(CNSNews.com) - His presidential campaign is over, but for many GOP stalwarts in Massachusetts, the influence of former Gov. Mitt Romney is still felt on their state party - and they are not happy about it.
"He was missing for two years as governor," Holly Robichaud, a prominent Massachusetts GOP activist and Boston Herald commentator, told Cybercast News Service. "He picked a terrible running mate. He loved to say he's a management guy, and the management guy made a mess of the Republican state party."
Once seen as the face of the Massachusetts Republican Party, Romney has since lost the support of many conservatives in the Bay State. They contend that during his gubernatorial term, he was frequently absent, engaged in political opportunism, and espoused liberal policies that are at odds with his current conservative rhetoric.
"I think, file [Romney] under opportunity lost," Jim Rappaport, a former Massachusetts Republican Party chairman, told Cybercast News Service. "This was a guy who came in to be governor, and he had such high hopes, but you barely notice he was governor. He didn't take advantage of the opportunities in front of him."
Romney frequently cited his term as governor during his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, saying it proved he had the managerial skills necessary to fundamentally change Washington. Romney was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 through 2006.
An absentee governor?
Many Massachusetts Republicans were incensed by the amount of time Romney spent campaigning for president during his gubernatorial term.
"It seemed he had Potomac fever from the time he got in, and everything was done to position himself to run for president," Robichaud said.
The activists blamed the GOP's loss of seats in the Massachusetts Legislature during Romney's term on his lack of focus on the state. The Democrats expanded their leads in the state House in both the 2004 and 2006 elections.
The 2006 races were disappointing for Republicans. The party challenged only 70 of 200 state legislative seats and only three of 10 congressional representative seats. They ultimately lost two state House seats, one state Senate seat, and the governorship.
According to The Boston Globe, Romney spent 212 days in 2006 absent from Massachusetts, visiting 35 states and eight countries to campaign for president.
He often criticized Massachusetts' liberalism on the campaign trail, which irritated Joe Sheehan, a young GOP activist who has worked on several campaigns in the Bay State.
"I thought it a bit unappreciative of him to get his laughs from bovine Iowans and 'bubbas' from South Carolina at our expense, given the fact that our state gave him the tremendous honor and privilege of electing him governor," Sheehan told Cybercast News Service.
"I think he's a very good and honorable man, but I think his campaign appealed to an ugly side of American politics, which was a huge disservice to him," he added.
'An unmitigated disaster'
Some Massachusetts Republicans also attacked many of Romney's policies as governor, particularly his government health care plan, which Rappaport called "an unmitigated disaster."
"It was fundamentally flawed from the beginning. Most of the uninsured are that way out of choice," he said.
The Massachusetts health care reform law, signed by Romney in 2006, required Massachusetts residents to purchase health insurance and gave subsidies to lower income residents who could not afford coverage. As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the cost of the program will increase by $400 million in 2009.
Romney had been citing the plan as a success on the campaign trail, saying it "didn't cost us any new money."
Robichaud said the health care law proves that Romney's alleged fiscal conservatism "was crap" and pointed out that state fees and the average state tax burden had increased during Romney's tenure.
The activists also blasted Romney's widely publicized changing of positions on social issues like abortion and homosexual marriage.
Romney left office with a 64 percent disapproval rating among Republicans in Massachusetts and won the 2008 Massachusetts Republican primary with only 51 percent of the vote, a slim margin for a candidate's home state.
"I hope Mitt Romney does return to politics," Sheehan said. "I really want to see the Mitt Romney of 2002 again. This was the Mitt Romney that many of us Republicans from Massachusetts would work hard and do anything for."