TEFLON POL

The casino deal may or may not really get done by DeLeo's stated July timeframe — my own reporting suggests a deal is not as imminent as the Herald and others may have insinuated.

But if it doesn't, it would be a rare loss that likely won't hurt the image of the one-time "Cadillac Deval," who has turned into something of a Teflon pol.

Just in the past couple of weeks, Patrick has made several controversial announcements that the State House News Service wrote "would've been unthinkable" a year ago.

He pulled Massachusetts out of the federal "Secure Communities" program, which seeks to use local police to identify and detain undocumented aliens for deportation; announced raises for 4000 state-employed managers; and nominated state legislator Christopher Speranzo — a big Democratic Party player through the "Berkshire Brigades" — to a $100,000-plus clerk magistrate position.

Predictable criticism came from the Herald and talk radio, but failed to gain any traction.

Nor did the surprising rejection of a Patrick Parole Board nominee, John Bocon, by the Governor's Council, or Patrick's continuing travels on behalf of President Barack Obama and national Democrats, which took him to Florida this past weekend (missing Boston Pride Day, among other events).

Meanwhile, Patrick was forced to testify at the federal corruption trial of former Speaker Sal DiMasi, where he discussed the sausage-making backroom process that led to the state purchasing software the administration didn't want, for a multimillion-dollar sum that was never justified.

Through all of it, Patrick's stock keeps rising. A poll released last week found 54 percent of Bay Staters saying he's doing a good job, with just 36 percent disagreeing. At the start of 2010, by comparison, he enjoyed only 22 percent approval and 59 percent disapproval. "If there was a 'Comeback Player of the Year' award in American politics, it would be hard to give it to anyone other than Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick," wrote Tom Jensen, analyst for Public Policy Polling, which conducted the surveys.

Perhaps most amazing: if they could redo the election, 54 percent would vote for Patrick, and just 32 percent for Charlie Baker and nine percent for Tim Cahill. That's a 22-point margin of victory — six months after he won by just six.


NO DISSENT

Political observers credit some of this second-term popularity to Patrick's well-received inauguration speech, some popular initiatives, and his steady-handed leadership during a January blizzard and this month's tornados.

Others suggest that Patrick has been governor long enough that people have begun to associate the office with him and his style — much as Bostonians, after years of Tom Menino, see the mayor's role as a hands-on neighborhood problem-solver. Patrick may have initially disappointed those who wanted the miracle-working campaign-of-hope man they thought they were electing in 2006, "but what they want now is competence — calm, cool leadership," says Scott Ferson, president of Liberty Square Group.

In addition, there's a remarkable dearth of effective criticism. With Murray and DeLeo playing far nicer with the governor — at least in public — than leadership in recent memory, the role has been left to the state's Republicans. And they're terrible at it. Witness the Secure Communities debate, which instead of rallying anti-illegal-immigrant sentiment against Patrick, has centered on Republican representative Ryan Fattman's remarks that undocumented women should feel afraid to go to police after being raped.

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