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Romney's Katrina?

A few days ago Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix wondered in print whether the tragedy associated with the collapse of the Big Dig's roof last week will have negative political ramifications for Mitt Romney's presidential ambitions. Reilly cites the fact that Romney failed to do much of anything to oust Matt Amorello, the man who has had ultimate control over the project since 2002:

Romney's unwillingness to be more aggressive with Amorello hasn't played well in local conservative circles. Last year, the Herald's generally conservative editorial board slammed the governor for giving up too easily; just this morning, WRKO-AM talking head and right-wing raconteur John DePetro slammed Romney for his lack of follow-through. ("What do you say to that guy who lost his wife? 'I tried, but Matt wouldn't leave -- sorry about your wife'?") So just imagine how well Romney's inability to pry Amorello loose -- and the state of the Big Dig in general -- are going to play nationally.

After all, the governor sells himself as a "Turnaround" artist, a man with a genius for taking bad situations and whipping them into shape. But as Romney looks back on his three and a half years in office, what real improvements to the Big Dig status quo can he cite? The price tag keeps going up. The project is coming apart at the seams. Despite all the tough talk, Amorello still runs the show. And someone just died. Talk about a treasure trove of opposition research.

Midway through Tuesday's press conference, Romney proposed an analogy between Michael Brown's management of Hurricane Katrina and Amorello's handling of the Big Dig. "I look at what happened -- it's obviously at a very different scale, but what happened with Hurricane Katrina? Michael Brown was responsible, and ultimately lost his job. Was he personally responsible for flying the helicopters and getting in the water? No. But he was overseeing the agency, and the president and the public at large lost confidence in his leadership." The governor failed to note, however, that a substantial portion of the public also lost confidence in President Bush. It's a point he may want to ponder."

romneydig.gifThis story has been completely overshadowed by the war in the Middle East, but I'm interested in knowing what readers in Massachusetts who've been following it closely on the local level think. It seems to me the story could work to Romney's advantage, in that it provides an opportunity for him to demonstrate leadership in the aftermath of a tragedy and a crisis of some magnitude. Like yesterday, for example, when Romney was up in front of the white board diagraming and explaining the nature and depth of the problem with the ceiling bolts. Most likely it won't have any effect whatsoever on 2008. Maybe I'm wrong. As I said, I invite readers who live in Massachusetts or have been following this story closely to email me their thoughts on the subject.

(Photo: Patricia McDonnell, Boston Globe)