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Deval Patrick Hits the Road for Obama

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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.

TogetherPAC, which was set up in late March, has raised at least $20,000 to fund campaign appearances such as the Democratic dinner Patrick headlined this weekend in Wisconsin. In January, Patrick addressed a crowd in Colorado -— that time on the dime of his state PAC, O’Brien said — and next month he will speak at a 1,000-guest, $180-per-ticket dinner in Florida, touching down in three 2012 battleground states in just a matter of months.

In the past several weeks, Patrick has also made several appearances on national television shows complimenting his Republican predecessor, Romney, for passing the health care law that became the intellectual framework for Obama’s plan.

Those close to Patrick insist that he will finish his term as governor, which ends in 2015, and will then likely return to the private sector. They say his involvement in the 2012 campaign is simply a function of circumstance: He is good friends with the president — the two men are often described as political soul mates — and he presides over a state where nearly all residents have health care thanks to the individual mandate.

“Massachusetts, no matter what, is going to be ground zero in the presidential campaign,” said Mary Ann Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic consultant who has advised Sen. John Kerry and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. “You’re better to be on offense then sit there and get beaten up morning, noon and night.”

That’s why a group of Obama’s top strategists from 2008, including Paul Tewes, the architect of the successful 2008 caucus campaign in Iowa, asked Patrick to be a spokesman and board member for the nonprofit group they set up to promote the health care overhaul championed by Obama.

KnowYourCare, a 501(c)(3), was established to educate the public about the law, while a sister 501(c)(4) organization, called ProtectYourCare, will target Republicans working to defund or repeal it. The groups were registered in Washington, D.C., in June and August 2010, respectively.

The idea was spun off of the groundwork laid by the Health Information Campaign, a group set up with a similar purpose last spring by former Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Vicki Kennedy, the wife of the late Senator. That organization has since gone dark and some of its key staff members now advise the new nonprofit, said David Di Martino, who serves as a communications consultant for KnowYourCare/ProtectYourCare.

Patrick’s allies say the two groups are not part of a broader strategy and that the governor was not even approached about serving on the board of KnowYourCare/ProtectYourCare until mid-March. But the missions are inextricably linked, drawing on the same fundraisers to raise money from many of the same donors. 

It is one of several new liberal groups like American Bridge and the House Majority PAC that hope to combat the conservative groups that funneled millions to Republicans in 2010. 

Former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, one of the first prominent Democrats to endorse Obama during the 2008 primaries, also sits on the board of the health care group, as does Neera Tanden, who heads the liberal Center for American Progress and worked on Obama’s health care task force.

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