Deval Patrick says he’s ‘not sure there is a place for me’ in 2020 race

"It's hard to see how you even get noticed in such a big, broad field without being shrill, sensational, or a celebrity."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick campaigning for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Colin Allred in Texas in July. Kim Leeson / The Boston Globe

Deval Patrick says he’s focused on his day job and on helping Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections. But there was no way David Axelrod was not going to ask the former Massachusetts governor about 2020.

Axelrod, the former campaign manager for President Barack Obama, was an adviser for Patrick’s first gubernatorial campaign in 2006 and has privately urged the 62-year-old Democrat to consider running for president in 2020. Patrick said earlier this year that a prospective White House bid was on his “radar screen” and reportedly plans to make a decision on running by the end of 2018.

However, when pressed on the subject by Axelrod during a podcast interview taped at Faneuil Hall and published over the weekend, he questioned how he could potentially fit into what looks to be a crowded Democratic primary field.


“I think we’re going to be fortunate in having a big and broad and deep field on the Democratic side, a talented field on the Democratic side,” Patrick said. “It’s hard to see how you even get noticed in such a big, broad field without being shrill, sensational, or a celebrity — and I’m none of those things and I’m never going to be any of those things.”

Axelrod, who is among a number former Obama advisers reportedly pushing Patrick to run, asked him where his place would be in that field.

“Well I’m not sure there is a place for me in that mix, frankly,” Patrick said. “I, uh, I like my life, but I want to contribute. I want to help. And I think as I say that there are lots of way to serve and I don’t have to be a presidential candidate to serve.”

After leaving office as governor in 2015, Patrick joined Bain Capital to manage the firm’s social investment fund (which he has recently had to defend, given the reputation the company gained during the 2012 presidential election).

According to Patrick, the ideal Democratic candidate in 2020 would be one that is “bold” and “willing to think big” about issues like universal access to affordable health care and education and economic systems that work for everyone.


“We have a populace who is ready, and I hope that we have leaders who are ready,” he said.

Following President Donald Trump’s election, Patrick wrote to supporters that he was “sad, disturbed, embarrassed — but not surprised” by the result. Earlier in his interview with Axelrod, he said that Democrats had erred in the past by not trying to compete in conventionally Republican states, underscoring his recent efforts to help Democrats in Alabama and Texas.  Patrick also said the country is experiencing “a time of extraordinary social and economic anxiety.”

“Social and economic anxiety is combustible,” he said. “You can use that combustion to fuel fear and division, or you can use it to fuel the future. And either of those paths, historically speaking, is American. You know, only one of them is patriotic. And I think what Donald Trump — the path he’s chosen is American, but it’s not particularly patriotic.”