Think about it: John Kerry, Michael Dukakis.... Is there a Massachusetts demeanor that just doesn't feel natural and normal to Americans in other regions? Something that seems cold or haughty or insubstantial? I mean no disrespect to Massachusettans — what the hell is the word for people from Massachusetts? — I'm quite serious. Massachusetts seems to produce a lot of candidates or near-candidates, and then when Americans take a closer look at them, they experience a strange revulsion.
IN THE COMMENTS: Theo Boehm writes:
I'm originally from California, but I've lived most of my adult life in Massachusetts. I can tell you categorically that the problem with Mitt Romney is NOT that he is "from" Massachusetts. I've been here about as long as he has, and, believe me, you're never "from" Massachusetts until your people have been here...oh...five or six generations. The kittens may have been born in the oven; that doesn't make them muffins.
Mitt Romney doesn't sound like he's from anywhere in Massachusetts; he doesn't have the body language or manner of someone from Eastern Massachusetts; and his religion and Western origins are seriously weird around here.
No, if you find Mitt Romney offputting, it's not because of Massachusetts. It's because he's an uninspiring, stiff bore. They grow those anywhere.
Michael Dukakis was an echt Massachusetts type: a well-tamed little nerdy Brookline doctor's son. Dukakis is, to Massachusetts connoisseurs, from Central Casting. Romney is from Not Around Here. The differences may be subtle to outsiders, but to Massachustts people, they're glaring.
John Kerry is a special case. He's not so much distinctly from Massachusetts, as he is a generic New England preppie. Those types range all over the Northeast landscape, but tend to have been fledged in places like Andover, Exeter, Yale, Dartmouth, and Harvard. They may wind up in New York or Massachusetts, but they usually have little local affinity. Bill Weld was another one of this type—a vastly more amusing and decent human being than Kerry, but very much of Kerry's class.
Of course the Kennedys are from Massachusetts, but they are a weird and nearly extinct breed: Irish who aped the accents and manners of the old Yankee codfish aristocracy. There are no old Yankee aristocrats to ape any more, and the Kennedy accent is dead as a doornail. You'll notice the younger Kennedy generation doesn't sound at all like Uncle Ted or the late, sainted JFK.
Massachusetts is halfway to England: You can tell where someone is from within a small area, what their socioeconomic status is, and what their ethnicity is as soon as they open their mouths. It's fading a bit, but it's still here. And, believe me, if you're from anywhere else in the country, you'll never figure it out.
I remember being at a dinner party soon after I got here, where someone pointed to another guest and said, "Lynn!" The other guest reacted in mock horror and said, "Oh no! WEST Lynn!" All the other guests were laughing their heads off. If you don't know what that was about, well, you're not from around here, are you?
No, neither Mitt nor I are From Here, and we never will be. You can blame Massachusetts for a lot, but please, don't blame it for Mitt Romney.