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Deval Patrick criticizes Mitt Romney on jobs but says presumptive GOP nominee was not a failed governor

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Governor Deval Patrick hit his predecessor, Mitt Romney, about jobs in Massachusetts on Sunday but continued to land softer punches than other surrogates for President Obama.

Patrick, a co-chairman of Obama’s reelection campaign, said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee had a poor record of job growth as governor, repeating the familiar statistic that Massachusetts ranked 47th in the nation in that category when Romney was in office.

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But, Patrick said, that “doesn’t mean he was a failure as governor.”

The Obama campaign spent much of last week casting Romney’s gubernatorial tenure as an unmitigated disappointment. During an Obama campaign press conference at the State House on Thursday, Massachusetts House Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad declared “Mitt didn’t do anything he promised here in Massachusetts.”

Romney did the same to Obama on Thursday, when he graded the president’s first term an F “across the board.”

Patrick has praised Romney in earlier interviews for leading health care reform in Massachusetts, though he has accused the former governor of running away from the accomplishment on the campaign trail.

Patrick has also been gentle with Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney ran for 15 years, and was again Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Host David Gregory asked the governor to respond to former President Bill Clinton’s statement Thursday that “there’s no question that in terms of getting up and going to the office and basically performing the essential functions of the office, the man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.”

Gregory suggested Clinton’s remarks undercut one of Obama’s major arguments.

“It undercuts the spin on the argument that the president has made,” Patrick replied. “The president has never attacked Bain. It’s not about Bain. It’s never been. Bain’s a fine company.”

Pressed by Gregory, Patrick would not concede -- without an asterisk -- that Romney had a “sterling business career.”

“He had a terrific career creating wealth,” Patrick said. “There is very little evidence that, either in the public or the private sector, he’s had a terrific career creating jobs.”

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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