Cable 'News' Network: Dems Whine to CNN About Romney Hogging the State House Elevator

With campaign 2012 in full swing, CNN deemed it appropriate to talk about elevators in the Massachusetts Statehouse on Wednesday's The Situation Room.

To catch a glimpse of what current state legislators thought of then-Governor Mitt Romney, CNN correspondent Jim Acosta talked to only one Republican and three Democrats. Out of all the complaints they could have aired, the Democrats whined about Romney and his staff reserving one of the elevators entirely to themselves.

"Democratic lawmakers are still miffed to this day that Romney blocked off one state house elevator specifically for his office. Something that hadn't been done before," Acosta noted.

And he finished his report with a parting shot at Romney from the state's current Democrat governor Deval Patrick. He even teed Patrick up by asking if he "re-opened the elevator and took down the velvet ropes," and then Patrick bragged that he governs "of, for, and with the people" and differs from Romney in that aspect.

Acosta weaved elevator-gate into a broader narrative of Romney's CEO approach to the government as something that rubbed legislators some the wrong way. One Democrat spun this as a negative "big business" approach.

And Acosta ended by hyping the Democratic ill-will toward the former governor. "It just goes to show you how super-charged this political environment right now. If there's a reporter in the room, Democrats want to come to you and talk about Mitt Romney," he declared.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on June 6 on The Situation Room at 4:09 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

JIM ACOSTA: Wolf, Mitt Romney has held out his business experience as a corporate executive to say he can create jobs and get the economy moving. But here in Massachusetts, state lawmakers that we talked to say Romney's CEO style sometimes worked for him, and sometimes worked against him.

(Video Clip)

ACOSTA: (voice over) It's one of Mitt Romney's favorite selling points that as governor of Massachusetts he worked with a mostly-Democratic legislature to tackle his state's problems.

MITT ROMNEY, Republican presidential candidate: It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out if I was going do anything as governor, I had to have a working relationship with the Democrats.

ACOSTA: But inside the Massachusetts state house, down the hallway from where Romney's portrait now hangs in the governor's office, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle don't see it quite that way.

ROB HEDLUND, (R) Massachusetts Senate Assistant Minority Leader: And he was all business. It was all about policy.

Did that go out yet?

ACOSTA: Rob Hedlund, the number two Republican in the state senate, says Romney was more of a CEO governor who brought a more corporate culture with him. Romney carried out his agenda, such as cutting programs and raising fees to balance the budget, using a staff filled with outsiders from the business world.

HEDLUND: Some Democrats up here begrudgingly, maybe not publicly on camera, but privately, will admit that. He had a lot of great talented people around him that he surrounded himself with who got the job done.

JIM ACOSTA: (voice over) Legislators in Massachusetts agree Mitt Romney made plenty of changes around the state house, but not all of them were in the law. Take the elevators.

FRANK SMIZIK (D), Massachusetts State House: He took over the elevator for the West Wing of the building because he kept it only for his staff and him.

ELLEN STORY (D), Massachusetts State House: I'm positive it was always this elevator.

ACOSTA: (on camera) This was the elevator?

STORY: Because this was the closest to his office.

ACOSTA: (voice over) Democratic lawmakers are still miffed to this day that Romney blocked off one state house elevator specifically for his office. Something that hadn't been done before.

ELLEN STORY (D), Massachusetts State House: When Romney came in, he treated government like the only thing he knew, which was big business. And he was the CEO of a big business.

JOHN SCIBAK (D) Massachusetts State House: Many people said don't – good riddance. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

ACOSTA: (on camera) That's what they said around here?

SCIBAK: Absolutely.

MICHAEL WIDMER, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation: But governors aren't CEOs. I mean, they just aren't.

ACOSTA: (voice over) Mike Widmer with the non-partisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation says Romney did set aside that CEO style to pass health care reform, a law so important to his legacy it's visible in his state portrait. But Widmer says other efforts like job creation sputtered.

WIDMER: You get health care and that, I'd give him an A. Economy and as job creator, and that entire effort, C-minus.

ACOSTA: On the state house steps, Romney's successor, Democrat Deval Patrick noted he has his own approach.

ACOSTA: (on camera) And you re-opened the elevator and took down the velvet ropes, is that –

Governor DEVAL PATRICK, (D-Mass.): Well, you know, I'm – I'm a governor of, for, and with the people. So we have a very different style in that respect.

(End Video Clip)

ACOSTA: Now the Romney campaign says security concerns after 9-11 also were part of the reason for giving the former governor his own elevator when he was in the state house. But as for some of those hard feelings among state Democrats here in Boston, Wolf, the Romney campaign chalks up a lot of that to election time loyalties to the President. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER: Are there, Jim, any serious Democrats in Massachusetts, who at least have good things to say publicly about Governor Romney and his term as governor of Massachusetts?

ACOSTA: There are. Actually, I just got off the phone with one of them, the chairman of one committee in the state house, Jim Velee, who says he had a fine working relationship with Mitt Romney. That he did try to make some gestures toward him to get legislation passed when they were in the state house together. But Wolf, I have to tell you, this was sort of a scientific experiment that we embarked on when we went up to the state house here in Boston. We did not announce our arrival, we did not call lawmakers ahead of time to say here were want to talk about Mitt Romney. We had Democratic lawmakers coming to us, Wolf, mainly complaining about that elevator but also to talk about Mitt Romney's time in the state house. It just goes to show you how super-charged this political environment right now. If there's a reporter in the room, Democrats want to come to you and talk about Mitt Romney. Wolf?

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014