Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick officially entered the Democratic primary on Thursday, confirming days of reports that he was on the verge of jumping in. Even with the field contracting in recent weeks, he’s the 18th candidate running, and fellow moderate Michael Bloomberg might not be far behind as the 19th.
In an introductory campaign video released Thursday morning, Patrick traced his American Dream personal story, from growing up poor on the South Side of Chicago to achieving great success in the worlds of business and politics. He said that many Americans feel the path he took has been closed to them, fueling anger and frustration around the country. And he tried to offer a rationale for why he, not the many other contenders who have been campaigning for months, is the right choice for the nomination.
“I admire and respect the candidates in the Democratic field,” he said. “They bring a richness of ideas and experience and a depth of character that makes me proud to be a Democrat. But if the character of the candidates is an issue in every election, this time is about the character of the country. This time is about whether the day after the election, America will keep her promises.”
In an interview on CBS, Patrick tried to draw some contrasts between himself and some of the current front-runners.
When word came out earlier this week that Patrick might launch a late presidential bid, you had to wonder if the rumors were just another product of centrist “donor panic” emanating from once-powerful circles of rich Democrats worried that Elizabeth Warren might win the nomination or that Joe Biden might lose it. With filing deadlines for primaries beginning to arrive, it may be the last moment for serious talk of additional candidates jumping in (though we will probably hear it again if no one locks up the nomination by March or so), so the chattering classes are bound to chatter. As my colleague Gabriel Debenedetti observed, Patrick himself might have been influenced by such discussions to take a look at an unlikely campaign:
As I pointed out in my story about Bloomberg yesterday, a recent USC/LAT poll showed only 4 percent of Democratic primary voters are undecided because they’re unsatisfied with the candidates. All that said, it’s definitely true that a lot of donors (and strategists and former pols and people that just generally like to think of themselves as savvy) are very, very worried about the field and, most important, the front-running candidates’ ability to beat Trump. No doubt Patrick feels the same way and has participated in such conversations, or we wouldn’t be here. I mean, every day I get texts from political pros, donors, and retired electeds wondering “who else might be out there?”
Friday is the filing deadline for New Hampshire, the second state on the calendar and presumably where a former governor from next-door Massachusetts might make a splash.
Nothing happened in the last few days to improve prospects for Patrick, so the same questions about his viability that circulated when the speculation began remain. Patrick himself has acknowledged the long-shot nature of his campaign. “I recognize running for president is a Hail Mary under any circumstances,” he told the Boston Globe in an interview Wednesday night. This is a Hail Mary from two stadiums over.”
At this late date, can Patrick really pose a challenge in New Hampshire to candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who are also next-door neighbors and have been organizing there for a good while (Sanders for over four years)?
Can Patrick strike a chord with African-American voters in a way that Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have yet to do?
And perhaps the biggest question: Will Patrick’s well-known close relationship with Barack Obama and his political circle interfere with Biden’s claims to represent the 44th president’s political legacy?
It’s easy to think about running for president. Taking the plunge can represent an immersion in cold and swirling waters.
This post was updated to include Patrick’s official announcement.