July 26, 2004,
Boston, Mass Democratic National Committee officials meeting here have pledged to make their convention "the most inclusive ever," in the words of Alice Huffman, head of the party's convention-organizing committee. But that inclusiveness does not extend to the governor of the convention's host state.
According to state government sources, DNC officials issued Massachusetts Republican Governor Mitt Romney what are called "incident response" credentials to the convention. Those credentials give Romney and a few top aides permission to enter the Fleet Center, site of the convention, only in the event of some sort of incident a terrorist attack, for example in which he needed to serve in his official capacity as governor.
The test of Romney's access came this morning. Producers of NBC's Today show invited the governor to appear and asked that he come to the program's set in the Fleet Center. Knowing that his "incident response" credentials would not cover a routine media appearance, the governor's office got in touch with convention organizers, asking that they give him permission to come to the Center for the program. The Democrats declined.
Suspecting that Romney would be accused of abusing his access if he simply went to the Center, the governor's staff instead arranged for him to appear via satellite from his office. He has made similar arrangements for radio appearances.
According to state-government sources, the irony of it all is that Romney, a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, has resolved to avoid the partisan fray while the convention is in Boston. "The governor is trying to stay non-partisan this week," says one source. "Obviously, he's going to support the president, but as governor of the state where the convention is being held, he wants the convention to be a success." Indeed, at a private dinner with reporters and Republican officials Sunday night, Romney offered only non-controversial, welcome-to-Massachusetts remarks.
The situation is perhaps more striking because of the contrast between Romney's positive performance and that of the other high-profile figure who has been denied convention access by Democrats. Independent candidate and Democratic bete noir Ralph Nader "tried to get in," New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said on CNN Sunday night. "He tried to get credentials and Chairman [Terry] McAuliffe said no.... He wanted publicity."