Democratic presidential field swells as Massachusetts’ Patrick jumps in

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on Thursday said he was seeking the Democratic party’s 2020 presidential nomination despite an already crowded field in an effort to bring a divided country – and splintering political party – together.

FILE PHOTO: Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick stands to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the 364th Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 28, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

Patrick, a 63-year-old African-American and close ally of former Democratic President Barack Obama, announced his candidacy in an online video, joining nearly 20 other candidates seeking to challenge Republican Donald Trump in next year’s election.

He said he respected the current field of Democrats, but was concerned that too many Americans felt left out and had abandoned politics altogether, and that he wanted to draw them back in.

“We seem to be migrating to, on the one camp … nostalgia: Let’s just get rid … of the incumbent president, we can go back to doing what we used to do. Or: It’s our way, our big idea or no way,” Patrick told CBS News. “Neither of those, it seems to me, seizes the moment to pull the nation together.”

In a campaign video, Patrick cited anxiety and anger among Americans who feel their government and the economy has let them down, and said he was determined “to build a better, more sustainable, more inclusive American dream for the next generation.”

“This time is about the character of the country,” he said in the video. “This time is more than removing an unpopular and divisive leader, as important as that is, but about delivering instead for you.”

The Harvard-trained lawyer and two-term former governor was a managing director of the Boston investment firm Bain Capital. He resigned on Wednesday, a company spokesperson said.

Patrick joins a field dominated by Obama’s former vice president, Joe Biden, a moderate, and two liberals: U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made preparations over the past week to get on the ballot in two states as he weighs a presidential bid.

The late entries months before the first primary contests highlight the volatility of the race and Democrats’ worries that the Biden’s candidacy may be weakening.

The apparent ascendance of Warren in opinion polls also worries some Democrats who fear the liberal firebrand pushing Medicare-for-all healthcare may not attract enough moderates and Republicans who dislike Trump to deny the president a second four-year term.

Patrick told “CBS This Morning” he does not support Medicare for all “in the terms we’ve been talking about” but does back a public healthcare option as well as student debt reduction.

Asked about a wealth tax, Patrick said “taxes should go up on the most prosperous and the most fortunate, not as a penalty but because we all have a stake as a national community in building our future.”

Patrick’s candidacy could stake out a middle ground and offers a slightly younger alternative to field led by candidates in their 70s among an otherwise diverse field.

Still, he faces a steep uphill climb. So far, all but the top five candidates have failed to garner more than a few percentage points of support in state and national polls.

He is entering too late to participate in Democrats’ upcoming debate in Atlanta, and will have to garner enough support to be included in a December debate in Los Angeles.

He will file paperwork for the primary ballot in New Hampshire and then target California, Nevada, Iowa and South Carolina, the New York Times said, citing a Democrat familiar with his plans.

Asked about a report that he had spoken with Obama before launching his campaign, Patrick told CBS the former president was staying neutral in the race.

Patrick previously worked with Obama supporting other Democrats in various campaigns. In 2014, Obama told a Boston television station that Patrick would make “a great president or vice president.”

As governor from 2007 to 2015, Patrick was credited with implementing Massachusetts’ healthcare reform plan passed under his predecessor, Republican Mitt Romney. The state’s first African-American chief executive, Patrick also reformed its pension system, reworked the transportation department and raised the minimum wage.

He previously served as assistant attorney general for civil rights under former Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Sharon Bernstein; additional reporting by Chibuike Oguh; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bernadette Baum

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