Romney's Ratings Improve After Residency Reproach

Despite opponents' attempts to beat him up over living in and out of the state over the past three years, Republican Mitt Romney is leading in head-to-head polls with the five Democratic candidates seeking the governor's seat.

The Boston Herald poll published Friday shows Romney edging state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien 45 to 35 percent, with 20 percent undecided.  He bests former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich 54 to 30 percent.

Romney is ahead of three other candidates by 23-30 percent.

More importantly for the former U.S. Olympics Committee president, Romney is increasing his favorability rating and decreasing his unfavorability ratings. He is up to a 49-percent positive rating, seven points higher than a May 6 Herald poll, and down five percent in unfavorables to 22 percent.

The support has manifested itself after three days of hearings into whether Romney meets the residency requirement to run in the state. The Massachusetts Constitution requires candidates for governor to have lived in the state for seven years before running.

Romney said he has always called Massachusetts home, but because he spent so much time at his mansion in Utah to plan the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics games, Utah gave him a discount on his property taxes, a benefit offered to people who make their Utah homes their primary residency.

That was enough to get the political machinations churning over whether Romney is qualified to run for governor.

According to the polls, voters say he is. The Herald poll showed 68 percent of those surveyed said Romney should be allowed to run, and a majority believe he has been truthful in answering questions about his taxes and residency. Three out of four say they see Romney in the same or a better light since the Massachusettes Democratic Party filed its challenge with the state Ballot Law Commission, expected to rule on Romney's eligibility by June 28.

"Voters overwhelmingly think that Romney has a right to run for governor of Massachusetts," said Herald pollster R. Kelly Myers. "And they don't want the outcome of the election to be determined on a technicality."

The poll of 410 likely voters, taken Wednesday and Thursday, has a 4.8 percent margin of error.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.