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Massachusetts liberal is a phrase in American politics which is generally used as a pejorative political epithet by Republicans against Democrats who are from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was most significantly used in the 1988 presidential race by Vice President George H.W. Bush against Governor Michael Dukakis, and again in the 2004 race by then-President George W. Bush against Senator John Kerry. The Democratic candidates (Dukakis, Kerry) lost both races. In the Republican 2012 presidential primary election Newt Gingrich used the phrase repeatedly against Mitt Romney the former Governor of Massachusetts who's main residence was a riverside mansion in the state.
Many of the citizens of Massachusetts hold the Commonwealth's liberal reputation as a badge of honor, and proudly describe themselves as "Massachusetts liberals."
Meanings of the phrase 
The idea behind the usage of the phrase is, the state of Massachusetts is "out of the mainstream" in comparison to other states. Jane Elmes-Crahall, a professor who studies political rhetoric, has said, in swing and red states, "It (the phrase) still signals the antithesis of their (swing and red state) social and economic values." Hence, it is believed, people in these states will not vote for someone they believe to be a "Massachusetts liberal."
There are several specific ideologies that are implied in the phrase:
- Allegedly being "soft on crime"; specifically, one attack along these lines was seen in the infamous Willie Horton ads, which were envisioned by Lee Atwater and the National Security Political Action Committee, and used by George H. W. Bush's Presidential campaign against Governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis in the 1988 Presidential election.
- Alleged support for higher taxes. Among some, the state has a reputation for high taxes (5% sales tax, just increased to 6.25%; 5.3% income tax), and some Republicans refer to it as "Taxachusetts."
- Support for anti-war ideas. This particular inference comes from the 1972 Presidential race, when Massachusetts was the only state where antiwar Senator George McGovern defeated President Richard Nixon.
- In more recent times, such as the 2004 presidential race, the term also is meant to point to the state's legalization of same-sex marriage. It was the first state where same-sex marriage became legal.
See also 
- Susan Page and Jill Lawrence (2004-07-11). "Does 'Massachusetts liberal' label still matter?". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-05-14.
- Media Matters - Hannity falsely claimed that "Al Gore brought Willie Horton to the American people"
- Massachusetts Department of Revenue
- Elaine Kamarck (2004-07-25). "Can outdated label still hurt Kerry?". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-05-14.