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Political Intelligence

Patrick key to President Obama’s campaign

Governor Deval Patrick with Senate President Therese Murray (left) and Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray during the State of the State address last week.MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF/Globe Staff

The day before President Obama delivered his State of the Union speech, Governor Deval Patrick delivered his State of the State remarks.

While they had different audiences, the two Democrats shared a similar target, if for different reasons.

Obama implicitly contrasted himself with Mitt Romney, trying to develop contrasts with the Republican presidential candidate the White House still believes will be its general election opponent.

Patrick, meanwhile, explicitly listed his administration’s record, achievements that can give him enhanced credibility as he attacks Romney on behalf of Obama during this election year.

As Romney’s successor, Patrick has special status as a surrogate campaigner for Obama: He worked in the aftermath of Romney’s policies, for the good or the bad.

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Patrick can speak firsthand about the similarities of “Romneycare’’ and “Obamacare’’ because he was left to implement the state law.

Governors also have special clout on the trail because they are executives, charged with making decisions and being directly accountable for the results.

In the State of the State speech, Patrick took a shot at Obama’s frequent target, congressional Republicans.

He declared to the overwhelmingly Democratic Massachusetts House and Senate that “while others elsewhere in positions like yours and mine succumb to division and stalemate, we here pulled together and, for the good of the Commonwealth, made hard choices.’’

Patrick talked about high test scores and a 98 percent health insurance rate, a consequence of Romney’s law.

He talked about moving from 47th in job creation to fifth in the nation during the past two years, not just a matter of coincidence but an expressed contrast with his predecessor’s record.

Patrick also seemed to be thinking of Romney, who has been labeled a flip-flopper, when he said this:

“When we stay true to our values, we make decisions for the good of our future, choices that transcend momentary political convenience.’’

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Brown’s deal on ads shows strategic skills

Scott Brown is an officer in the Massachusetts National Guard, and he has obviously learned the lesson that when you’re confronted with a superior military, you have to adopt guerrilla tactics.

The Republican incumbent demonstrated his knowledge of asymmetric warfare when he succeeded last week in maneuvering his likely opponent in this year’s US Senate race, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, into accepting an unprecedented ban on third-party ads in their campaign.

Under the terms of the agreement, the candidates are asking TV stations not to air special-interest ads attacking their opponent. Brown and Warren have also agreed that if a group supporting them runs an ad attacking their opponent, they will have to tap their own campaign coffers and make a charitable contribution equal to 50 percent of the value of that ad.

Whether such an agreement will last amid the heat of a contentious campaign is questionable. A less onerous ban collapsed during the 1996 US Senate showdown between Republican William F. Weld and Democrat John Kerry.

On paper, Brown is the superpower in the current campaign. He had $12.8 million cash on hand at the end of the year, compared with $8.8 million for Warren.

But Warren raised her money from a standing start in August, while Brown smartly banked millions left over from the influx of outside donations he received in the final days before his early 2010 special election victory. The money started pouring in as it began to look possible that he could defy the odds to win the seat previously held by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Democratic icon.

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There is no sign of the more recent trend abating, meaning Warren could eliminate Brown’s cash advantage by the spring.

Meanwhile, anti-Brown groups had already outspent anti-Warren groups 3 to 1 on the type of ads covered by the agreement.

For those reasons, Brown got a great return on the investment he made in a couple of press releases pressuring Warren for an agreement.

He also has the opportunity to gain continuing benefits from highlighting any breach of the pact.

For a commitment covering not her own activities but those of third parties, that’s a lot of risk for Warren for a questionable amount of reward.

And that’s the kind of equation guerrilla forces try to impose on their more powerful opponents.


Glen Johnson is lead blogger for Political Intelligence, which is available online at www.boston.com/politics. He can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.