Last night at the debate, Romney recycled his lame explanation for why he supported Paul Tsongas in the ’92 Democratic presidential primary in Massachusetts (he said he wanted to be able to vote against Bill Clinton). Steve Kornacki reviews the real reasons Romney voted for him and why his ’94 Senate campaign used it as a talking point in his defense:

In other words, it was perfectly natural for someone like Romney, a venture capitalist who back then described himself as passionately pro-choice and pro-gay rights and stressed his distance from Reagan-style conservatism, to vote for Tsongas in 1992. Which is the point that Romney and his allies tried to make in 1994, when Democrats tried to paint him as far-right ideologue. Romney had to be careful — among die-hards within the Massachusetts GOP, the Tsongas vote was a sensitive subject — but he and his allies quietly used his ’92 vote to counter the Democrats’ caricaturing.

There was even some hope among Romney’s team that Tsongas might endorse him. Tsongas had built his name as a critic of Kennedy’s old-school labor-friendly liberalism and had even helped launch an anti-deficit group (the Concord Coalition) that in ’94 gave Kennedy a failing grade.

I’m not sure why Romney ever felt compelled to come up with such a poor explanation for his Tsongas vote. It might not sit well with primary voters, but he could have made a perfectly reasonable argument for his decision. Since he was an independent at the time, he shouldn’t have been expected to vote for a Republican candidate every time. He could have said that voting in the more competitive election was the best way to use his vote that year, or he could have simply said that Tsongas’ views were closest to his at the time, but that he wouldn’t agree with Tsongas on a lot of things now. He could have just declared an interest in backing a home state politician. Instead he concocts an implausible story that anyone could see through in a minute just so he can maintain the fiction that he has always been a down-the-line partisan throughout his life when everyone knows he hasn’t been. This is what is so bizarre about Romney’s habit of lying: he lies about things that don’t really matter, and there doesn’t seem to be any discernible reason why he does it.