BOSTON — Barack Obama is nudging him to run. His inner circle is actively encouraging it. Obama world’s clear and away 2020 favorite is sitting right here, on the 38th floor of the John Hancock Building, in a nicely decorated office at Bain Capital.
Obama strategist David Axelrod has had several conversations with Patrick about running, and eagerly rattles off the early primary map logic: small-town campaign experience from his 2006 gubernatorial run that will jibe perfectly with Iowa, neighbor-state advantage in New Hampshire and the immediate bloc of votes he’d have as an African-American heading into South Carolina.
Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s close adviser and friend, says that a President Patrick is what “my heart desires.”
When you have a governor around for eight years, one likely develops varied thoughts, a complex relationship with that person, as it were. I haven’t put things together thematically, but these things occur to me:
Patrick is a two-term governor. He was decently, not overwhelmingly popular. He’s a terrific political talent — a great speaker of genuine passion and conviction. Many times over he challenged the political culture, including the legislature, with a progressive, inclusive ethic, and progressive initiatives — some of which passed, some of which ran up against a stubborn small-c conservative House. Patrick supported same-sex marriage before it was easy; he supported clean energy and efficiency, and helped develop a strong hometown industry that is well-positioned to take advantage of the ongoing energy conversion; he advocated for more funding for universal pre-K and public transportation. Before the ACA website nightmare, the Massachusetts health care law was quite neatly implemented (with some credit to the outgoing Romney administration as well). We tend to under-value certain aspects of a politician’s résumé that have been so well-integrated into the Zeitgeist that we take them for granted; we also rarely give credit for taking a risk advocating for things that didn’t pass in the legislature.
In any event, the culture shift has stuck: The difference between Charlie Baker in his 2010 and 2014 versions, was Baker’s acceptance that he essentially wasn’t going to set the agenda, but rather implement a consensus strongly influenced by Patrick.
Patrick is about as progressive as you can expect a national politician to be. (I acknowledge Bernie Sanders’ enduring popularity, but we didn’t put him in the crucible of a national campaign. We just didn’t run that experiment, and for 2020 I’m not at all inclined to support a near-octogenarian Bernie nor Biden.)
On the other hand:
- Some will not like the Bain association. Patrick is obviously quite at home — maybe too much so — in big-money, big-business settings; the things he’s working on at Bain sound kind of intriguing, but the culture of investment and finance is not exactly politically fashionable these days.
- I never agreed with him on casinos. In light of Steve Wynn’s recent arm-twisting of Nevada Senator Dean Heller on health care, I’m especially unhappy with having invited such creatures as Wynn to be major economic — and political — influences in Massachusetts.
- There were shortcomings in administration execution in his tenure. The rollout of the health care website under the ACA was a nightmare, and I didn’t like the somewhat distant tone that he set in response. I hear that DCFS is much better run under Baker. The MBTA was not delivered in good administrative shape to Baker — although Patrick did push for and achieve administrative branch control which Baker is using.
What do you think? Is this just talk? Are there better alternatives? Fired up, ready to go?