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(NECN: Alison King) - Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has had the same answer to questions about his future political ambitions for years, always denying he has any interest in running for president.
"I am not running for President in 2016," said Gov. Patrick when asked last summer. "The reason I'm laughing is because you folks have been speculating about one thing or another about me for eight years, and every time I answer the question, you say, 'Uh-huh, but what do you really mean?' And every time, I've told you the truth."
Some are looking at comments he made Sunday at the National Governor's Association in Washington as a shift from his usual flat denial.
In an interview with Politico, when asked if he could see himself as a national candidate, Patrick responded, "Maybe. Maybe. That's a decision I have to make along with my wife of 30 years, and she's a tough one to convince."
The comments kicked off a slew of headlines, which Patrick's Together PAC Director, John Walsh described as "creative."
"'Maybe' was a new word, but I think that the governor's principle focus has stayed the same," said Walsh.
Walsh says he's heard Patrick says the same thing about his future many times - that his next move will be to go back to the private sector, that he will not run for president in 2016, and beyond that, Walsh says, he's always had some version of "we'll see."
"It's a compliment," said Walsh. "People who think that he has what it takes to be a contender for national office based on his own skills and the results that he's had here - that's good. It's good for Massachusetts, honestly, to have people paying attention."
It's an argument that many Patrick supporters say makes perfect sense, but some longtime political observers think the shift to the word "maybe" means a lot more than that.
"Well, it's like a bright neon sign that says, 'Hey, I'm available for the Vice Presidency in 2016,'" said Boston University Professor Tom Whalen. "And that's what this is really about. He's exploring all his options, and Patrick thinks that in a tight convention, he might be able to run away with the vice presidential nomination."
Patrick has publicly said before that he has no interest in a vice presidential bid. But with all the parsing going on, the speculation is sure to continue.