Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has officially entered the 2020 Democratic primary. Despite his late entry into a field where 3-4 candidates split the lion’s share of support from primary voters and the rest struggle in the single digits, he is seen as a formidable candidate with a legitimate chance.
Patrick has previously claimed he had no intention to run, but clearly that has changed, and I can’t help but wonder why. Despite him entering as a formidable candidate (so did Beto) he’s entering very late, and just barely in time to file for the New Hampshire primary, and will probably struggle to raise money. But, make no mistake about it, Deval Patrick is a threat to Joe Biden.
Within months of Donald Trump taking office, Politico reported that Obama’s inner circle was urging him to run, including advisors David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett even said that President Patrick is what “my heart desires.”
Biden’s candidacy has exposed some skeletons in the closet of the Obama administration, and it will only get worse should Biden win the nomination. Deval Patrick, however, is a known Obama ally, loved by Obama’s inner circle, and can easily tap into the Obama nostalgia of the left while not embracing the more outlandish socialist policies of Sanders and Warren.
Of course, the big question that needs to be asked is, what role did Obama play in encouraging or discouraging Deval Patrick’s 2020 presidential bid? Obama and Patrick are very close, and Politico reported in 2017 that Obama “privately encouraged him to think about” running. This is particularly interesting considering Barack Obama tried to convince Joe Biden not to run. Does Barack Obama see Biden’s frontrunner status fading, and is looking to get “his guy” in before it’s too late, or did Barack Obama encourage Deval Patrick to run to take the wind out of Joe Biden’s campaign? I’m thinking it could be the latter.
The foundation of Joe Biden’s support is black Democrats. “Joe Biden has amassed a staggering lead among older African-Americans, commanding nearly two-thirds support of black voters 65 and older in the most recent Morning Consult poll,” Politico reported in September. It’s true that Joe Biden has survived allegations of racism for his past history of working with segregationist Democrats. Biden’s support amongst black Democrats is certainly due to Obama nostalgia, but if Deval Patrick gets public support from high-profile Obama alums, it could change the dynamic of the race drastically.
This still brings us back to the question about Obama’s role in Deval’s late-breaking entry into the race. Did he encourage him to run because Biden is fading? Did he encourage him to run to be a silver bullet to Biden’s campaign? It would be difficult to believe that Patrick didn’t consult Obama on this decision, and it would be difficult to believe he would have jumped in without Obama’s support for the decision.
He likely won’t be able to participate in the December debate, so he’s essentially gambling his candidacy on the New Hampshire primary. Whether it works for Patrick in the longterm remains to be seen, but it seems like the perfect way to knock out Joe Biden.
Joe Biden has already written off Iowa, and thus needs a strong victory in New Hampshire for his candidacy to maintain any momentum. As the former governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick is a recognizable name in New Hampshire and is likely to siphon away votes from the former vice president more than from any other candidate. If Joe Biden can’t win New Hampshire after losing the Iowa caucuses, his candidacy will drop like a rock.
If I were Joe Biden, I’d be calling my best buddy Barack and asking him a few questions right about now.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis