Monday night, during the final televised debate, Governor Deval Patrick used a discussion about unemployment to talk about a "job club" he visited with that meets in a Quincy IHOP. This was not new; it has become a standard part of his campaign rhetoric in the past month -- he even spoke at length about that Quincy group in his speech at the big GOTV rally with President Barack Obama. It's very effective, conveying empathy and understanding about the challenges people are facing in the Commonwealth.
In fact, it's so effective that I couldn't help seeing the IHOP visit -- at which I was present -- as a calculated political ploy. (I mentioned the group in this article about Patrick a month ago.) The members of that job club -- unemployed 50-something Quincy residents -- did not strike me as folks who wanted to be a prop in anybody's stump speech.
So, without giving anybody a heads-up about it, I stopped by the group's regular Wednesday meeting this morning to ask whether they felt used and manipulated by the Governor.
"I truly believe in him," said one man. (Most of the group's members don't want their names used.) "I'm a skeptic at first about politicians, but I truly believe he cares."
"I really think we just happened to touch him," said a woman. Another agreed: "Whether they're in DC or Beacon Hill, they are distant from people -- he walked in and put a face on it."
Not one of them minded Patrick talking about them in the campaign. In fact, I couldn't wheedle a bad word about the governor from any of them.
It turns out that not only did Patrick impress them in that visit (he stayed an hour later than scheduled, listening and taking notes on each member's story), but the governor's office has quietly had follow-up contact with the group.
Oh, and Patrick also invited the group's organizer to meet the President.
A couple of days before the Boston rally, Richard Dominique got a call from the governor's office inviting him to be one of a small group to greet Obama at the airport. "[Obama] blew me away," Dominique told me today. "We talked for two or three minutes. He said he knew about our group, and said that nationally two-thirds of people out of work are 50 and older."
Patrick's people have confirmed to me that Dominique was invited to meet Obama; I cannot confirm the rather mind-blowing notion that the President of the United States is aware of this group of 20-odd folks who meet in an IHOP off the Bergin Burgin Parkway. I can report, however, that those 20-odd folks aren't criticizing Governor Patrick for talking about them, to Obama or anybody else.