His campaign forgot to register the devalpatrick2020.org domain, so it’s instead forwarding to a harsh piece by Howie Carr, a Boston Herald columnist and longtime Patrick antagonist.
The former Massachusetts governor is proposing an audacious move — replicating in a few weeks what other presidential candidates have been trying to create for years — but as he attempts to leapfrog the field, the early days of his candidacy are an illustration of the height of the hurdles he faces.
He has no campaign cash, little campaign staff, low probability of qualifying for debates — and just 81 days to go, as of Thursday, before voting begins.
“If running for president is a Hail Mary under any circumstances, this is like a Hail Mary from two stadiums over,” Patrick, 63, told reporters on Thursday after filing the paperwork to appear on the New Hampshire primary ballot, one day before the deadline.
“I’ve lived a political life. And I would say as a black man, a whole life dealing with skepticism,” he added. “I’m used to that. And I keep doing everything I can with the help and the grace of others to beat those expectations. And I intend to do that this time.”
He is fighting difficult odds with a brand of optimistic politics that some — particularly those who rose with Barack Obama — say is sorely lacking in today’s climate.
“You only run for president if you have fire in your own belly,” said Valerie Jarrett, who has been close to Patrick and his wife for years but has yet to endorse a 2020 candidate. “He is not a spontaneous person. He’s smart as a whip, analytical, self-aware, and recognizes the challenges. But he has the opportunity to go out and make this case. We’ll see in a few months whether it was right.”
Patrick’s Thursday announcement opened with a video that had been quickly put together, focusing heavily on his biography to introduce him to an unfamiliar national audience. He also sat for an interview with CBS News, which had hired the former Massachusetts governor as a commentator in September but severed ties as his campaign began.
He said he thought he could offer something different than the rest of the field, appearing to knock Joe Biden as out of touch and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as too dug into her ideas.
“We seem to be migrating to, on the one camp, sort of nostalgia — let’s just get rid, if you will, of the incumbent president and we can go back to doing what we used to do,” he said. “Or it’s our way — our big idea — or no way. Neither of those seizes the moment.”
He was blunter assessing the field later in the day, telling reporters in Concord that Biden is “an extraordinary public servant, frankly, who’s deep, deep personal empathy doesn’t always come through in this campaign.”
He also suggested that he could sway voters and tout his record in ways that Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the other African Americans in the race, have not.
“Their campaigns in some quarters are just not getting traction,” he said. “I don’t think that’s about . . . the message. I think it may have something to do — I don’t know why it is, but I think I do have a record of delivering that kind of leadership.”
But Patrick faces a party that has shifted dramatically since he left the governor’s office in 2015 and became a managing director a the private equity firm Bain Capital. That has left him playing catch-up on issues that were not in vogue the last time he was on the ballot, in 2010.
He said Thursday that he opposed Medicare-for-all in the current debate but did support a public option. He said that he supported eliminating or reducing student debt but, as for details, thought there were “other strategies than we’ve heard about.” He did not appear ready to sign on to a wealth tax.
“My idea would be a much, much simpler tax system for everyone,” he said. “I don’t think that wealth is the problem. I think greed is the problem.”
Patrick had considered a race last year but decided against it. The current effort came together swiftly — just last Thursday he was speaking before the Republican-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
He was interviewed onstage by Neil Bradley, the chief policy officer for the chamber who is also a registered lobbyist, and made no mention of his political plans. The event was private, and there is no public record of the remarks.
On the same day, another potential presidential entrant, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, was laying the groundwork for his campaign, ensuring he was on the ballot in Arkansas, Alabama and Michigan.
Patrick held meetings over the weekend, and some of his aides made a round of calls attempting to recruit potential staffers — but in some cases were rebuffed.
Abe Rakov, who was working for Beto O’Rourke’s campaign before his departure from the race, announced Thursday that he had signed on as Patrick’s campaign manager.
Patrick on Thursday called Troy Price, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, and said he would be in the state “early next week.” But his campaign is planning to focus most closely on New Hampshire. He is also banking on Booker and Harris faltering, which could leave him as a lone black candidate in Southern states.
“I was there in 2005 and 2006 and saw him go from 3 percent to a runway winner for the nomination,” said David Axelrod, the Democratic strategist who is not working for any of the current candidates. “A lot of that had to do with his own personal campaigning, going town to town and meeting to meeting and appealing to people on that basis.”
“It’s a very long shot. But you could sort of see the logic of it in his own mind,” he added. “He has gone from nowhere to election before. . . . If you have seen the magic happen once, that gives you some inspiration.”
Patrick said he would release his tax returns before the New Hampshire primary. And he said that he will probably have a super PAC backing him, pouring large amounts of money into the race.
“It’d be hard for me to see how we put all the resources together for an effective campaign without a PAC of some kind,” Patrick said. “I don’t know what that is. I don’t know where that will come from. And I wish it weren’t so. I wish the campaigns weren’t as expensive.”
Patrick’s video and much of his rhetoric avoided specifics about his eight-year record in Massachusetts. He spearheaded a number of reforms but lacked a sweeping landmark accomplishment, and his final years were marked by mismanagement crises, particularly in the state’s child welfare system.
He told reporters he hated that the signature health care law in Massachusetts was called “Romneycare,” saying that it should have been called “Patrickcare” instead because it was implemented when he was in office.
“From the perspective of the voters, it’s early,” he said. “Voters all across the country are in some cases just tuning in — and in many cases haven’t made their decisions. And I’m not asking them to make their decision today. I’m asking them to give me a chance.”
Asked where he was heading next, Patrick ran through the names of every early-voting state, including Nevada, which he pronounced with a long “A.” That is not how Nevadans pronounce it.
“Governor, say Ne-VAD-a,” suggested one reporter. “It’ll go over much better.”
Patrick tried it out. “Ne-VAAAAD-a,” he said, as an aide ushered him over to a voter who wanted to talk.
Michael Scherer and Annie Linskey contributed to this report.