Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is expected to announce Thursday that he is officially launching a late-entry campaign for the White House, people familiar with the plans said, leaping into a crammed and fluid Democratic field with approximately 80 days before the official starting gun of the party’s primary race.
Patrick on Wednesday called Democratic Party leaders, elected officials, and supporters, telling them he will enter the race, a person familiar with the calls said.
A person familiar with Patrick’s plans said he is slated to travel to New Hampshire on Thursday to file papers at the State House to appear on the ballot there. He then will travel to California before heading to Nevada, Iowa, and South Carolina — three other crucial early nominating states.
The news that Patrick was calling Democrats to inform them he had decided to run, after announcing last year he would not, was first reported by CNN.
Prominent Democrats and even close allies of the two-term governor greeted word this week that Patrick was reconsidering a run with deep skepticism. Many expressed doubt that he could successfully compete when most of his top rivals have been building out campaign operations for close to a year.
“It’s very difficult to believe that he can marshal the resources he would need to actually launch a last-minute campaign,” said Vincent Frillici, who was national finance director for former Connecticut senator Chris Dodd, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.
But other Democrats say they see an opening for Patrick — albeit one constricted by the primary calendar and available resources. And allies say Patrick is well aware of the daunting hurdles that lie ahead.
“He reaches into people’s souls and allows them to see we can find a better way to work together without giving up his principles,” former congressman Michael Capuano of Somerville, who considers Patrick a good friend, told the Globe on Wednesday, speaking without knowledge of whether Patrick had decided to run.
Capuano said he believes Patrick’s message of unity and the way he shows respect for those with different points of view will resonate with voters.
“That is missing on the campaign trail today,” he said.
“He’s got the energy, he’s got the passion, and if he does it, I think America will be well served,” said Capuano, who endorsed Patrick early in his first bid for governor, when Patrick, who grew up in poverty on the South Side of Chicago and rose to be a top lawyer at the Justice Department and big corporations, wasn’t well known.
“He and his advisers are extremely astute people, and I think they witnessed the Democratic race really going in a direction that they felt was wrong,” said John Fish, chairman and chief executive of Suffolk Construction and a major Boston-based Democratic donor.
“I would welcome the opportunity to hear his platform because I do think he’s a very charismatic, experienced, caring politician. His sort of demeanor is appropriate for America today, and I think he’d do one hell of a job,” Fish said.
Patrick, the first black governor of Massachusetts, served from 2007 to 2015 and is a close friend and ally of former president Barack Obama. Like Obama, Patrick has an inspiring life story and is seen as a skilled campaigner and powerful public speaker. His admirers say he could articulate a unifying message that would be a good antidote to Trump’s divisiveness.
His entrance would come at a moment in the race where some party elites are worried about the shakiness of former vice president Joe Biden, the early front-runner, and concern that his liberal rivals, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, lean too far to the left to beat Trump.
Those same concerns have also led former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg to weigh launching his own late campaign, after deciding, like Patrick, against it earlier this year.
As governor, Patrick was credited with securing reforms in transportation, education, and ethics, and launching initiatives that stimulated the clean energy and biotechnology industries. But he was criticized for severe management failures and the death of children in the state’s child welfare system.
Jumping into the race pits Patrick against another Massachusetts pol — Warren — whose 2012 US Senate candidacy Patrick helped stabilize with an early endorsement. Warren is at the top or near the top of several polls but operates in a very different lane than Patrick is expected to occupy, given Warren’s populist rhetoric about the excesses of Wall Street and corporate greed.
Reporters peppered Warren with Patrick-related questions after she filed for the New Hampshire primary Wednesday — whether she had spoken to Patrick, whether his entry would complicate her campaign, and whether his ties to the corporate world would be a problem for him.
“No, no, and I am not here to criticize other Democrats,” Warren said, answering all three questions in rapid succession. “I am here to talk about why I am running for president.”
Nearly a year ago, Patrick, 63, announced he would not seek the presidency, citing the “cruelty” of the elections process and acknowledging doubts that he could cut through the noise of a crowded primary.
The sudden about-face surprised even close allies and former aides. Many Massachusetts Democrats were still trying to make sense of his decision and the path forward late Wednesday.
“He does not have an engine all primed up, ready to get to work,” one well-connected Democratic operative said.
But Patrick has proven skeptics wrong before. Pundits saw him likely to lose both of his successful gubernatorial bids.