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Between the LInes: The White House for Deval?

Wouldn’t you like to know?

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Will he or won’t he? Our governor likes to keep us guessing.

And we media wags are only too happy to help him keep the question in the news: will Deval Patrick run for president?

“Maybe, maybe,” he told reporters last week, when asked if he could imagine himself running for the Oval Office someday. “That’s a decision I have to make along with my wife of 30 years, and she’s a tough one to convince.”

Pushed a bit harder, Patrick gave a very predictable, practical answer: “Let’s just see what time tells.”

Do we have a choice, governor?

Last July, Patrick had ruled out a run for the White House in 2016, saying he wanted to return to the private sector. As recently as last month, in the days leading to his 2014 State of the Commonwealth speech, Patrick’s surrogates were still on message: if the governor says he wants to go back to the private sector, take him at his word.

But now, as long as we’re talking beyond 2016, the door is open.

I suspect a number of things about Deval Patrick’s post-gubernatorial political plans. First, I think that even if he weren’t one of the most ambitious men of his generation, he’d keep teasing the media with the possibility of a presidential run. I think he takes pleasure in using the media to keep him relevant in the lame-duck phase of his governorship. I think Patrick feels abused by the media—a view that, fair or not (and I say not), makes him seem whiny—and it feels a bit like payback when he gets reporters dancing around him for the scoop on his presidential ambitions.

I also think Deval Patrick will run; that he’s always planned to run someday; that he’s governed in ways designed to improve his chances nationally; that he is surrounded by people who got on his bandwagon with confidence that it would eventually lead to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Despite recent controversies, including the ongoing scandal in the Department of Children and Families, that tarnish what was already far from an unblemished run as governor, the fact is, Patrick remains popular in Massachusetts. He is an outstanding campaigner who has gained national visibility—as a top surrogate for President Obama and, after last April, in coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. He’s pacified progressives by talking tough on guns and increasing higher education funding while mostly playing to the center with investments in life sciences and casino development. He’s built his army by bringing allies from the corporate world into government.

I’ve been disappointed by Deval Patrick and I might not vote for him again. He’s been a mediocre governor. But he is a great politician and, for that reason alone, I can’t wait to see what he’s able to do in 2020.•

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