Patrick was lucky that Democratic primary voters four years ago chose Tim Murray to be his second-in-command. There is nothing inherently glorious in the lieutenant governor's job, but Murray — the former mayor of Worcester — has proven to be a high-performing policy asset, as well as a boon companion.

Murray has served as Patrick's point man on an impressive array of issues, ranging from developing commuter and freight rail lines to improving the state's seaports. He has worked to aid veterans, the homeless, and victims of domestic violence, and led the almost-thankless effort to clean up old industrial brownfields, all while chairing the committee dedicated to ensuring that education in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math operates at levels needed to keep Massachusetts competitive.

At this point, some readers may be asking themselves, "If these guys are so good, why is Massachusetts so screwed up? And even if there is reasonable answer, why are my friends, neighbors, and family so apprehensive about the future?"

Those are valid concerns, but they need to be considered in light of real-world conditions. When you place Patrick's accomplishments in the context of a worldwide economic upheaval, they begin to look far better than average. And if you compare his record of keeping Massachusetts moving while cutting state government with the situation in, say, neighboring Rhode Island or Maine, not to mention far-away California, then things are clearly better here than elsewhere.

This, however, is not to say that the situation cannot or will not get worse. Odds are that more pain is on the way. It may come in the form of a second recessional dip. Or it could manifest itself in continuing high levels of unemployment, which would result in bad times for some and not so good times for others. To be blunt, you have to be crazy not to be worried about the future.

A vision for the future
And that brings us to the most compelling reason to vote for the Patrick-Murray ticket. The governor and lieutenant governor are the only executive candidates seriously focused on the future, though they need to be more concrete about what their plans are. Independent Tim Cahill and Republican Charlie Baker have been content to pick at the scabs of old disappointments. Theirs have been sad-sack campaigns, designed to appeal to the sore-head vote.

The Democratic ticket recognizes that there are tough challenges to come. Budgets most likely will get tighter, and policy choices even tougher if public resources continue to shrink.

When push has come to shove, Patrick has proven himself to be a steely-eyed budget manager. But here is what is truly important: in shrinking the public purse, in cutting programs, Patrick has been guided by humane values. He knows he can not eliminate the pain, but he has striven to minimize it and — to the best of his ability — to insulate those most at risk.

There are two overarching reasons to vote for Patrick: by his record of accomplishment, he has earned your vote; and when it comes to navigating the uncertainties of the future, his managerial skill offers Massachusetts more hope than either of his opponents do.

Return Patrick to the governor's office. It is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing.

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