For many a Mass. politician, a White House dream

Apr 15, 2012, 3:41 PM

Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) – Massachusetts may account for about 2 percent of the nation’s population, but when it comes to nurturing White House dreams, the Bay State is a political boomtown.

Since 1960, at least half a dozen Massachusetts politicians have launched serious campaigns for president, while a handful of others have toyed with the idea.

Three captured their political party’s nomination and one, John F. Kennedy, went on to occupy the office.

The difference this election cycle is that the politician aiming to be the fourth major party nominee from Massachusetts in the past five decades, Mitt Romney, is a Republican.

“You can say that all governors and senators see themselves as potential presidential contenders,” said Boston College political science professor Marc Landy. “What’s perhaps more surprising is how successful Massachusetts politicians have been in making themselves very serious contenders.”

What makes the streak even more unusual is Massachusetts’ reputation as one of the most liberal states in the country.

Timothy Vercellotti, associate professor of political science and polling director at Western New England College, chalks up the string of would-be Massachusetts presidential hopefuls to a number of factors _ from the state’s obsession with politics, to the potential brain power supplied by local institutions like Harvard University and MIT, to its location on the Northeast corridor linking Washington, New York and Boston.

“I’m not sure you can say that there’s something in the water,” he said. “But if you’re thinking of assembling a group of advisers, you have some of the most accomplished advisers right here in Massachusetts.”

The state’s recent run of presidential contenders began in 1960 when then-Massachusetts U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy secured the Democratic nomination on a first ballot and went on to narrowly defeat Republican hopeful Richard Nixon.

Kennedy was the first president to hail from the state since former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge, then vice president , took the oath of office in 1923 following the death of then-president Warren Harding.

Prior to Coolidge, the state could claim two other chief executives _ John Adams, the nation’s second president, and his son John Quincy Adams, the sixth president.

After Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, his brother, former New York U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, was assassinated in 1968 during his campaign for the White House. And their younger brother, then-U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Democratic president Jimmy Carter for their party’s nomination in 1980.

The loss marked the end of the Kennedy family’s efforts to retake the presidency and paved the way for other Massachusetts candidates who lacked some of the aura and political baggage of the Kennedy clan.

First was former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the son of Greek immigrants, who tried to ride crest of the state’s economic boom of the 1980s, dubbed the “Massachusetts Miracle.” Dukakis secured the Democratic Party’s nomination in 1988 contest, but lost to the Republican nominee, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.

Bush also had ties to Massachusetts. He was born in the state, and although his family quickly moved to Connecticut, he later became a student leader at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.

In part, Republicans were able to cast Dukakis as a soft-on-crime liberal from Massachusetts by pointing to his support of a weekend furlough program under which a convicted killer named Willie Horton raped a woman after he failed to return to prison.

Just four years later, another politician of modest means got into the race: former Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas, who’d left the Senate in 1984 after being diagnosed with the cancer. He looked to jumpstart his candidacy with his fiscal conservatism and the proximity of his hometown of Lowell, Mass., to New Hampshire and its first-in-the-nation primary.

Tsongas failed to secure the 1992 nomination, but Massachusetts wouldn’t have to wait long before another favorite son would thrust himself into a presidential campaign.

In 2003, Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran who first won election to the Senate in 1984, announced his candidacy.

His foes also tried to cast him as a Massachusetts liberal, pointing to his decision to oppose the Vietnam War after being awarded three Purple Hearts for his service in the conflict. He lost the 2004 election to President George W. Bush.

By then, Romney, in his second year as Massachusetts governor, was already laying the foundation for his pursuit of the Republican nomination for the presidency. Despite a hard-fought campaign in 2008, Romney lost the GOP nod to Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain.

But Romney never really stopped running for president.

After the election of Barack Obama , Romney set about trying to position himself as the 2012 GOP nominee _ a mission he’s all but accomplished.

Even though he’s a Republican, Romney has also been dogged by the Massachusetts liberal label, mostly for signing the state’s landmark 2006 health care law, which became the model for Obama’s 2010 national health care overhaul.

Romney has fought back, vowing to repeal the federal law if elected, and at one point declaring himself “severely conservative.”

Since 1960, a number of Massachusetts politicians have also toyed with the idea of running for president, including Republican Gov. William Weld, Democratic Boston Mayor Kevin White and U.S. Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.

Vercellotti said it’s hard not to anticipate the trend continuing, pointing to a handful of current Massachusetts political figures with potential national traction.

Although he’s downplayed any interest in future political office, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has busily been making a national name for himself in part by stumping for Obama, Vercellotti noted.

Vercellotti even pointed to Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren, who has yet to win elected office but is locked in a high profile contest with Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown. Brown was also mentioned as potential future presidential timber after his surprise 2010 special election win for the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

In this image taken from video, Niko, a pet squirrel, stands on the shoulder of Yeison in their ten...

Associated Press

Venezuelan man and his pet squirrel complete journey to U.S. border

A 23-year-old Venezuela man is preparing to say goodbye to a pet squirrel he says he brought from his home country on a journey to Mexico.

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Minnesota’s would-be head of cannabis regulation quits amid reports she sold illegal products

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The recently appointed director of Minnesota’s new marijuana regulatory agency Erin Dupree has resigned amid reports that she sold illegal cannabis products in the state. Dupree ran a business that sold products exceeding state limits on THC potency, owed money to former associates and accumulated tens of thousands of dollars […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee speaks during Sen...

Associated Press

Menendez gains a primary opponent as calls for his resignation grow after indictment

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey announced on Saturday that he will run against Sen. Robert Menendez in the state’s Democratic primary for Senate next year, saying he feels compelled to run against the three-term senator after he and his wife were indicted on sweeping corruption charges. Kim’s surprise announcement came as […]

5 hours ago

FILE - Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., briefs reporters following a closed-door Repu...

Associated Press

With House Republicans in turmoil, colleagues implore GOP holdouts not to shut down government

WASHINGTON (AP) — Working furiously to take control of a House in disarray, allies of Speaker Kevin McCarthy implored their Republican colleagues Saturday to drop their hardline tactics and work together to approve a conservative spending plan to prevent a federal shutdown. In public overtures and private calls, Republican lieutenants of the embattled speaker pleaded […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

3 shot and killed in targeted attack in Atlanta, police say

ATLANTA (AP) — Three people were shot and killed Saturday in a targeted, daytime attack in Atlanta, police said. Officers responded to a call reporting that someone had been shot in the city’s West End neighborhood around 1:30 p.m., police said in a news release. A preliminary investigation indicates a man approached two people and […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

California governor vetoes bill requiring custody courts to weigh affirmation of gender identity

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have required judges to consider whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity when making custody and visitation decisions. In announcing his veto Friday night, Newsom released a statement saying he has “a deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender […]

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



When most diets fail, re:vitalize makes a difference that shows

Staying healthy and losing weight are things many people in Arizona are conscious of, especially during the summer.



Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

5 mental health myths you didn’t know were made up

Helping individuals understand mental health diagnoses like obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder or generalized anxiety disorder isn’t always an easy undertaking. After all, our society tends to spread misconceptions about mental health like wildfire. This is why being mindful about how we talk about mental health is so important. We can either perpetuate misinformation about already […]

For many a Mass. politician, a White House dream