Burdened by state fiscal woes and rising unemployment, and facing emboldened political opponents in an election year, Gov. Deval Patrick nevertheless struck a positive tone in his State of the Commonwealth address on Thursday, said Jeff Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University.
"Not surprisingly, it was about jobs, it was about the economy," Berry told WBUR's Bob Oakes. "It was a well-delivered speech, well-crafted. I thought he did a good job talking about his accomplishments and also highlighting some plans. And it was an optimistic speech at a time when most of us don't feel terribly optimistic about the state's future."
While Berry said he is not convinced that Patrick knows the specific steps to making the state a better place, he remained impressed with the governor's oratorical skills.
"He has a wonderful quality of being able to convey empathy," Berry said. "He wants people to believe that he stands in their shoes and that is very important for a political candidate. What he is trying to do is convey that he knows the problems and is on the way to trying to solve those problems."
"(The speech) wasn't a game-changer," he went on, "but it was effective in conveying the sense that he's working night and day and what he cares most about is opportunity and he wants to create a state full of opportunity. That's the message he was trying to get across."
But Berry doesn't think that message will be enough for voters looking for an improvement in their standard of living.
The governor did mention Tuesday's U.S. Senate election, though he attempted to frame the populist sentiment that opted for Republican Scott Brown in his favor.
"It was clearly a response to the Scott Brown election, where voters lashed out," Berry said. "If you asked (Brown's) voters what they wanted, they probably couldn't give you a coherent ideology or platform, but they wanted to change the status quo. So what he's trying to do is to convince voters not to lash out but to stay with him because they are going to channel that anger in a positive way."
This program aired on January 22, 2010.