Former governor Deval Patrick, who pitched himself in part as a moderate during his own short-lived presidential run, will back former vice president Joe Biden in what’s transformed into a one-on-one race with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for the Democratic nomination.
Patrick is expected to appear with Biden and actress Vivica A. Fox on Sunday in Jackson, Miss., two days before voters there head to the polls in the primary.
Massachusetts’ first Black governor, Patrick adds to the growing list of one-time candidates to endorse Biden, and offers him a prominent surrogate in Mississippi, where nearly 40 percent of residents are African-American. Sanders on Friday canceled his own rally in Jackson.
“At a time when our democracy is at risk, our economy is not working for many Americans, and our role in the world is unsteady, America needs a unifying and experienced leader, who can and wants to make life better for everyone everywhere. Joe Biden is that leader,” Patrick said in a statement Friday, calling Biden a “champion for vulnerable and marginalized Americans."
“He sees the unseen and hears the unheard — and that sincere concern for others informs not just the kind of work he does but the kind of man he is,” Patrick said.
Biden has quickly consolidated support among moderate Democrats amid his sudden return to front-runner status, drawing on high-profile endorsements from former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — two of his former rivals — ahead of his resurgent Super Tuesday showing.
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg ended his campaign the next day, and threw his support behind Biden. And Senator Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the race on Thursday, though she did not indicate who she may endorse in the primary.
Biden has already leaned heavily on his support in the South to reemerge in the race, where Tuesday’s slate of primaries include Missouri but also key votes in Michigan and Washington state.
Patrick spoke with Biden when he ended his own presidential bid in the wake of New Hampshire’s Feb. 11 primary, and again in person in South Carolina, the day before the presidential debate there in late February, according to a source familiar with their discussions.
Patrick had envisioned a path to the nomination that relied, in part, on slicing into Biden’s support among Black voters in early states like South Carolina.
In November, Patrick called himself a “big, big fan” of Biden’s, but also questioned whether his pitch would connect with voters, saying Biden’s campaign message of “‘if we just get rid . . . of the incumbent, we can go back doing what we used to do,’ misses the moment."
Patrick said at the time that part of the then-sprawling field had broken into “camps of nostalgia,” a comment that also appeared aimed at the 77-year-old Biden, now on his third campaign for president.
But in bolstering him Friday, Patrick pulled from his own oft-used phrases on the campaign trail, where he emphasized the need to unify voters and pitched Biden as the one to do that.
“Joe knows that the times and challenges before us demand new ideas and bold actions,” Patrick said in his statement. “But he also knows that change that lasts will require us to turn to each other rather than on each other, and that we will have to model a politics that says we don’t have to agree on everything before we work together on anything.”
The two have a long history, starting in the mid-1990′s when Biden chaired Patrick’s confirmation hearing to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Patrick on Friday called Biden his “go-to contact on stimulus spending” when Patrick was governor, and when Patrick weighed his late-entry bid for the White House in November, Biden was among those he called.
He telegraphed last month that he would remain involved in the race, saying when he ended his campaign that “no one can stand on the sidelines at a time like this. I, for one, will not.”