What Deval Patrick means

I really liked this Sean Trende piece on Bloomberg and Patrick entering the Democratic race (though I think Trende overrates Bloomberg’s ability to pick up delegates).  I thought his observations on Patrick were especially noteworthy:

Deval Patrick. His entry is much more consequential, even though he probably has less chance of becoming the eventual nominee than Bloomberg. It must be viewed in a couple of contexts. First, it comes on the heels of a (poorly received) Eric Holder trial balloon.  Second, Patrick, like Holder, is an Obama ally.

The best way, then, to interpret the Holder feint and Patrick’s entry is as a shot across Biden’s bow, and as an expression of deep concern among Democratic Party actors about the electability of Warren and Sanders.  Biden’s campaign has been plagued by problems from the outset. The best remaining arguments for him becoming the nominee have been that he is Obama’s supposed heir, and that he maintains a sizeable African American firewall in South Carolina and throughout the South.

Patrick’s entry is a frontal assault upon both of these arguments. His candidacy likely would not happen without substantial support from other people in Obama’s orbit (including, possibly, the former president himself).  Translated, this suggests that Biden cannot count on endorsements, tacit or otherwise, from important players in the previous administration.  Second, it suggests that his support among African Americans should not be considered secure. While I would be surprised if Patrick received an endorsement from Obama, I suspect he will receive some endorsements from Obama proxies.  [emphasis mine]

The interpretation here would be that Biden is effectively the Jeb Bush of the 2020 Democratic field: His main function has been to prevent time, money, energy and attention from flowing to other moderate candidates, and thereby enabling the rise of Warren and Sanders. By removing the two best arguments for Biden’s continued candidacy, the theory goes, his 25% of the vote should start to look around. If he were to collapse or even drop out, it would open up space for Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, or any of the other moderates to rise.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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