This association with greatness, splendor, and epic achievement actually helped produce Mitt Romney’s most dubious accomplishment during his single term as governor. If he had served as Chief Executive of Michigan (like his father), or Utah (where he led the Olympics), Massachusetts Mitt might have felt less compulsion to produce some monumental reform to ornament his record. But if you lead the State House at the Hub of the Universe, you’re more likely to sign on to precisely the sort of epochal overreach represented by Romneycare – an overreach that leaves you vulnerable to harsh questions if not attacks from your fellow conservatives.

Massachusetts thinkers and office-holders have always fancied themselves philosopher kings who know better than the unenlightened masses in lesser states, and feel some obligation to spread their wisdom and righteousness to more benighted precincts. From John Winthrop and the Adamses, to Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, and abolitionist firebrand William Lloyd Garrison, Bay State bombast has never shied away from the deep-rooted local instinct to tell the nation how to live.

Of course, this could be a serious problem for Romney, which helps explain the Democratic strategy to discredit him as a Boston grandee who deep in his heart believes he’s better than the rest of us. Fortunately for Mitt, however, he’s not the only national candidate who conveys the same impression: Barack Obama himself spent enough time at Harvard to drink deep of the Cambridge Kool Aid and to convey his own echoes of Massachusetts pretentiousness and self-righteousness.