the cornfields of Iowa and the industrial heartland of his late father's home state of Michigan, is home bound in a political wheelchair. He's handicapped by the biggest construction scandal in global history, and that is no exaggeration.

Clapping his hands and yelling, "Help, I can't get up," won't help the governor. Instead, he'll have to self-morph into the world's greatest engineer, and he's got just five months to accomplish his goal of fixing a royal mess; if he's to be worth anything tangible to G.O.P. operatives next year.

As one Republican National Committee member told me this week, "Of all the political characters here, the one with the most to lose or gain is Romney."

Indeed, the stakes are high, but that national committee member is accurate - they are high for just one of the many political players in this drama. I mean, do you really think Ted Kennedy is going to lose his reelection bid this November because of this? Do you think state Senate President Travaglini or House Speaker Di Masi are sweating bullets, or screws? Their seats of power are as secure and comfortable as ever. Do you think John Kerry will cancel his Vineyard getaway? All this lot of pols has to worry about is wearing additional sun screen because the state house is filled with more klieg lights than usual.

But Romney was the guy trying hard to get out of Dodge. Having served a rather uneventful term - and I'm being extraordinarily generous here - Romney is dead set on national ambitions which could garner him some federal prize of significance. The presidency is probably beyond his reach. But his campaign is about gamesmanship; making a good enough showing here or there to guarantee him a cabinet posting or better in a Republican administration, if that is the nation's fate in January of '09.

So now we know what it took to get Romney to stop obsessing about Gay Marriage - bolt-and-epoxy fasteners. As humiliating as it may be for the perfectly groomed governor, His Excellency's life is now that of a "hard hat," a glorified repairman whose new obsession is screwing; I mean screwing things back together so mega tons of concrete don't fall on our Puritan heads.

For my money, Romney's damaged by this beyond the extent his inner circle is willing or intellectually able to understand. My mole in the governor's office tells me that Romney's political confidants, including chief of staff Beth Myers and Republican operative Charles Manning, see this is a "golden opportunity for Romney to do here what he did in Salt Lake City," my source said. The source was referencing the Olympic games of 2002 in Salt Lake City Utah and an infamous bidding scandal there, where high ranking figures were accused of bribing members of the International Olympic Committee to bring the coveted games to Salt Lake. Romney, having high political clout in the western state, was brought in as the fix it guy and earned high, bipartisan praise for his efforts.

Unfortunately for the governor, and Massachusetts, comparing the Salt Lake mess to the Big Dig meltdown is like comparing a summer brush fire to Chernobyl. Our broken, multi-billion dollar project is a national joke and no matter how hard Romney re-screws the screws into all those ceilings, his likely opponents are already piling the clippings and evidence which will be damning to his presidential ambitions.

Don't think for one moment that senate majority leader Bill First doesn't have at least a dozen staffers researching what Romney didn't do but could have done over the last four years. Bet serious cash that legionnaires working for folks like Rudy Guilliani, Senator John McCain, Senator George Allen of Virginia and God knows who else are watching the Bay State and preparing the text for the first Republican presidential scene.

It will go something like this. Romney will boast that when the sky fell during his watch he took command and all was well. Just when you think he's scored big, Frist, with a grin on his Tennessee face, puts a simple question to the Massachusetts governor - what were you doing all the years before that woman was killed to keep it from happening?

We call that a slam dunk in politics, and not for Romney.

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