Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has kicked off his 2020 presidential campaign with a video echoing the theme of several candidates already in the race: We must look to the future after President Donald Trump.
The Post reports that Patrick “became a two-term governor using an uplifting life story and an aspirational political brand, traits that his allies say could serve him well in a presidential campaign. But he is likely to face deep scrutiny in the Democratic primary over his corporate ties.” He has worked at Bain Capital, Sen. Mitt Romney’s old firm, for several years. He previously served as general counsel for two mega-corporations, Texaco and Coca-Cola.
What has Patrick got that the more than a dozen candidates still in the race do not? There already are coastal urbanites (including a Massachusetts senator), current and former officials with executive experience and moderates and progressives of all types. While Patrick campaigned for other candidates in 2018, he has not held office for nearly five years.
Anyone who wants to run surely can, but why would there be people, especially former Obama administration officials, reportedly urging Patrick on, trying to get him into the race at this late date? The conventional answer is that there is nervousness about both former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. That is not an unreasonable position, but why not see how the other candidates with significant organization and following in early states do? Frankly, they should. In an attempt to avoid sounding dismissive of other candidates who have been running for months, Patrick went out of his way to praise the Democratic field (“they bring a richness of ideas and experience and a depth of character”).
Patrick’s Democratic-insider allies seem determined to overlook the appeal of other candidates, especially South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has recently caught fire in early states. Instead of seeing who might rise from the pack if Biden falters, they’re banking on a candidate who has been out of politics and with no national fundraising base or distinct profile. These insiders seem to sniff at the prospect that Buttigieg or Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, could do very well and land the nomination after strong showings in an early state. They therefore went out to find someone superficially reminiscent of President Barack Obama.
Patrick could certainly prove to be a strong candidate, although the Democratic Party does not have a great record with Massachusetts governors, nor does it have an affinity for Wall Street executives. Patrick will have to find funds, staff, a message and a rationale for running unique to him. Given the lack of a clear front-runner, he stands some chance of winning, I suppose, but arguably less chance than some of the candidates already in the race.
It is not clear if he would enter Iowa or simply bank on neighboring state New Hampshire and then South Carolina. He might instead try to skip all those and head for Super Tuesday.
It is worth noting that Patrick might wind up siphoning off African-American voters, handing the lead to Warren, who the Democratic insiders are worried (not without justification) is too far left to beat Trump.
Alternatively, Patrick’s decision might just as easily prove to be about as successful as the Mike Bloomberg trial balloon — not at all. (Bloomberg would enter the race in low single digits.) A group of Democratic insiders who in a spasm of panic have decided to handpick a corporate-friendly candidate they feel comfortable with will not have the last say. The only thing standing between their rescue plan and Patrick’s success are a stage of capable candidates and Democratic voters. And many of them, including both Warren and Biden, have a big head start.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post. Follow her @JRubinBlogger.