Democrats portrayed Romney as being out of touch.
"He made no effort to get acquainted with lawmakers," said Tom Birmingham, a former state Senate president who left just before Romney took office. "To call him disengaged would be charitable."
Romney's GOP predecessors enjoyed smoother relations with the Legislature.
Bill Weld ran as an outsider, but he quickly developed an inside game working with Democrats. Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift had served in the Legislature, so they had plenty of allies and knew how to work across the aisle.
Weld's goofy personal charm and fondness for after-hours drinks also made him especially popular with lawmakers.
"You could negotiate anything with Weld," said Birmingham. "It was a game to him."
Republican state Sen. Robert Hedlund said Romney doesn't get enough credit for refusing to cut deals with Democrats.
"Some administrations used capital projects like goodies, handing them out like candy," said Hedlund. "Not Romney."
Romney often opted for confrontation over compromise. He issued more than 800 vetoes, but they were routinely overturned by lawmakers irked at what they saw as grandstanding by the governor.
In an ad during the 2008 presidential primary, Romney boasted: "I like vetoes. I vetoed hundreds of spending appropriations as governor. And, frankly, I can't wait to get my hands on Washington."
"If you're a Republican governor in Massachusetts, you have to work around the Legislature and use the bully pulpit," said Richard Tisei, a former state Senate minority leader running for Congress this year. "On big issues that mattered like health care and the fiscal crisis, Romney did work with the other side of the aisle."
On the health care bill that laid the foundation for his unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid, Romney aggressively courted Democrats. The law since has become a political liability for him.
He reached for compromises with top Democrats, particularly Kennedy, whom he had unsuccessfully challenged in a Senate race in 1994. Kennedy, who died in 2009, had the strong personal and political ties to state legislators that Romney lacked. Democrats marveled over how engaged Romney was, even showing up on a Sunday at the homes of top legislative leaders to try to break a key logjam on the bill.
In a rare moment of unity, Romney, Kennedy and leading Democrats were all handshakes and smiles as they shared the stage at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall for the bill signing ceremony in 2006.
"My son said that having Sen. Kennedy and me together like this on this stage behind the same piece of landmark legislation will help slow global warming," Romney joked to Kennedy, who was instrumental in shepherding the bill through the Legislature. "That's because hell has frozen over."
"My son said something, too," Kennedy retorted. "When Kennedy and Romney support a piece of legislation, usually one of them hasn't read it."
Miga reported from Washington.
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