He had to be pushed into it now, he claims. After rattling off his highlight reel for the Phoenix, Patrick almost apologizes for doing so — he says he is bragging because several months ago, when he confided to Obama how much he hates doing so, the president told him to "get over it."

That reticence is part of what makes Patrick both an admirable and frustrating champion to many of his supporters — some of whom are now former supporters — whom this reporter has spoken with in recent months. These political insiders, and well-connected leaders in business and the nonprofit world, say that Patrick seems to truly believe that, if he does his best to govern effectively in the people's interest, they will see that and judge him and his administration fairly on the merits. It's a laudable approach, one which engenders pride and loyalty — until reality sets in, and people remember that a big part of governing is building and maintaining the trust of the governed.

That trust has eroded. The general public began to lose faith in Patrick almost immediately, in his clumsy early days in office epitomized by the expensive drapes and the inappropriate call on behalf of Ameriquest. It has never recovered, as he has let himself be defined by his battles with legislative leaders, and by his steady string of small but infuriating missteps.

Among the insiders and cognoscenti, trust has fallen bit by bit, over slights minor and major. Some have felt unappreciated by Patrick, who seems almost incapable of the fawning niceties and ego-stroking that people expect. Others have been alienated by specific issues, as Patrick has gone his own way (on casinos, or budget cuts, for example) without fully discussing his rationale to those who feel they are owed an explanation.

Many of those out-of-joint noses belong to members of the state legislature, whose displeasure with Patrick has been most obvious — from Senate President Therese Murray's fury when Patrick introduced an ethics bill as she was celebrating the swearing-in of her new members, to the recent anger among House members when Patrick publicly vowed to maintain local aid levels in the new state budget, without first consulting with House leadership, who planned to cut that aid.

Patrick has always believed that he could bypass all of this pettiness — and his much-loathed antagonists in the press — by going directly to the people with his message. But he learned early that this was counterproductive. He could not win without those petty players, and going around them only increased the intensity of their anger.

He discussed this with me after our interview ended, and I pressed him on the "civic engagement" that was so much a part of his campaign. He said that, early in his administration, he called for a demonstration in Nurses Hall at the State House in support of his Municipal Partnership Bill; afterward, legislative leadership told him that the gathering had made it less likely the bill would pass. After that, Patrick said, he backed away from directly engaging the public — perhaps in error, he conceded.

That was a more honest and critical self-reflection than anything in the hour just spent in the Corner Office — when he rarely strayed off message, showering us with the power of positive thinking.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Deval Patrick, Mario Cuomo, Barack Obama,  More more >
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