David began by asking: Why talk to blogs? Like a good writer, Patrickmoved from general to specific: He spoke of running "a different kindof campaign", one that appeals to people’s optimism and sense of shareddestiny, instead of relying on money and endorsements. People who are turned off by the screaming-heads style of modern politics communicate through alternative means: That means us, and you. He proudly rattled off facts and figures of the campaign: they’re aimingfor 1500 volunteers, 257 precinct captains, 100,000 doors knocked thissummer.
Bobasked about Patrick’s qualifications for office andrelevant experience. He referred to an article in TeenInk (which is the third link that shows up when one googles "Deval Patrick"),in which Patrick lists increasing African-American home ownership ashis proudest accomplishment in Clinton’s Department of Justice. Patrick spoke about the empirical resultsof lending policies and their effects on banks and communities,especially advocating for increased access to capital for strugglingcommunities. That kind of detail-based empiricism is an indication ofmembership in the Reality-Based Community.
I asked about health care. (I have to say that as a non-expert,writing about health care policy is itself like a drug: Mind-addling,yet strangely addictive…) I asked him where he came down amid thethree major proposals (Mitt’s "Insure Yourself or Else"; Trav’s "State reinsurance+Cheapo Plans"; vs. the ACT! Coalition’s "Access and Affordability", or HA3,as I call it). For me his response was hopeful but still not definitive. Heoutlined the three principles which are a part of his stump speech: 1.Universal coverage is the goal, 2. Cost control, and 3. Quality. Whilepraising HA3 as the most ambitious of the proposals, he said "there aremany ways to skin a cat" (just ask Bill Frist!). He is especiallyinterested in the idea of the state re-insuring the most expensivecases, thereby taking that load off of insurers. He mentioned that none of the current plans deal much with the issue of quality.
I then asked: What happens if nothinggets done in the next twelve months on this issue? Will there be a1994-style retrenchment on the issue? He indicated that he would notshrink from dealing with the issue, even in that context: "You can’tjust take your marbles and go home." He also indicated that taxincreases would have to be on the table, perhaps as a last resort.
He gave every indication that he’s willing to expend politicalcapital to expand and improve health care. Strangely, he may have thegreatest impact as a candidate rather than as governor: By taking astand relatively early in the game (e.g. in the fall), he may influencethe debate to some degree between now and July, which is the governor’sand ACT!’s drop-dead date for legislative action. The Patrick campaignis talking about this summer as its time to "study issues", so we may hearmore specifics on exactly what they support in the fall.
David asked about his viability as a candidate, and the apparent preference of Massachusetts voters for divided government. Patrick responded: "People don?t like stalemate." He described the economy as "backsliding", especially outside of 128. Criticizing Romney’s economic development vision, he said, "If you’re looking for the same old thing, I?m not your guy." To which David asked: "Whose guy are you?" The answer: "I?m going to run hard as a Democrat but govern asstatesman."
I asked Patrick about stricter oversight for major construction projects: He claimed to be willing to make enemies over the issue: "All you have to do is declare your candidacy to makeenemies."
Patrick has already been compared to Barack Obama (which I think is a too-glib reference to race), but his speaking style, his optimism, his emerging command of the nuts-and-bolts of policy, and his nice-guy charisma actually remind me of Bill Clinton. I remember watching Clinton on C-SPAN talking to a teacher’s association: He was able to move from the wonkiest audience-specific policy talk to the most simplistic — and rousing — exhortations ("Will you help us build that bridge to the 21st century?"). Patrick’s got the political-romantic thing in abundance — and he certainly seems capable of grasping all manner of policy particulars. I’m optimistic that we’ll see the ambitious rhetoric fleshed out a bit in coming months.