The good news for former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who is considering entering the presidential race, is that it’s relatively easy to become a candidate.
He is least 35 years old and is a natural-born citizen of the United States, as the Constitution requires.
The actual process of getting on the ballot largely involves some paperwork and a little bit of money.
The bad news for Patrick: everything else.
After filing the paperwork, it will be tremendously hard for Patrick if he actually aims to be the Democratic presidential nominee, let alone be the next president.
If Patrick is just floating a trial balloon, here are a few reasons why, with about 90 days until the New Hampshire primary, the balloon won’t float.
It’s just too late
It has been 11 months since Patrick announced that he would not be a candidate for president. Had he begun his run then, the conversation would be different.
Now, he would be the 18th Democrat running. Those already in the race have scooped up all the talented staff, have already bought the expensive voter file lists, and have had volunteers making direct contact with voters for months. Many have already begun advertising in early states.
Patrick believes that none of those in the field have momentum, according to the New York Times. But it is hard to see how Patrick would have any time to get momentum going himself.
Patrick has never experienced how fund-raising works in 2019
A very important but often overlooked point of the 2020 presidential race: the fundamentally different way candidates raise money. The move to raising small-dollar recurring donations instead of fat cats giving the maximum allowed has been slowly happening over the past few election cycles.
But it looks nothing like Patrick’s last race in 2010. Back then, small-dollar contributions were a talking point about grass-roots support, but now it is the only way that at least two top-tier candidates — Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — are reliably raising millions of dollars each month.
Building lists of potential recurring supporters is hard. But should Patrick forgo the small-dollar donor route and rely on big donors for the bulk of his fund-raising, it will mean time spent at high-end fund-raisers at law firm offices and swanky restaurants instead of on the trail in the early states.
And the price of entry is high. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang just put down $1 million for three weeks of advertising in Iowa, just to see whether he can get anything going there. He is expected to put down substantially more in New Hampshire, where Patrick will be expected to perform well given that he was a neighboring-state governor. Patrick, of course, doesn’t have millions of dollars at the moment in a campaign account.
He won’t make the debate stage
It’s hard to see how Patrick even makes the debate stage. The deadline has already passed to qualify for next week’s debate, so he won’t be on the stage at the Washington Post/MSNBC debate in Atlanta. For the December debate, the DNC has set a threshold of having at least 200,000 individual donors.
Patrick walks into the presidential race with e-mail addresses of potential donors that are, by definition, nine years old, meaning many aren’t usable anymore. And consider this: When a Patrick-affiliated Super PAC was very active in the 2018 midterm elections, it raised $728,000. But according to OpenSecrets.org, $615,000 of that came from just seven donors.
He has until Dec. 12 to get those 200,000 donors and — and! — somehow reach 4 percent in four or more polls.
So far, only six of the 17 candidates have met those standards. What is clear by now: It’s deadly if candidates aren’t on the stage. Indeed, no one who missed the last debate has been polling above 1 percent. They simply aren’t in the conversation.
Quick! When was the last time you thought of Steve Bullock?
Which is to say: Patrick needs to figure out how to be in the conversation.
He offers nothing different in the field
Deadlines are looming for candidates to put their names on state presidential primary ballots. Alabama’s was last Friday and New Hampshire’s is this Friday. In recent weeks, some activists in New Hampshire have mentioned Mike Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton, and former Obama attorney general Eric Holder as potential last-minute candidates who could draw excitement. No one, however, brought up Patrick.
And there could be a reason for this. If Patrick’s message is to suggest that he can unite the liberal and moderate factions of the party, then it would be something that South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has already been doing well. It’s also the same message that Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker haven’t had much luck with. In other words, Patrick wouldn’t be offering anything new.