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Deval Patrick Hits the Road for Obama

Groups Create Platform to Defend Health Care

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Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to become a leading defender of the new health care law has some questioning whether he is seeking a new job.

The White House and Obama campaign officials have helped create two new organizations that will enable Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to become a lead defender of the president’s signature health care reform law during the 2012 election campaign.

The Democrat is serving as a key adviser to a nonprofit group that is working with the Obama administration to defend and promote the overhaul. And, at the suggestion of David Axelrod, the senior White House adviser who left the administration to head President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, Patrick has also set up a political action committee to fund his stump speeches around the country.

The idea for both the PAC and the nonprofit, staffed by some of Obama’s top strategists from the 2008 campaign, originated in the Obama circle months ago, according to those involved in the planning of both efforts.

With Patrick at the helm, the groups, unveiled this spring, give the nascent re-election effort a platform to highlight former Gov. Mitt Romney’s role in the Massachusetts health care law, which served as a model for the national health care overhaul Obama championed in the 111th Congress. At the same time, it puts Patrick in charge of what could quickly become tens of millions of dollars — the nonprofit already has at least $5 million in the bank — that will help him raise his profile among Democrats and keep health care at the center of the 2012 campaign.

But Patrick’s ramped-up involvement in national politics has raised concerns among Republicans and Democrats in Massachusetts that he is neglecting his day job to build support for a post in the next Obama administration or a run against Sen. Scott Brown (R) — two ideas that the governor has repeatedly dismissed.

And while the groups are operating entirely within legal bounds, election law experts say White House involvement violates the spirit of rules barring coordination between candidates and outside organizations dedicated to promoting them.

On Feb. 12, just two weeks after Axelrod left his post as senior White House adviser, he met with Patrick in Chicago, the city that all three men call home. He recommended Patrick start a federal political action committee to finance his work promoting the president, according to David O’Brien, who manages the governor’s state and federal committees. 

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