Opinion: 20 Out of 20: Deval Patrick probably doesn’t have much to add to 2020 Democratic primary

The former Governor of Massachusetts is another late entry into the race, but there isn't much he can do to shake up the field.

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Opinion: 20 Out of 20: Deval Patrick probably doesn’t have much to add to 2020 Democratic primary

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks at Springfield Technical Community College in 2014.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks at Springfield Technical Community College in 2014.

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Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks at Springfield Technical Community College in 2014.

TNS

TNS

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks at Springfield Technical Community College in 2014.

Elijah Helton, Opinions Editor

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Democrats are apparently determined to keep their number of presidential candidates as high as possible for as long as possible, because former Mavssachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced his bid Thursday.

(Side note: What’s with Massachusetts  governors running for president? It didn’t work out for Michael Dukakis in 1988 or Mitt Romney in 2008 or 2012, and it’s almost definitely not going to happen for Bill Weld or Patrick now. If current Gov. Charlie Baker ever starts getting any ideas, someone needs to stop him, please.)

Whatever chance he thinks he has, Patrick is not wasting time getting his campaign underway. Unlike former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who has spent the last week getting too much attention from pundits, including myself, about whether he’ll officially run — Patrick is definitely in the race. 

Why is he running?

Patrick appears to be running for the same reason Bloomberg is considering a bid. There’s no sure-thing moderate, and the left — namely Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — is too left for the taste of party elites and donors.

If being being black wasn’t enough to dominate the black vote for Sens. Kamala Harris of California or Cory Booker of New Jersey, there isn’t much reason to think it will for Patrick.”

He does tick some key boxes. He’s not a radical reformer, as his list of major legislative accomplishments is relatively short. He’s reportedly close with President Obama. He’s spent a lot of his post-governorship at the investment company Bain Capital. As far as the rich guys are concerned, he’s safe.

Patrick isn’t the avowed centrist in the mold of former Vice President Joe Biden, though. In an interview with CBS, he said it’s wrong for the party to attempt reverting to a pre-Trump politics à la Biden. But he also criticized what he called the “our big idea or no way” politics of progressives such as Sanders and Warren.

How could he win the nomination?

Perhaps he’s looking for a similar position to Pete Buttigieg. While the South Bend, Indiana, Mayor has been successfully running a middle-ground strategy between the two wings of the party, Buttigeg has two big problems: he’s young, and he’s not popular with black voters.

On paper, Patrick could be the answer to both concerns. Instead of a few years running the fourth-largest city in Indiana, Patrick was elected to statewide office for two full terms. That’s to say nothing of either man’s individual charisma, but all else being equal, a 63-year-old former governor may look better to many than a 37-year-old mayor.

As for the other Buttigieg rebuttal, there’s no immediate evidence that African Americans would consolidate around Patrick. “Did anyone ask any black voters about this?” tweeted Vox political reporter Jane Coaston about Patrick’s supposed appeal. If being being black wasn’t enough to dominate the black vote for Sens. Kamala Harris of California or Cory Booker of New Jersey, there isn’t much reason to think it will for Patrick.

Similar to Bloomberg or any other potential late entry into the primary (I’m looking at you Hillary Clinton), Patrick’s odds at being nominated look exceedingly slim.”

Similar to Bloomberg or any other potential late entry into the primary (I’m looking at you Hillary Clinton), Patrick’s odds at being nominated look exceedingly slim.

How could he win the White House?

But let’s say those slim odds win out. For unforeseen reasons, Patrick catches fire and gets a boost from big Democratic donors and somehow eeks out a nomination bid. What then?

First of all, that would go against pretty much all conventional wisdom we have about primaries. Between President Trump’s 2016 nomination and Patrick’s hypothetical win in 2020, every single bet is off for presidential elections for the foreseeable future.

As for the election itself, the map doesn’t look that different from last time. Nothing Patrick offers plays particularly well in Rust Belt states such as Wisconsin and Michigan or the Southeast states of North Carolina and Florida. He could still win, but he doesn’t have any distinct advantages either.

Patrick begins his path to White House without much working in his favor. If he turns out to be a big success in the coming year, the pundits are going to have to consider another line of work.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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