Romney worked especially hard on that last promise -- and, in the process, provided the case study of his measured, technocratic approach.
Romney didn't propose the most conservative kind of capital-punishment statute. Instead, he proposed a law so compromised that people wondered whether it would ever even be used.
Romney's bill would have allowed the death penalty only for a narrow range of especially horrific crimes. And it would have required a whole new standard of proof that went beyond the usual "beyond a reasonable doubt." Death sentences could be given only when there was "no doubt" at all.
I had a different take on it, which I told Fahrenthold on the phone. Politics is the art of the possible. Romney was fighting an uphill battle in a very liberal state, and he proposed the law he thought he had a shot of getting through. Any death penalty law at all is very conservative in Massachusetts. His proposal would not have been conservative in Texas, but that is like comparing jalapenos and cranberries.
My comment didn't make the cut. Why is "left as an exercise for the reader," as my old physics textbooks said.