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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The odd couple

It's hard to think of a more mismatched pair than Deval Patrick and Mitt Romney. One a transplant from the wealth of Detroit auto making, the other the son of a Chicago jazz musician who walked away from his family. Their only commonality is the fact they held the keys to the Statehouse Corner Office.

And by the grace (or curse) of politics, they will be running around the country offering alternative visions of Massachusetts, trying to sway voters about what's wrong and what's right about our home state.

We've already seen the Romney version: a home to loony liberals who don't hold the "values" associated with conservative voters. A man who has taken more positions on issues than those issues have sides, who was for health reform before be was against it before he was it, sorta.

Now comes Patrick, secure in a second term and free to tell his story and that of his adopted state. It will surely include talk about implementing the model law Romney helped to author and the gargantuan task of trying to rein in costs after improving access.

Patrick foes, many still scratching their heads in disbelief that he actually won a second term, will try to pillory him for too many out-of-state trips, a dangerously thin line for those who support a man who spent almost three-fifths of his final year in office on the road -- making Massachusetts the punchline of his first White House quest.

There's little question Patrick has been racking up frequent flier miles in abundance this year -- and a 2 1/2-week book tour coming on the heels of a less-than-successful overseas mission doesn't win points in the good timing category.

But the fact remains the initial heavy lifting of this government year has already been accomplished in a system where the executive proposes and the disposes. The fiscal 2012 budget is now before the House Ways and Means Committee, which will likely produce it sometime near the end of the book tour. A final legislative version is unlikely to it his desk before mid-June.

Lawmakers are maintaining their own leisurely pace, gearing up for hearings on the thousands of bills before them. And modern communications means Patrick is never really out of touch with staff or legislative leaders.

So ultimately the issue ought to be which man is selling the appropriate picture of Massachusetts: Romney, who essentially walked away from his job after two years to pursue personal ambition, denying his accomplishments because they didn't fit with the conservatives he was trying to woo?

Or Patrick, whose personal and political ties to Barack Obama offer some real lessons about Massachusetts tat can effectively counter the wrong impressions offered by Romney and his conservative minions?

It will be a fun show to watch.

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