BOSTON -- Deval Patrick, who rose from poverty on Chicago's South Side to become Massachusetts' first black governor -- elected on a message of hope and change shared with White House contender Barack Obama -- urged his grass-roots army at a rally Tuesday night to campaign for his friend in New Hampshire and Iowa.
"Welcome to Red Sox nation," said Patrick. Referring to the upcoming World Series here, his own win in 2006 and perhaps to Obama's lagging performance in the polls, he added, "Around here, we know how to come from behind and win."
"I am a White Sox fan," declared Obama, raising a mass groan.
"You don't want somebody who pretends to be a Red Sox fan to be president of the United States." Obama said he was a "principled" sports fan, a slap, perhaps, at chief rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, who switched allegiance from Chicago to New York teams when she started her run for the Senate.
The sons of the South Side -- Patrick, 50, by birth, Obama, 46, by choice -- drew 10,000 to a rally at historic Boston Common, according to Boston park officials. The rally was designed to showcase one of Obama's most important endorsements, rally volunteers and earn free Boston media coverage, which spills over to New Hampshire with its first-in-the-nation primary.
The park was not far from the arena here where Obama vaulted into political superstardom after his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Patrick was elected last November on his "Together We Can" slogan, rags-to-riches biography, seemingly above-the-fray politics and anti-"cynicism" message. That these themes are part of Obama's campaign is not surprising since they share the same media consultant, Chicago-based David Axelrod.
Patrick is expected to play an important role in the Obama campaign in New Hampshire, Iowa and the other early states. The specifics were to be discussed over a private dinner with Obama after the rally.
Patrick's endorsement is relished by the Obama campaign because it comes from a former Clinton administration appointee (Patrick was the assistant attorney general for civil rights) and after Clinton clinched the backing of Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a legendary civil rights figure.
At the rally and earlier, at a house party in Merrimack, N.H., Obama used a new stump line about Vice President Dick Cheney.
"Doesn't help when you put my cousin Dick Cheney in charge of energy policy in the White House," said Obama. Cheney's wife, Lynne, recently talked about their newfound kinship, discovered by my Sun-Times colleague Scott Fornek, who researched Obama's roots. "We've been hiding that for a long time. Everybody has a black sheep in the family."