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SCOT LEHIGH

Mitt's Manhattan adventures

AN OUTNUMBERED Republican suddenly in philosophically friendly company, Governor Romney yesterday likened his convention-week experience to Alice in Wonderland.

But the saga of the Mittster in Manhattan actually seemed more of a good news, bad news sort of affair.

Let's start with the best news: Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the US Constitution. That's the part that contains this nifty little line: "No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President."

Take that, Ah-nold. So what if the Terminator can transfix a capacity crowd in Madison Square Garden? There's one thing the charismatic immigrant still can't do, and that's hold the nation's top office. So unless Schwarzenegger can get the Constitution changed, governor of Kuh-lee-fornya may be as high up as he gets.

Now for some bad news. Utah's Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he will soon begin a push to amend the Constitution so Schwarzenegger -- and all other naturalized citizens of 20 or more years duration -- can be elected president.

Yet the affable Hatch had some good news for Romney as well. Asked if he thought Mitt was running for president, Hatch replied: "I do -- and I hope he does, because Mitt's a great guy. He's got guts, ability; he's a tremendously successful guy."

But wait -- there might be some bad news here as well. After all, Mitt's trying to pretend that any presidential ambitions for him are as remote as Antarctica. So have the two friends discussed the notion?

"Only obliquely," replies Hatch. "I think he's trying to do a good job as governor."

Why, there's more good news: Out-of-towners apparently think Romney is slaving away at his job.

Actually, he seems a bit bored with it -- and who, really, can blame him? Remember how Kevin White got a little tired of being Boston's mayor as he slogged through his fourth term? Or how Mike Dukakis's eyes wandered toward Washington as he entered his third term?

Well, when an executive used to the syncopated pace of the private sector has governed a state for an entire year and a half, it can all grow a little stale. Year after half-year of preparing a budget. The endless cycle of delivering an inaugural address, and then, 12 months later, a State of the State speech.

To get a good sense of how long Mitt's been at the helm, consider this: Children who were halfway through the first grade when he took office are already about to start the third. The New England Patriots have played a full season of football -- and are almost ready to kick off another fall's schedule.

No wonder, then, that national politics has lately seemed much on Romney's mind. Certainly his schedule this week betrayed that interest. There was, for example, yesterday's speech to the Michigan delegation, one of the three states the hydra-homed governor can lay some claim to. Or Tuesday's talk to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Or his address, on the same day, to the Iowa delegation.

"He was invited to speak," Romney's spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman notes of the last event.

And a lucky thing, too. "Massachusetts governor crashes Iowa delegation breakfast, commandeers microphone" would have made for an awfully off-putting headline in the Des Moines Register.

Even better news: Romney has come up with some clever cover for his politicking.

"I've got to be honest: I don't mind having some national visibility because I want to be able to influence the party to do things that I think are important," Romney said. "I want to have a party nationally that . . . can be even more helpful to us in Massachusetts."

Yet here's a countervailing piece of bad news: As he worked to help Massachusetts by raising his political profile, Romney, who delivered a predictably partisan speech, risked being upstaged by a funnier, looser Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, who brought a twinkle-in-the-eye tone to her own anti-Kerry critique.

But let's end on a positive note. Merely knowing that Romney got elected in Democratic Massachusetts has lent him some magic with the party faithful.

"The fact that he can win in predominantly Democratic Massachusetts is certainly one of the measures of the man," declared Mike Cox, the attorney general of Michigan. "In Republican circles, he is a rock star."

Scot Lehigh's e-mail address is lehigh@globe.com.

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