Mass hope and change fizzles
Gov. Deval Patrick has lately addressed doting crowds around the country as a surrogate for Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, his friend and fellow gifted orator. Last month, Mr. Obama even acknowledged borrowing language from Mr. Patrick’s stump speeches, casting a flattering light on a novice politician barely known outside Massachusetts.Having bought into the hope and change con, the Massachusetts voters are suffering from buyers remorse and that is why Obama's message would not sell there a second time. The fact is that Patrick has been a terrible governor and Obama would be a terrible President. Patrick tries to give his excuses to the Times and you can hear the same excuses two years from now if Obama is elected. What the story really exposes is that the campaign manager for both, Axelrod, has crafted a winning message for now, but when the rubber meets the road it is as meaningless as the words of the candidates.
But there is no such glow at home for Mr. Patrick, the first Democrat to lead his state in 16 years and the nation’s second elected black governor.
Mr. Patrick, who easily won office in 2006 after dazzling voters with a message of hope and change, suffered a nasty defeat last week at the hands of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which quashed his proposal to increase revenues by allowing three resort casinos in the state. None of the governor’s major policy proposals have cleared the Legislature, in fact, and he and Salvatore DiMasi, the speaker of the House, have taken to trading barbs publicly.
Mr. Patrick is faring better than a year ago, when he was under siege for spending more than $10,000 on drapes for his State House office and upgrading his state car from a Ford Crown Victoria to a Cadillac. (He later agreed to reimburse the state for the drapes and part of the car lease.) By his third month in office, Mr. Patrick had announced that his wife was being treated for depression, and by his fourth, he had overhauled his staff.
But even now, governing is not coming easily for Mr. Patrick, 51, a former civil rights lawyer and corporate executive who came to Massachusetts on a prep school scholarship in the ’70s.
So why has he struggled for traction in a heavily Democratic state with a Legislature that should be on his side?
“He’s got to score some major successes to prove he is relevant,” said Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “One thing you don’t want to be is irrelevant, especially with the kind of appeal that he had as a candidate and is similar to that of Barack Obama.”
Mr. DiMasi, who supports Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York for president, has openly tried to link Mr. Obama to Mr. Patrick’s difficulties, suggesting, along with other critics, that the two are alike in their lack of executive experience. Before the Massachusetts primary in February, Mr. DiMasi said that he did not want a president “in there on a learning process” during his first year in office. (Despite endorsements from Mr. Patrick and Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts, Mr. Obama lost to Mrs. Clinton here by a wide margin.)
But Mr. Patrick dismissed the comparison, saying Mr. Obama had far more political experience than he, and defended his own record.