Less than two weeks ago, a Boston Globe columnist described Mayor Thomas M. Menino (D) as a whipping boy, a punching bag and the loneliest politician on the planet.
Under siege from city unions gunning for a new contract, he fielded regular calls from labor leaders demanding he resolve the issue before the Democratic National Convention, which began Monday.
Commuters anticipated miserably snarled traffic. And columnists and talk radio hosts ripped the mayor for allowing federal security officials free rein, amid warnings of a pre-election terrorist plot and thousands of expected protesters.
But on Tuesday, after two days of smooth operations throughout the city, a jovial Menino walked into an afternoon news conference humming aloud and, with a grin, said to reporters: "I always told you I was the good guy. You just didn't believe me."
The convention is only half over, as Menino, 61, is quick to point out, but the rehabilitation of the popular mayor's image here is close to complete.
He played hardball with police and firefighters and still achieved settlements in the nick of time. Commuter traffic was lighter than usual for the second consecutive day, according to transportation officials. And so far protests have been sparse and peaceful, with no related arrests since the convention began.
"I have learned over the years never to underestimate the mayor, which lots of people do," said Paul Guzzi, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. "It was important to him to get the convention here, and he's a guy who comes through when things are going badly. He deserves a lot of credit."
Menino is something of an anomaly among Massachusetts politicians. The city's first Italian American mayor, he served nine years on the city council, has been elected by large majorities to three consecutive terms and earned a national reputation as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
In a city where the well-spoken and affluent Kennedys are icons, residents say his working-class roots and garbled speech are accessible and endearing, as is his nickname, "Mumbles."
On Monday, his six-minute speech in the convention hall, which labor advocates had once threatened to walk out on, was warmly received, as he joked about his chowdah-thick Boston accent.
Menino "and the host committee have done a fantastic job," said Art Torres, the chairman of the California delegation who had been among the most outspoken critics of Menino during the labor dispute. "As far as I'm concerned, all that is over."
After speaking at a veterans memorial event at the Bunker Hill Monument on Tuesday, Menino could hardly take a step to his waiting vehicle because so many convention guests were walking over to tell him how much they were enjoying the convention.
"I loved your speech," said Abby Coady, 71, of Clinton, Mass., as she locked the mayor in an embrace.
Not everyone is so pleased with Menino. Businesses in the area of FleetCenter, where the convention is being held, say he oversold the economic impact of the event, which his office estimated as a $150 million boom to the local economy.
"We lost all of our regulars. It's been so slow, I've had to send staff home," said Stuart Masure, general manager of the Boston Beer Works, a restaurant and bar a block from FleetCenter. It had dozens of empty tables during lunch on Tuesday. "Compared to what we were hoping for, it's basically been totally negative," Masure said.
Menino bristled on Tuesday when a television reporter brought up a study that showed that many businesses are expecting to lose money during the event. "We have a study, too, but you never use that study," the mayor said.
He later added that the city's improved national reputation from hosting the event will continue to bring benefits for years to come.
As for how the convention has affected his own reputation, he was more circumspect.
"Everyone says 'Is this your legacy?' " he said. "Four days is not a legacy."