Correction to This Article
This article misstated the amount that Gov. Deval L. Patrick's office estimated would be saved when the governor eliminated a requirement that police officers be present at all road-construction sites in the state. The estimate was that the use of civilian flaggers would save $12 million a year, not $100 million a year.

Massachusetts Gov. Patrick's reelection campaign a test case for Obama in 2012

(Faith Ninivaggi)
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By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BOSTON -- "Are we fired up? Ready to go?" a woman yelled inside a steamy room here on the edge of Boston.

"We are fired up!" the candidate roared back from the stage, arousing chants of "Si, se puede" from some of the 300 people who hooted and hollered and turned this bill-signing ceremony into a campaign rally.

This was not Barack Obama circa 2008. It was Gov. Deval L. Patrick this month. And if he sounded suspiciously like the president, it was not by accident.

Many of the top strategists in Obama's political circle are helping to orchestrate Patrick's reelection campaign, and they are looking to his contest for clues to what might work for the president in 2012.

Friends for two decades, Obama and Patrick ran as optimistic outsiders who would take on the old way of doing things. Their politics are so in sync that in 2008, Obama borrowed Patrick's rhetoric to the point that Hillary Rodham Clinton, his opponent in the Democratic primary, accused him of plagiarism.

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"The campaign Deval Patrick built is the same campaign for change that you and I built across this country," Obama told Democrats at an April fundraiser in Boston.

Whether Patrick is reelected is likely to depend on whether he can again appeal to independents, who outnumber Democrats and Republicans in Massachusetts. Independents flocked to Patrick in 2006 and Obama in 2008 but swung decisively for Republican Scott Brown in a special Senate election last winter.

Campaign map 2010(: Races to watch)

Patrick is not trying to win them over by offering a new approach or backing off anything he has done. Rather, he is trying to convince voters that his plans to invest in green-energy initiatives and rebuild aging bridges and roads have created jobs and helped Massachusetts fare better in the downturn than many other places. No matter what happens to Patrick, the results of that approach will prove instructive for Obama, whose popularity among independents has plummeted since he took office.

Patrick will also provide a test of whether an updated pitch for change will resonate. In accepting the Democratic nomination this summer, he introduced a campaign slogan that takes this on directly: "We worked hard four years ago to change the guard. Now it's time to guard the change."

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