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For Deval Patrick, little shift in post-2016 White House ambitions

Governor Patrick has repeatedly left open the door to a White House campaign when asked about his long-term plans.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File

Governor Patrick has repeatedly left open the door to a White House campaign when asked about his long-term plans.

Governor Deval Patrick fueled the Beltway buzz machine on Sunday when he declared at a meeting of the nation’s governors in Washington that he would open to a presidential run after 2016.

But for close observers of the governor’s political ambitions, his comments did not mark much of a shift. Patrick has repeatedly left open the door to a White House campaign when asked about his long-term plans.

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In September, for example, Patrick told ABC News that, while he would not run in 2016, he would not rule out a future bid.

“If there is a time sometime later to come back and serve in public life, I hope I’m able to do that. Just not going to be in 2016,” Patrick said.

The governor gave a similarly open-ended answer when asked, on his monthly radio show in September, about a future run for the White House.

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“I am going to finish the job I have, and I am loving it,” he said. “And when I finish the job I have, I am going to find a job in the private sector. And I hope there will come a time sometime later in life when I have something else I can contribute to public life, and when that time comes, we’ll see.”

Also in September, when Patrick’s daughter, Katherine, said at a panel discussion in Washington that, “I’d really love if he were my president,” Patrick again batted down any talk of a 2016 campaign while leaving himself open to a future run.

“I’m going to find a job in a year and a half and go back into private life, and maybe one day come back into public life. We’ll see,” Patrick said.

Viewed in the context of those remarks, Patrick’s remarks on Sunday were largely consistent with the answers he has always given about his White House ambitions.

Asked by Politico whether he could envision himself running for national office, Patrick said: “Maybe. Maybe.”

“That’s a decision I have to make along with my wife of 30 years and she’s a tough one to convince,” Patrick said.

He added, “I’d like to have another opportunity to serve. I believe in service. I enjoy it. I also like coming and going, you know, because I think that my private-sector life has contributed to how I think about public-sector challenges and what I do in the public sector.”

Patrick’s remarks nevertheless were significant because of the timing and context.

He reignited the presidential chatter while attending the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, which draws the fervid attention of the national political class, and which is host to many governors with presidential ambitions. That all but assured that his comments would gain national notice.

At the same time, he spoke while his administration is facing arguably one of its lowest moments in Massachusetts, battling a host of problems that have spawned multiple investigations and led to questions about his interest in, and engagement with, the day-to-day management of state government.

On Tuesday, Patrick leaves for a six-day vacation with his wife in Costa Rica.

Meanwhile, the state’s health insurance exchange, once a national model, is swamped with a backlog of thousands of applications for subsidized health insurance, the result of a website that has been malfunctioning since it was revamped in October to comply with the more complex requirements of the federal health care law.

The state’s unemployment benefits website is also fraught with errors, frustrating many who are seeking jobless benefits.

The state Department of Children and Families has been under fire since it acknowledged last December that it lost track of a 5-year-old boy who is now feared dead.

And the process for regulating medical marijuana has been beset by doubts after the Department of Public Health granted provisional licenses to applicants who fed the state false information and made questionable claims.

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.
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