In a speech advisers described as a preview of his Democratic National Convention address tonight, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick offered an answer to the question that has dogged leading Democrats for days.
“Are we better off than we were four years ago? Are we better off? Ask any one of the four-and-a-half-million people who have gotten a job in the private sector whether they’re better off. Ask any senior who’s able to pay their medical bills, their prescription drug bills, any young person who’s able to be insured on his or her parents’ insurance policy.”
Patrick went on to enumerate the very sick, military personnel returning from Iraq, and employees of the auto industry – all of whom, he said, were better off.
“There’s an answer. We don’t brag because we’re not done,” Patrick told a Massachusetts delegation breakfast.
Patrick, who is scheduled to speak tonight after 9 p.m., also appeared to nod at racial discrimination against President Obama, an unusual rhetorical departure for the nation’s second elected African American governor. Several Massachusetts political veterans said they could not recall Patrick addressing racial discrimination in politics so directly.
After encouraging delegates to engage undecided voters, Patrick said, “That is how an improbable candidate ran an improbable candidacy for president of the United States and against odds some of them unspoken – some of them unspoken – rode to victory … And I, for one, with a record like that and a vision like that, am unwilling to let him be bullied out of office.”
Advisers said they were uncertain whether the same allusion would appear in Patrick’s remarks tonight. They said Patrick had been anxious for days to give a public response to the “better off” question as Republicans have delighted in Democrats’ mixed answers on the question since Sunday.
The question is particularly vexing for Democrats because it is recognized as an iconic moment from Ronald Reagan’s winning 1980 campaign against President Jimmy Carter, the one-term Democrat whose legacy Republicans are working to force on Obama.