For a president coping with a hyperpartisan Congress, a fix-resistant economy, a crack in the monument outside his living-room window, and a hurricane about to lash 60 million of his citizens, there were probably few better people for him to have dinner with last night.
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dined at the tasty State Road restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and state first lady Diane Patrick.
Joining the two first couples were White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and her daughter, Laura, as well as Washington attorney and powerbroker Vernon Jordan and his wife, Ann.
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The attendance of the governor, who has been out of public view on vacation himself for much of the past three weeks, was kept a secret until the three-hour meal broke up just after 10 p.m.
It surely was elixir to the Obamas’ soul, though.
During her prior most recent visit to Massachusetts, a fundraising stop on June 30 at the Chestnut Hill home of Gerald and Elaine Schuster, Michelle Obama described Patrick to the crowd as “your fabulous governor” and “one of my favorite people in the whole wide world.”
Then, turning from the governor to look at the seat next to him, she quickly added: “And the only other person I like more than you is Diane.”
Obama himself has shown his continued affection for his fellow Chicagoan and Harvard Law School graduate by inviting the governor and his wife to one of his first social events as president -- a post-inauguration dessert at the White House -- as well as his 50th-birthday reception in the Rose Garden earlier this month.
Last night, as the Obamas prepared to end the respite of their nine-day vacation and head back to the pressures of Washington, they had their longest social outing of the trip with the Patricks and some of their other closest friends and political advisers.
Few details were immediately available.
Maeve Reston of The Los Angeles Times, who served as the national print representative in the press pool accompanying the president, reported back to her media colleagues: “Over the course of 12 hours (from the beach outing to State Road), the travel pool did not see the president at any time today.”
Remy Tumin of the Vineyard Gazette, who served as the local print representative in the press pool, gamely added in another report: “Tonight’s specials included Morning Glory Farm sweet corn soup, Good Farm roasted chicken, Menemsha fluke, and steamed local clams.”
On one plane, Patrick’s attendance could be expected. After all, he leads the state in which the president has spent more than a week.
But on another level, his inclusion in a group that included the Jarretts and the Jordans underscores his close connection to the president.
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Both men campaigned for each other before they became the first blacks to hold their respective jobs. And just as Obama spoke for Patrick before his reelection last year, Patrick plans to do the same for Obama during the coming year.
Not only could Patrick serve as an especially effective surrogate should former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney win the Republican presidential nomination, but he offers some example of overcoming low poll numbers to prevail when the public finally went to vote.
Patrick’s approval rating never dipped to the record lows that Obama’s has hit in recent weeks, but a year out from his reelection last November, he was facing public apathy, lackluster fundraising, and the prospect of a tough Republican challenger in health care executive Charles Baker.
Patrick ended up beating Baker -- in what Romney aides note was a three-way race in which the incumbent got less than 50 percent of the vote -- but his campaign template has been studied by the political advisers he shares with the president, David Axelrod and David Plouffe.
Now, for over three hours of food and drink on a rainy night on a getaway island, Obama sat and talked with a group that knows his hometown (Jarrett) , knows his current city (Jordan), and has shown a path to political redemption (Patrick).
During a visit to Massachusetts last October to campaign on behalf of Patrick, Obama made clear that the governor can get his ear.
The president said that when he’s backstage at political rallies, he’s usually busy checking his BlackBerry.
“But when Deval speaks, I listen,” he told the crowd.
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