Economic crystal-balling … Obama drop-by

Last week ended with Tobey, Gov. Deval Patrick’s fast-growing and vote-winning black Lab, offering fluid proof of his opinion toward administration critics, micturating on the Corner Office rug – on a Friday afternoon, no less, making the press office proud that they’d been able to teach Tobey a trick.

The week began with the electorate evincing similar sentiments toward the state’s economy, which we’ve been told repeatedly is going to rebound. Forty percent of respondents to the Suffolk/Globe poll thought the national economy would bounce back in three years, just 13 percent within a year or less. Of Patrick’s handling of the economy, 28 percent approved.

And the week ended with a presidential visit, Barack Obama dropping by MIT to talk up clean energy – good timing for the Patrick administration in light of the uncomfortable revelations that state backing of Evergreen Solar with more than $75 million through a variety of channels has not prevented the company from encountering problems and potentially cutting back at its plant.

It’s also nice for the governor to have his picture taken getting hugged by the president, who enjoys strong poll numbers in the Bay State.

Patrick, with slightly less robust performance ratings, could use the cash infusion from the Friday afternoon funder at the Westin Copley. Tinkering a little bit with the expectations game, the Patrick team low-balled the anticipated haul at $500,000, and then revised it upwards to $600,000 at the event.

The governor will use the money to fend off assaults like the one he withstood a week ago Wednesday from Treasurer Timothy Cahill, who dented Hollywood, the state’s new U.S. senator, legislative leaders, and a few innocent bystanders during a breakfast talk in Randolph. Cahill, unenrolled, tuned up Patrick and other Beacon Hill Democrats over not tending responsibly to the state budget – not cutting spending quickly or deeply enough, and plundering the taxpayers. The administration went easy in response, perhaps because they’re purchasers of the conventional wisdom: that a strong showing by Cahill actually boosts the governor’s reelection odds by chewing into the opposition.

One of the perils for Cahill – and, for that matter, Republicans Charles Baker and Christy Mihos – is that this line of argument positions Patrick as defender of health care, education, and financial assistance to cities and towns – popular pursuits. That could allow the governor to revive a recession-era version of his superbly executed 2006 government expansion anthem. Instead of growing state services – LOL – he can say he’ll still deliver them, while the other guys will take them away. Remember, we’re still in Massachusetts.
Patrick has been trying out a new campaign cry that, as it happens, dovetails nicely with this dynamic. “Keep the faith,” he’s been saying.

Obama acknowledged Patrick’s coming fight. “There really should be no doubt that this guy gets a second term,” the president said during a 13-minute speech at the fundraiser. “But, let’s be honest. This is going to be a tough race. Reelection is not a foregone conclusion because times are tough.”

The legislative branch, meanwhile, appears to have difficulty marshaling its thoughts. Out of money, but not time, the Legislature moved to tack another $72 million in recession spending onto the bottom line on Oct. 20, ricocheting a minibudget back and forth and finally to the governor’s desk. The rest of the legislative agenda for the autumn remains murky.

P.S. For the record, the governor cleaned up the rug himself. If he can do the same with the state’s economy over the next 53 or so weeks, reelection becomes much likelier.