Call Deval Patrick a multi-tasker. The Massachusetts governor used the Democratic National Convention's primetime spotlight to do more than predictably heap praise on Barack Obama and sling arrows toward Mitt Romney. In an 11-minute speech Tuesday night (September 4), Patrick also worked in plenty of kind words for his own administration.
“When I came to office, we set out on a different course: investing in ourselves and our future,” he told the Charlotte, North Carolina audience in the soaring tones of a preacher. “And today Massachusetts leads the nation in economic competitiveness, student achievement, health care coverage, life sciences and biotech, energy efficiency and veterans' services.”
Patrick, as a close friend of President Obama and governor of the state Mitt Romney once led, was a highly sought speaker at a convention that has given little visibility to Democratic governors — far less of a role than the GOP gave its governors. The second-term governor seemed to make the most of that attention, for himself and President Obama's campaign.
“Today, with the help of the Obama administration, we are rebuilding our roads and bridges and expanding broadband access. Today we're out of the deficit hole Mr. Romney left, and we've achieved the highest bond rating in our history,” he said. “Today — with labor at the table — we've made the reforms in our pension and benefits systems, our schools, our transportation system and more that Mr. Romney only talked about.”
“Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he's fixed,” Patrick said. “I can tell you that Massachusetts wasn't one of them.”
But some of Patrick's words, though rousing, could be considered misleading — particularly those aimed at his predecessor.
In describing the state's “deficit hole” under Romney, for instance, Patrick doesn't mention that it often came from projects Romney didn't pursue himself, as Politifact noted last June while fact-checking a similar statement made in an Obama campaign ad. Romney inherited many high-cost infrastructure projects from past administrations. That included the gargantuan “Big Dig” plan to revamp downtown Boston's highways and tunnels, which in 2007 was directly responsible for $4.2 billion of state debt, Politifact reported. Construction began in 1991 and continued into Romney's term.
Though Massachusetts topped Moody's rankings of "net tax-supported debt per capita" in 2007 under Romney, the state had ranked second on that list as far back as 1999, according to Politifact — a phenomenon that may be partly explained by Massachusetts' tendency to issue bonds for projects that counties might pay for in other states.
In his speech, Patrick also said that Massachusetts ranked 47th in the nation in job creation by the time Romney took office. But according to a June report by Factcheck.org, Romney's record on job creation, though far from stellar, could be viewed through a slightly rosier lens.
During the four years of Romney's term, Massachusetts ranked 47th nationally in percentage of job growth, adding jobs at a mere 1.5 percent clip, far lower than the national average of 5.3 percent during that time, according to Factcheck.org. But in the 12 months before Romney assumed office, the state ranked dead last. And by Romney's final year as governor, the ranking had risen to 28th.
In several respects, as Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler noted, Romney's record on job creation mirrors that of President Obama.
However, scrutinizing a politician's job creation record may not always shed light on job performance, particularly for a governor.
“The economy plays a huge role in the success or failure of various job initiatives,” Kessler wrote. “It takes time for policies to take effect, so a politician may reap the benefits of projects undertaken by his predecessor — or see his successor reap the rewards from his or her ideas.”
But such nuance rarely finds its way into a convention speech.