Deval Patrick faces uphill battle in crowded 2020 Democratic primary

Deval who?

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That’s the word from Democratic insiders as former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick entered the crowded race for the party’s nomination to oppose President Trump in the 2020 general election. Patrick’s announcement brought a collective yawn from party fundraisers and activists who scoffed at his chances of mounting a serious campaign at this stage in the process, according to interviews conducted by FOX Business.

With the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries just months away, Patrick will have to scramble to put together campaign and fundraising teams. His plan is to run as a moderate in a Democratic field dominated by populist liberals and anti-business progressives. Indeed, when he announced his intention to run, Patrick made sure he pointed out that he’s a “capitalist” even as he added that “people feel like our economy and our government has been tilted too much in the direction of moneyed interests.”

One major problem Patrick has is a lack of name recognition, these people say. The 63-year-old two-term governor doesn’t have much of a national stature. He hasn’t been involved much in party politics since he left office in 2015 and has lost contact with key fundraisers and other party types, these people add.

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For the past four years, Patrick has worked in investment banking at the private equity firm Bain Capital.

Patrick’s association with Bain is a double-edged sword; while it might allow him to raise money from financiers, it will likely draw fire from his opponents. Bain was co-founded by former another former Massachusetts governor and former GOP candidate, Mitt Romney.

Romney unsuccessfully opposed President Obama in the 2012 election and Bain became a focus of Obama attack ads that accused the company of laying off workers and canceling health insurance of workers at companies it acquired. In one effective, but largely discredited ad, a former laid-off worker tied his wife’s death to Romney because he lost health insurance after Bain closed down his plant as part of a restructuring.

Notably, after Patrick announced his entry into the race, his bio on the Bain homepage went missing, according to Evie Fordham of FOX Business.

A Bain spokesman had no comment; a spokesman for Patrick didn’t return a call for comment.

“A year ago I might have been with him, but this ship has sailed,” said Democratic Party consultant and activist David Brand, echoing other comments made by party officials. “Everyone is committed now and I’m committed to Joe Biden. In politics your word is your bond and it’s going be hard for Deval to break those commitments.”

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If anything, party activists say Patrick’s entry into the race, and the growing likelihood that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will jump in, shows the incredible fluidity of the race for Democrats as the party approaches the Iowa caucuses in February of next year.

Former Vice President Joe Biden – considered the party’s leading moderate -- had been the front runner early on, but weak debate performances and gaffes on the campaign trail have eroded his lead. In recent weeks, the campaign of former Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the campaign’s leading progressive, began to gain steam. But she has stumbled of late amid criticism of her spending plans, including her Medicare-for-all proposal that has been derided as unaffordable.

Party moderates doubt any of the progressives, such as Warren and socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, can beat Trump in 2020 (speculation is swirling among party insiders that Sanders will soon drop out) given the strong job growth and recent polling that shows most Americans aren’t in favor of a wholesale revamping of the US economy.

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Still, second-tier moderates like Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg haven’t been able to gain much traction nationally, meaning that a new front runner could emerge, and that the eventual nominee could be selected at a so-called brokered convention when the party meets in Milwaukee in July 2020.

With Patrick, 18 candidates are now vying for the party nod, and Bloomberg would widen it even further. And the field could grow ever more as the party’s 2016 nominee, former first lady Hillary Clinton, hints she’s thinking about another run.

Biden, meanwhile, is showing signs that he is regaining his footing. He recently announced the opening of a Super PAC, and according to aides, money is flowing in as his polling appears to have stabilized. One poll showed him in the lead for the New Hampshire primary and he is still doing well among African Americans, a key Democratic voting block particularly in the south.

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“Anything can happen,” said one major fundraiser who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “And it’s too early to write anyone off.”