MANCHESTER, N.H. – New Hampshire Democrats are preemptively attacking likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney hours before he makes his second public appearance of the year in this crucial first-in-the-nation primary state.
The state Democratic Party this afternoon criticized the former Massachusetts governor for, among other things, planning a campaign appearance this afternoon at a gas station here. The Democrats pointed to a 2-cent-per-gallon increase in a gasoline fee that was implemented in 2003 the Bay State when Romney was governor. The special fee, assessed on gasoline companies and aimed at cleaning up contamination around underground fuel storage tanks, was raised from 0.5 cents per gallon to 2.5 cents per gallon.
To drive home the point, state Democrats released a map showing all New Hampshire gas stations that border Massachusetts. The map is called “Last Stop Before the Romney Gas Tax.”
"It’s the height of hypocrisy for Mitt Romney to go to a gas station in New Hampshire and play politics with gas prices,” Holly Shulman, a spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Mitt Romney was for health reform in Massachusetts before being against in nationally. He was for the President’s recovery plan before he was against it, and he was for higher gas prices before he decided to play politics on the issue. If Mitt Romney had any core beliefs – or a long term memory – he might avoid getting caught repeatedly in these contradictions between his record in years' past and his rhetoric today.”
Romney, during a tour of a local gas station, brushed aside the criticism, saying, "They missed their mark."
Romney pointed out that the overall gasoline tax -- charged to consumers at the pump -- stayed the same during his four-year term, and that it was a fee charged to gasoline service stations that increased.
"One of the costs of doing business in an establishment like this is the cost of leakage contamination in the soil, from the tanks," he said. "And in Massachusetts the state pays for remediating some of those sites, and so there is a fee charged to service stations for the remediation of leaking tanks. And that’s part of the cost of doing business."
"The reason for high gasoline prices like the ones you’re seeing behind me today is not because of the fee for remediation of contamination of soil," he added. "The reason you’re seeing the high prices is because of the extraordinary growth in demand globally and the inability of this nation to create sufficient supply. It’s a supply and demand imbalance. And if we’re going to get prices down we’re going to have to finally address our sources of energy."
It was the second instance of the day where the state Democratic Party leveled criticisms at Romney, and indicated both the growing intensity of the presidential nominating season and the type of scrutiny that will be placed on Romney’s record.
This morning, the party announced it was filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Romney violated campaign finance laws by using large contributions given to a series of state PACs to fund his presidential ambitions.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.