A clean-house attitude could imperil Patrick, as well — even though, as his supporters note, he can point to the abolition of the Turnpike Authority under his transportation-reform act. But he also appointed Big Dig legal consultant Jim Aloisi as transportation secretary.

On the other hand, the public might have, as Mihos calls it, "Big Dig fatigue," and will tune out any talk about it during the campaigns.

But as political issues go, the Big Dig tends to return every time we think we're past it. Romney, after promising to get to the bottom of it in his 2002 campaign, quietly did nothing — only to have it dominate his final months in office after a portion of the tunnel collapsed in 2006.

Likewise, the Big Dig has made little intrusion into Patrick's governorship — so far. With recent revelations about unsafe guard rails and ongoing leakage problems, that could still change. Says Mihos: "When we have another catastrophic event — and we will — people will think about who should be dealing with it."

To read the "Talking Politics" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@phx.com.

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