Mitt hearts Mass.?

It was abundantly clear who the winner of last night’s presidential debate was: Massachusetts.

After years of pursuing his White House dream while trying to keep an arms-length distance from the bluest of blue states – and his signature health care act – Mitt Romney hailed the Bay State as a sort of real-life exemplar of Lake Wobegon, where everyone gets along, anyone can see a doctor anytime, and all the children are above average.

Romney is being universally hailed for last night’s performance, likely a result of participating in about 3,766 Republican primary debates, give or take a few. But his full-throated defense of the state where he served one term as governor laid waste to President Obama’s attacks on his stances over Obamacare (they both took to calling it that), education, and rigid right-wing ideology.

“The irony is that we’ve seen this model work really well in Massachusetts, because Gov. Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model, and as a consequence people are covered there,” Obama said in praising his own health care reform. “It hasn’t destroyed jobs.”

Romney, as he did all night, pounced and used what he claimed is his innate bipartisanship and the kumbaya atmosphere of political Massachusetts, which probably comes as a surprise to most observers and participants of the bloodsport here.

“First of all, I like the way we did it in Massachusetts,” Romney responded. “I like the fact that in my state, we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together. What you did instead was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote. As a matter of fact, when Massachusetts did something quite extraordinary — elected a Republican senator to stop Obamacare — you pushed it through anyway.”

It’s the biggest hug Romney has ever given to his baby. Of course, as is his wont, he stumbled a bit as he got rolling.

“We didn’t cut Medicare,” he said, before recovering. “Of course, we don’t have Medicare, but we didn’t cut Medicare by $716 billion.”

When questioned by Obama on his education plans and accused of abandoning public schools and teachers in his economic plan, Romney once again drew on his leadership of his adopted and since-abandoned home state.

“Well, first, I love great schools,” Romney said. “Massachusetts, our schools are ranked number one of all 50 states.” Romney’s boast on test scores may or may not stand up to scrutiny, depending upon whose facts you use. But he also failed to mention he cut local aid 15 percent to balance the budget, cuts that had a drastic effect on local schools.

But it was Romney’s touting of the bonhomie he shared with Democratic leadership that sounded all warm and fuzzy – except maybe to that Democratic leadership that has been going around the country talking about how distant Romney was as governor.

“I had the great experience — it didn’t seem like it at the time — of being elected in a state where my Legislature was 87 percent Democrat,” said Romney, who cited the weekly leadership meetings that have become a tradition in Massachusetts. “And that meant I figured out from Day One I had to get along and I had to work across the aisle to get anything done.”

Here in Massachusetts, we are all proud that one of our own politicians running for president has finally brought glory on the national stage. Now, will it help him make up the 30-point gap he is facing in trailing Obama in the polls here?

                                                                                                                                        –JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

A Beacon Hill jobs commission unveils a plan calling for targeted job training and infrastructure investment, the Lowell Sun reports.

A search begins for a new state probation chief, the Associated Press reports (via the Herald).

The state payroll will reach $3.65 billion this year, reports the Boston Business Journal. In all, 159 public employees earn more than Gov. Deval Patrick’s $139,832 salary.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Who is Fred Leeb and why is he calling for a Manhattan Project for struggling cities? Governing has the answers.

Plainville residents are disappointed that a local landmark — an old general store — will need to be torn down and replaced due to the building’s condition, the Attleboro Sun Chronicle reports.

ELECTION 2012

Mitt Romney is the consensus winner of the debate. Time’s Mark Halperin gives Romney an A- and President Obama a B-. A CBS instant poll gives Romney the edge. The Washington Post tallies up the winners and losers. If that isn’t enough from the Post, here’s six more reasons why Romney won. Karl Rove questions the accuracy of presidential polls in the Wall Street Journal.  The New York Times says the candidates’ muted styles masked a sharp difference in philosophy. Former CommonWealth managing editor Robert Sullivan offers a take on the debate on the website of the Catholic weekly America — and says he wrote it free of exposure to any Twitter or instant analysis group-think.  Jeff Jacoby says Romney romped. Joan Vennochi can’t disagree.

In a video, Time explains the electoral college and what happens if President Obama and Mitt Romney tie.

A Globe editorial calls on Joe Kennedy III to agree to more than just three debates with Republican opponent Sean Bielat in the race for the open Fourth Congressional District seat.

Scott Brown continues to hammer at Elizabeth Warren over her private legal career, charging that work she did in the 1990s for Dow Chemical sought to protect the company against claims from consumers, but Brown could not offer any proof for the charge, the Globe reports. Warren visits the MetroWest Daily News editorial board to talk taxes, the economy, and education. Brown has yet to meet with them. Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, who is part Cherokee, offers her perspective on the Elizabeth Warren/Native American controversy.
Warren gets a standing O at a Roxbury forum that Brown declined to attend.

The Republican candidate for the open 11th Plymouth District seat in Brockton and Easton says he’d opt out of the state pension system if elected while the Democratic candidate says she’d give up her law practice to be a full-time legislator.

Greater Boston has the definitive interview with Dan Fishman, the Libertarian candidate in the Sixth Congressional District race.

Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin claims that doctors are performing abortions on women who are not pregnant.

The Phoenix ponders what the first one hundred days of a Mitt Romney presidency would look like.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A direct shipping lane for produce from Mexico to New Bedford came one step closer to reality with a group of Mexican growers meeting with local retailers to gauge interest on both sides.

Radio Boston visits Benoit Rolland, the Watertown bow-maker who won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant

Even the famous “bloody sock” could end up on the auction block as Curt Schilling tries to dig out from under the huge losses from his failed 38 Studios video game company.

A Boston Herald editorial criticizes the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority’s recent purchase of land to facilitate the convention center’s expansion, a project that has not yet been funded.

EDUCATION

Hanna Rosin joins WBUR’s On Point to discuss her article and book on how women are taking over.

North Shore Community College in Lynn is planning a $28 million expansion, the Item reports.

Boston City Councilor John Connolly and a multi-racial group of Boston city councilors and state reps unveil a sweeping alternative plan to revamp school assignments in Boston. A Globe editorial says the proposal should be considered along with those rolled last week by the school department.

A new Department of Education report finds more than 13 percent of students who started paying back higher ed loans in 2009 have defaulted. For students at for-profit colleges, the rate was one in five.

HEALTH CARE

Federal officials are investigating a specialized pharmacy in Massachusetts in connection with a meningitis outbreak, the Wall Street Journal reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Boston-Worcester commuter train service is being expanded, the Telegram reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

State and local officials agree here is no real plan to evacuate Cape Cod in case of an accident at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

A private tank removal company was fined by the state Department of Environmental Protection for asbestos violations while working at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

AccuWeather is forecasting above average snowfall this winter for the East Coast.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A nightclub bouncer in Lawrence pleads guilty to breaking the arm of a man who the bouncer claims was a snitch on Mayor William Lantigua, the Eagle-Tribune reports. The attack was caught on a security camera and a voice recording, as the alleged snitch called the Eagle-Tribune as the attack was being carried out.

A judge in Peabody refuses to dismiss charges of lying to police filed against the assistant clerk-magistrate at the Ipswich District Court, the Salem News reports.

An alleged member of a Hyde Park gang is among those set to seek release from prison in the wake of the state drug lab evidence tainting scandal, the Boston Herald reports.