By Andy Metzger
State House News Service
---- — CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Speaking to viewers around the country, Gov. Deval Patrick used his unique vantage point as Mitt Romney’s successor to cast the Republican candidate as a chief executive who left the state with a host of problems.
“Roads and bridges were crumbling. Business taxes were up, and business confidence was down. Our clean energy potential was stalled, and we had a structural budget deficit,” Patrick said last night from the stage at the Time Warner Arena at the Democratic National Convention. “Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he’s fixed. I can tell you Massachusetts was not one of them. He’s a fine fellow and a great salesman, but as governor he was a lot more interested in having the job than doing it.”
The themes and the language of the speech were similar to others Patrick has made, but Tuesday’s speech delivered at around 10 p.m. reached a larger audience than most others Patrick has given. In it, Patrick, his pitch rising and falling, delivered praise for President Barack Obama and a harsh critique of Romney.
Near the end of his speech, the noise of the arena crowd on its feet almost drowned out the governor’s words. Past and current Democratic officials in the arena said Patrick’s speech struck the right chords.
“I particularly like his focusing on Romney’s economic record," said Michael Dukakis, the former Democratic governor. "Look, that’s a story we in Massachusetts know. It’s one of the reasons he’s 20 points behind Obama in Massachusetts, but people across the country don’t know it."
Dukakis, who was the Democratic nominee for president in 1988, used the basis of Patrick’s speech to launch his own criticisms of Romney.
“This is a guy who tells us he understands the economy. But look, he’s told us the same thing when he ran for governor. He was a business guy, he understood the economy, and we ended up fourth from the bottom, so the notion that we ought to trust the economic future of the country to this guy, I think is preposterous,” Dukakis told the News Service. “And it’s a story that has to be told in the next two months.”
"Authentic, genuine and powerful," said Jesse Jackson, a 1988 candidate for the Democratic nomination, when asked about his impression of Patrick's speech. "Deval Patrick is one of the great American stories."
Patrick’s version of events differs from the Massachusetts Republican Party.
"Governor Patrick left out the key fact that during Romney's term in office unemployment actually dropped - a clear contrast with the President's failure to create jobs and get our nation's economy back on track. Despite the Governor's eloquent address, voters across the nation will decide this election as they consider whether they are better off with record unemployment, staggering debt and the worst economic recovery since the great depression,” said Mass GOP spokesman Tim Buckley in an email.
Buckley also disputed the metrics that Patrick used to place Massachusetts as 47th in the nation in job creation under Romney, pointing out the Romney left the state with a 4.7 percent unemployment rate. At 6.1 percent in July 2012, the Massachusetts unemployment rate is lower than the national rate and down from 7.4 percent in July 2011. The Romney campaign, in a shot directed at Patrick rather than Obama, asserted overnight that under Patrick’s watch Massachusetts has lost a net 14,900 jobs.
At last week’s Republican National Convention, former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who Patrick defeated in the 2006 race for governor, credited Romney for closing a $3 billion budget gap when he became governor in 2003 without raising taxes or decimating services and for leaving Gov. Patrick with a $2 billion "rainy day" fund, money the governor and Legislature used to preserve services in recent years.
While Dukakis appreciate Patrick’s hard look at Romney, Patrick’s speech contained other elements, including the admonition that, “We Democrats owe America more than a strong argument for what we are against. We need to be just as strong about what we are for.”
To Sen. Katherine Clark (D-Melrose), the governor’s speech laid out a good case for Democrats.
“His story for what he’s done for Massachusetts really came through in Charlotte tonight, and I thought it was an outstanding speech,” Clark told the News Service. She said, “I think that he really captured the message of this convention, that what we’re about are Democratic values, that we make the investments in public education, we create opportunity and we stick to our values and common-sense approach, and as the governor says, you know, together we can do this.”
Patrick highlighted efforts he led in Massachusetts, such as repairing roads and bridges, eliminating the deficit, and passing municipal health care reforms that save cities and towns money with union-buy-in.
Patrick also listed Obama’s accomplishments, saying the president “brought Obama bin Laden to justice,” ended “don’t ask don’t tell,” and added jobs over the past two-plus years. Patrick delivered another list of Obama’s accomplishments in a speech Tuesday morning.
For his part, Patrick took a seat next to U.S. Rep. James McGovern (D-Worcester) and took in the keynote address by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, declining to speak to a News Service reporter.
Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin praised the speech and said stem-winders from Patrick are nothing new.
“He’s very good. I guess we’re kind of used to his standard of excellence,” Galvin told the News Service. Galvin said Patrick’s speech was one part of what was “a very well put together presentation across the board.”
David Holway, a delegate from Edgartown, had high praise for the governor’s performance.
“Knocked the ball out of the park,” Holway said.