BOSTON (AP) Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts has decided not to seek re-election in 2006, a source told The Associated Press on Wednesday, fueling speculation he will seek the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
The 58-year-old businessman, son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney, has spent less than three years in elective office, but in that time the state has closed a $3 billion budget deficit without raising taxes, schools have scored first in national math and science tests and Romney held out until the Legislature gave him a tough new drunken driving law he demanded.
The source, who asked not to be named but had knowledge of the governor’s plans, said he would make an announcement at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The news was not a complete surprise since Romney had declared earlier this year he was “testing the waters” for a White House run.
He spent considerable time traveling to early voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, and sprinkled campaign cash across the country from a so-called leadership PAC used by presidential aspirants. He had also distanced himself from the liberal political culture in Massachusetts, vetoing a bill to expand emergency contraception, and campaigning against a 2003 ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court that made the state the first in the nation to allow same-sex couples to wed.
Romney cast himself as “a red speck in a blue state” during an October speech to a Washington think-tank, one of many similar comments across the country during the past year that had been viewed as disparaging Massachusetts the land of the Kennedys and two failed Democratic candidates for president portrayed as out-of-touch liberals.
Should he run for president, a decision he is expected to announce closer to the 2008 election, Romney will need to break through a pack of more prominent Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
There has also been an undercurrent of concern among Christian conservatives, particularly in the vital South, rooted in his Mormon faith. One political operative in South Carolina branded the religion a “cult.”
Romney’s decision to forgo a second term sets the stage for 2002 his running mate, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, to step into the breach for the GOP nomination. Attorney General Tom Reilly and former Clinton administration official Deval Patrick have been battling for the Democratic nomination.
In Massachusetts, the governor and lieutenant governor officially run on separate ballots. However, in recent years, party’s generally field informal teams to run for the two top spots. Healey has been assessing the possibility of teaming up with Sen. Scott Brown, R-Wrentham, according to her political advisers.