, Salem, MA


March 23, 2012

Nelson Benton: See Mitt flip-flop

Never has so much money been spent on so wretched a campaign as that being conducted by our former governor in his pursuit of the White House.

Aide Eric Fehrnstrom was only stating the obvious when he told CNN that Mitt Romney could shake up his positions — like someone with an Etch A Sketch — once he is through the Republican primaries and seeking the votes of independents and conservative Democrats in the general election.

Massachusetts voters don't know what to make of Romney, who was once admired here for his moderate positions on social issues and tough fiscal conservatism. It seems his moral compass has turned into something more resembling those spin-the-wheel games at the Topsfield Fair.

• • •

Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren didn't show, though her husband did, and the governor was vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands. But while Rep. John Keenan's annual St. Patrick's Day fundraiser at Finz last Friday may have been lacking in star power, there were still plenty of laughs as local politicians poked fun at each other. Described by Congressman John Tierney as "my favorite root canal," the early morning event drew a large crowd to the Pickering Wharf restaurant.

Making his debut appearance, new Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt may have said more than he intended by noting, "I'm an attorney. I'm a politician. I have no shame."

But he and others struck a more serious note in offering praise for the guest of honor, state Sen. Fred Berry, D-Peabody, who will be stepping down next year after 30 years at the Statehouse.

All three Democratic candidates vying for his seat were in attendance. Berry took shots at a couple of them, stating that the governor had asked him to retire "to get rid of Mary-Ellen Manning," who as a member of the Governor's Council has not always been supportive of Patrick's judicial nominees, and observing that former state representative and attorney John Slattery has been showing up in court in a wheelchair in an effort to emulate the wheelchair-bound incumbent.

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