- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2002

An attempt by Massachusetts Democrats to make a campaign issue out of Mitt Romney's three-year absence from his home state to run the Salt Lake City's winter Olympic games appears to be backfiring.
After being pounded for weeks by Democratic officials and candidates who are trying to get the Republican gubernatorial candidate kicked off the ballot, the latest poll of registered voters shows Mr. Romney's favorable approval rating has jumped by seven points and that he easily beats all of his Democratic rivals.
A two-day voter survey conducted last week by the polling firm RKM Research for the Boston Herald showed that a hefty 68 percent believe that Mr. Romney has been truthful about the tax and residency charges made against him. What's more, the poll shows that a 52 percent majority of Democrats and independents think he should remain on the ballot.
"Despite the widespread attention this issue has gotten and despite virtually every voter being aware of the issue, it has had very little impact on the underlying facts of the race and Romney's lead," RKM pollster Kelly Myers told the Herald.
"If anything, it is working against the Democrats and working in Romney's favor," he said.
Democrats charge that Mr. Romney, a venture capital investor who has maintained a home in Belmont, Mass., for the past 30 years, has failed to meet the state's seven-year residency requirement to run for office, because he lived and worked in Utah on the Olympics for the past three years.
Democratic officials have brought their case before the state's Ballot Law Commission, a panel composed of three Republicans, one Democrat and an independent, and a decision is expected to be handed down this week. Lawyers handling the case for the Democrats say that if the commission votes in Mr. Romney's favor, they will pursue the case in court.
But some Democrats have criticized their party over raising the issue, saying that they should drop the charges.
"It was a mistake to challenge [Romney] legally," said Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat. "A political party shouldn't put itself in the position of looking as if it is trying to prevent an election."
As the Democratic attacks on the residency issue mounted, Mr. Romney fired back with a series of ads that charged the Democrats with attempting to "end this election, not with ballots, but with lawyers."
The Herald poll showed that 49 percent of the voters surveyed said that Mr. Romney met the state's residency requirements, while 20 percent said he did not and 31 percent had no opinion.
When voters were asked if the commission should approve his position on the ballot, only 19 percent said no.


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