MANCHESTER, N.H. — After 12 days and eight states, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick said he’s convinced there’s a “path” to the presidential nomination for him. That, however, has meant walking it quickly.
Pushed by a compressed clock, Patrick’s nascent candidacy has been largely defined by its movement, quickly shifting from early-voting state to early-voting state, interview to interview, voter to voter. Monday, it was New Hampshire (again). Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s South Carolina (again).
But his late entrance and that nimble, but nomadic, schedule is also pressing up against the expectations of New Hampshire’s famously fickle voters, who’ve already watched other campaigns open a village worth of offices, bring on armies of staffers, and hold dozens of events to make their case.
“I can tell you, everyone I know is pissed at him for jumping in so late,” said Kathy Hoey, a 67-year-old Manchester retiree who listened to Patrick pitch himself as a pragmatic bridge-builder at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics’s venerable “Politics & Eggs” event Monday. “They thought, ‘You hadn’t put in the time. You just didn’t do your due diligence by being here.’ That’s important to New Hampshire.
“But,” she said, “I do think his message is different and I think it’s worthy to hear. And it will probably make a difference. . . . But I don’t know how.”
That challenge facing Patrick surfaced in a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll released Monday, which found him garnering just 1 percent support among likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters. Half of those surveyed said he had waited too long for his White House bid and they won’t consider him, edging the 43 percent who say they are open to considering him.
In convincing them, Patrick acknowledges he’ll probably go without many of the trappings of his opponents’ campaigns. As his still-growing staff spent Monday looking for a headquarters back in Boston, he indicated he may bypass “renting” space to establish a physical foothold in New Hampshire and spend more time lining up house parties to meet voters.
With the Feb. 11 primary quickly approaching, he had already faced a steep climb in matching the other operations now humming in the Granite State.
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign said she has opened at least nine field offices, hubs that allow volunteers and more than 55 staffers to congregate and coordinate. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has 14 offices with more than 90 paid staffers, aides say. Former vice president Joe Biden counts 50 paid staff in the state; Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Ind., mayor, has 65 split among 13 offices, according to his campaign.
That they are so established and yet none have broken free in the polls is exactly the point, Patrick argues.
“What I’ve seen is that the path we knew was there is wider than I fully appreciated,” he told reporters Monday. “It’s a wide-open race. And the fact that folks have been in a long time, and campaigning for a long time and raising money for a long time . . . has not resolved it.”
There are many also willing to still give him a chance. After Patrick finished a Cobb salad at a Concord cafe, he moved between tables of diners, including Robert Moses, a 64-year-old Concord Democrat, who told him some of the policies pushed by Warren or Sanders, such as eliminating tuition at public colleges, are a “little too much.” How, he asked Patrick, would he describe himself?
“I’m a pragmatic progressive,” Patrick said, tripping momentarily over the alliterative description. “If I can say it.”
“You’ll get it,” said Moses, who later told a reporter he’s still weighing his choice ahead of the February primary.
“You lean one way, then you lean the other,” he said of his mindset. “I’ll look at him.”
As Patrick pinged between stops Monday, that he was there seemed almost secondary at times to a separate question: When will he be back?
“Today, it’s a New Hampshire-centered campaign,” Patrick jokingly told a Concord radio station when pressed on his campaign plans for the state. “It’s an important state for what we’re trying to do, and it’s an important state — period — because you can get close to people, and talk to them, and listen to them.”
At a nearby coffee shop, John Tackeff, 27, greeted Patrick with a grin and a story: It was with Patrick, he said, that he attended his first-ever canvassing event during the 2008 presidential campaign, when the former governor played host to one for then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in Portsmouth, N.H.
Tackeff grabbed Patrick for a photo a few minutes later — his mother, via text, urged him to get one — before he settled back at his table. “I think that it’s a more modern occurrence — running for so long,” Tackeff said, adding that he prefers more truncated political campaigns. “I know the governor. I know his record. I want to hear more from him.”
By that point, Patrick had stopped by the coffee shop’s counter, where he grabbed an artisanal chocolate bar, a coffee, and, for an aide, a tea. The barista asked how he was taking his order.
Patrick replied succintly: “It’s to go.” Minutes later, he was back out the door.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of campaign offices presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has in New Hampshire. He has 13.
Matt Stout can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.