Governor Deval Patrick wrapped up a long weekend in Washington this morning with testimony about the Massachusetts health care plan before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In a shortened version of prepared remarks, the Democrat noted the history of the Massachusetts legislation, highlighted it was passed in 2006 thanks to cooperation between then-Republican Governor Mitt Romney and the Democratic Legislature, and said it has achieved nearly universal care while only adding 1 percent to the state budget.
Following up, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a potential Romney rival in the 2012 White House campaign, said bluntly, "We don't want that."
Setting a political dagger, he reiterated the Massachusetts plan was developed by Romney and the leading Democrat that Republicans used to hate, Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Patrick has unique perspective on the Obama plan as governor of the state with a universal health care law that served as model for the federal program. But aides expected him to be challenged by committee Republicans seeking to repeal the national law.
The debate could be a proxy battle for an expected element of the 2012 presidential race, as Barbour indicated.
Nonetheless, Patrick was generally treated respectfully, as Democrats used their questions to coax answers supporting Obama's program, while Republicans tried to attack it.
On several occasions, the governor tried to build support for the president by noting that Massachusetts is already a way down the road the nation is set to travel.
"This is not so scary to us," he said.
His committee host, Representative Edward Markey, D-Mass., also got the governor to underscore that Massachusetts has a balanced budget, 98 percent insured, and unemployment below the national average even with its universal health law.
The dean of the congressional delegation told the governor he was doing "a great job."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.