WASHINGTON, DC – Deval Patrick launched what he acknowledged to be a “Hail Mary” bid on Thursday for the Democratic presidential nomination, testing whether voters sifting through an already crowded field are open to hearing from new candidates less than three months before the primary voting officially begins.
Raised in poverty on the South Side of Chicago, Patrick made history in 2007 as the first black governor of Massachusetts. He has close ties to former President Barack Obama and his network of advisers, which could help him quickly establish contacts and raise money in the critical states that begin voting in February.
But his late entry presents significant organizational and financial hurdles. It’s also unclear whether black voters, who have largely backed former Vice President Joe Biden, would shift to him. Two other black candidates in the field, Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, are languishing in the polls.
Still, Patrick is betting there’s a narrow window to shake up a Democratic primary that has stagnated in recent months with four persistent front-runners, each of whom has glaring vulnerabilities. At a time of bitter partisan divides, the 63-year-old Patrick is positioning himself as a political leader who can work on progressive causes without alienating moderates who worry about the pace of change being advocated by some Democratic candidates.
“But I think that there has to be more than the big solutions,” he told reporters at the statehouse in New Hampshire, where he registered to appear on the ballot in the first-in-the-nation primary, expected to be held on Feb. 11. “We have to use those solutions to heal us.”
Such comments were a none-too-subtle dig at another presidential candidate from Massachusetts: Elizabeth Warren. The senator has risen to the top of the Democratic pack in recent months with calls for fundamental changes to the American economy, including a wealth tax and a shift to a government-run health care system known as “Medicare for All.”
Patrick said he spoke with Warren on Wednesday night and described a “hard conversation for both of us.” He credited her with running the “best and most disciplined campaign” in the field and praised her as “incredibly smart” and “incredibly thorough in her policy positions.”
But he suggested the scope of her proposals would be hard for a president to implement.