Former Gov. Deval Patrick’s 11th-hour decision to plunge into the already packed 2020 presidential race yesterday outraged Sen. Elizabeth Warren backers and rocked the Granite State’s Democratic primary landscape.
“This is incredible disloyalty on the part of Deval to Elizabeth. He could make the difference in New Hampshire,” said Phil Johnston, a Massachusetts Democratic superdelegate who’s endorsed Warren. Johnston said Patrick’s entrance could trigger a Granite State loss for Warren. The senior senator has been performing well in recent polls but Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also has a strong showing.
Patrick played a key role in Warren’s 2012 election, endorsing the neophyte politician earlier than planned just as the controversy about her claimed Native American heritage seriously threatened her candidacy.
“This is wild,” said a stunned Kathy Sullivan, a former New Hampshire Democratic Party chairwoman. “If he wants to run, great. Go ahead. But I’m happy with the field we have.”
Sullivan, who hasn’t endorsed any of the 2020 candidates, said she’s skeptical about Patrick’s name recognition, even though he served two terms as Massachusetts governor from 2006 to 2014.
“It’s been a long time since he was governor and I think he’s going to have a hard time breaking through. I don’t think he has the natural carryover he thinks he has,” Sullivan said.
Patrick is expected to announce his candidacy before the deadline to run for the New Hampshire primary expires Friday. He has already missed the filing deadlines for the Arkansas and Alabama primaries.
The Bay State’s first black governor has faced long odds before, however. He was widely considered the underdog in the 2006 Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial campaign before beating establishment favorite Tom Reilly.
He’s also long enjoyed support from his close friend, former President Obama, along with Obama’s top political advisers David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett. Axelrod helped Patrick run his 2006 campaign.
Logistically, Patrick must quickly raise a hefty amount of campaign cash, staff up a nationwide campaign, and attempt to gain more name recognition in the span of 90 days. Even if he ignores Iowa and decides to use that time wooing New Hampshire voters, it’s not clear he’ll be welcome.
“It’s time for the field to start winnowing down — not growing,” said Jim Demers, a Democratic operative who is backing New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker. “I hear that everywhere I go. Voters are waiting to make up their minds because they are having trouble deciding between the candidates.
“I don’t know that they’re going to be excited about one more.”
The stakes in the New Hampshire primary for Warren and Sanders — both neighbors of the state — couldn’t be higher.
“There’s an expectation that if you are a neighbor, you have to win here,” said Demers. “If you’re not a winner, you’ve got serious problems going forward.”
Patrick’s late entrance reflects poorly on the strength of current front-runner Joe Biden, but he’s got very little time to explain why he is the best candidate.
“It’s a little bit confusing when the message is, ‘I’m running for president because I don’t think the leader of the pack has the momentum to win,’ ” said Demers.
“New Hampshire voters take their responsibility really seriously. They’re going to want to find out why he’s doing this.”
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