Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick joined the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential campaign Thursday amid growing concerns in the party that the existing field won’t produce a nominee strong enough to beat President Donald Trump.
Patrick, currently a managing director at Bain Capital, said in a video that he is running “to build a better, more sustainable, more inclusive American dream for the next generation.”
He’s expected travel to New Hampshire either Thursday or Friday before the filing deadline to get on the primary ballot there, according to two Democrats familiar with his plans.
“I admire and respect the candidates in the Democratic field. They bring a richness of ideas and experience and a depth of character that makes me proud to be a Democrat,” Patrick said. But instead of the character of the candidates, this election “is about the character of the country.”
“This time is about more than removing an unpopular and divisive leader, as important as that is, but about delivering instead for you,” Patrick said.
Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said Patrick called him early Thursday, and said he would be in Iowa next week. The Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3 are the first nominating contest and voters, as well as state and party officials, expect candidates to campaign there in person.
Patrick, 63, would appeal to moderate voters who worry whether former Vice President Joe Biden is up to the task of facing Trump head-on, and worry that South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg lacks the proper experience.
Patrick, who is African-American, also could cut into Biden’s strength with black voters. He could make a case that he could boost turnout of black voters in the general election better than Biden, who currently leads among that slice of the electorate.
Patrick’s decision is “an implicit criticism of the whole field and Biden, Booker, Harris in particular,” said former Massachusetts representative Barney Frank. “It’s going to make a lot of people angry.”
Of his prospects for breaking through a crowded Democratic field, Patrick told CBS’s “This Morning” on Thursday that “you can’t know if you can break through until you try.”
Patrick said he doesn’t support Medicare for All and favors increasing taxes on “the most prosperous and most fortunate.”
He said he spoke with former President Barack Obama on Wednesday before announcing his candidacy. Patrick has close ties to Obama and his move is being perceived as a sign that the former president and his allies are worried about Biden’s ability to beat Trump.
Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, the two black candidates in the race, are polling in the low single digits.
Patrick, who served two terms as governor, had previously ruled out a bid for president, citing the impact of the “cruelty of our elections process” on his family. But, in recent days, Patrick has told allies and party leaders he sees an opening for a candidate that can unite the Democratic Party.
Patrick faces an uphill battle to winning the nomination, with no staff on the ground in the early states and limited name recognition. He left office in 2015 to join Bain Capital, the firm co-founded by another Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, now a Republican senator from Utah.
Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is another possible late entry into the field. He has filed paperwork required for the Democratic primaries in Alabama and Arkansas. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
Patrick also faces the difficulty of raising money to finance a national campaign and qualifying for the party debates, which have increased their fundraising and polling thresholds.
Patrick was the second elected black governor in U.S. history and would need a strong performance in South Carolina, where the majority of the Democratic electorate is black.
Before serving as governor, Patrick worked as a U.S. assistant attorney general for the civil rights division under President Bill Clinton and worked at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Patrick traveled to early states last year and allies of Obama were urging him to run, but he decided against a bid last November.
(c) 2019, Bloomberg · Jennifer Epstein, Tyler Pager