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Patrick is in a bind with his base

Chief of staff posts on left-leaning blog to divert attention from N.Y. excursion

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Matt Viser
Globe Staff / April 2, 2008

Under fire for traveling to New York for a book deal as his casino legislation was being defeated in the House, Governor Deval Patrick is now moving toward a decidedly different place: back to his base.

Patrick's chief of staff, Doug Rubin, took to the Blue Mass Group's widely read and left-leaning political blog late Monday night in an attempt to put the recent losses and embarrassments behind the administration and to map out the vision ahead.

In the unusual posting, Rubin sought to put the focus on upcoming issues, specifically an economic address and education proposals. But he also appeared to be clearly trying to divert attention from the past few weeks, when the governor's casino legislation was resoundingly defeated by the House while he was out of state on undisclosed personal business.

The governor came under renewed criticism last week when it was reported that he was in New York sealing a $1.35 million book deal, rather than standing with supporters whom he asked to buck House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi over the casino plan.

"With the demands of the 24-hour news cycle, it is even more important to maintain a long-term view, both of how far we have come and where we want to go," Rubin wrote in a 725-word posting.

Reviews were mixed, and as they tend to be online, pointed.

"Nice to see the ambulance was able to make it here, Mr. Rubin," wrote a poster using the name EaBoClipper. "But methinks the patient already lost too much blood."

Rubin posted four days after a much-read posting titled "D'oh Deval!" that called the governor's decision to make the trip a "political embarrassment."

"Some people look at it as a misstep; I get that," Rubin said in an interview yesterday. "But I think I would go back to the entire administration, look at the things we've done. . . . It's unrealistic to think that any administration wouldn't make some mistakes along the way. We freely admit that.

"If you acknowledge that and move on - that's what ultimately will make this governor successful."

Last year, Patrick was in the midst of a similarly difficult time, detracting from his first several months in office by making repeated missteps, including a decision to upgrade his state car to a Cadillac, refurnishing his office, and making a call to a major banking institution on behalf of a controversial subprime lender.

Most attributed the blunders to the inexperienced advisers the governor placed around him, and a shake-up put more seasoned political veterans in place.

Rubin, a veteran political operative who ran Patrick's gubernatorial campaign, came on board as chief of staff. Patrick also appointed Joseph Landolfi, a veteran press aide at the State House, to be a senior media adviser, and David Morales, a senior policy aide to former Senate president Robert E. Travaglini, as the governor's deputy chief of staff.

Rubin declined yesterday to talk about the advice they gave the governor, whether they erred by advising him it was OK to go to New York while the House was voting on one of his signature pieces of legislation or whether Patrick overrode their recommendation.

"Any advice between the governor and I will stay between the governor and I," Rubin said.

Blue Mass Group was started in 2004 and became a strong voice for Patrick during the 2006 governor's race. But the intense, politically active visitors to the site grew disenchanted with Patrick, particularly over the governor's decision to pursue casino licensing.

"I suspect that they may be aware that there's a little bit of a distance growing in the relationship between the people who got him elected and the administration," said Charley Blandy, cofounder of Blue Mass Group, who was encouraged by Rubin's posting. "I feel like the governor has not been as much involved in civic engagement and interacting with John Q. Public up to this point."

So Rubin asked members yesterday to provide advice and "constructive criticism." He sought to put the focus on the economy, including a major speech next week.

Politicians have frequently been using blogs to communicate with constituents. Barack Obama posted a column last month on the Huffington Post blog to reject the comments of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. All of the presidential candidates have blogs on their campaign sites.

Patrick also e-mailed his supporters just after his casino legislation was voted down by the House, trying to pin the blame on DiMasi and move forward.

"There's a bit of an aspect of going back to the campaign mode, which was so successful for Patrick," said Paul Watanabe, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. "He has had a bit of a rocky spell here governing, and perhaps he's trying to recapture some of the magic that he was able to garner by going directly to the people."

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.

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