When Donors Have Money Burning Holes in Their Pockets

First it was Mike Bloomberg. Now maybe Deval Patrick. As if the Democratic field wasn’t large enough, a second possible candidate who ruled out running months ago is on the verge of officially changing his mind.

Again, the stated reason is concern with the present field due to Warren/Sanders being too far left and Joe Biden being as washed as the evidence suggests. Getting scared at this stage of the race isn’t unusual.

Nine months ago, the candidates were shiny and new. Beto O’Rourke was an exciting contender, Kamala Harris a betting favorite. Biden wasn’t the Messiah, but people did think he might still be partially coherent.

Now, they’re dented and scratched. Bernie had a heart attack, Warren has managed to wait too long explaining her health care plan, propose $50 trillion in costs for it, and claim she can pay for all of it without charging middle class voters a dime.

Biden, ugh. And perhaps even worse in many eyes, he’s *still* leading. Kamala Harris was reviewed and rejected by the audience. None of the moderate governors could get anyone’s attention. Cory Booker is at 2%. I’ll spare you the rest of roll call. Even those who have done nothing wrong are injured by having existed without getting traction.

If you’re Mike Bloomberg, have always wanted to run for president, have enough money to run for president 50 or 100 times, it’s hard to resist thinking about it again. Everyone is so flawed, why not me?

That doesn’t explain why Deval Patrick suddenly thinks the world needs another Democratic candidate. While I’m sure he’s done quite well in his post-gubernatorial business career, he can’t self-finance a presidential campaign.

Let’s be clear. The idea that he’s a credible candidate at this point is mildly ridiculous. A year ago, he wasn’t polling very well. Now, one of the two leading candidates is from his home state of Massachusetts.

It’s too late for him to properly organize for the Iowa Caucus. Warren and Sanders have just as much home field advantage in New Hampshire as he does, plus the benefit of having actual constituencies amongst the electorate.

If being a reasonably sober-minded governor was a qualification this time around, Steve Bullock and John Hickenlooper would like to have a word. If being African American was a huge advantage with black voters, particularly in South Carolina, Harris and Booker have questions.

Combining those two archetypes at the last minute, while adding the largest dose of big business/Wall Street ties in the field, seems like offering a new flavor of ice cream to people trapped outdoors in a blizzard.

Remember, actual Democratic voters consistently tell pollsters they like the current field. If Patrick enters the race, he’ll enter national polls at about 2%, while registering at 4-6% in New a Hampshire. He’s not likely to qualify for the December debate.

Here’s the thing though. Lots of donors have lots of money they don’t know what to do with. Some candidates are unfundable because it’s clear they can’t win. Others like Warren and Sanders won’t take this sort of money, and besides, they’re opposed to the interests of those passing it out.

Only Biden, and very recently at that, has indicated he’ll accept PAC money. Pete Buttigieg has done well with this donor crowd, but sans-PAC, they can only give and bundle so much, and putting all eggs in a 37-year-old mayor’s basket is an unacceptable risk.

So Patrick. It’s a bad idea. If he hurts anyone, it will be Buttigieg, the candidate many of these donors are least scared of. Part of what’s propelled him in Iowa is the idea of consolidating around someone other than the flawed top three. But Patrick likely won’t do well enough to do much of anything except go through donor money.

But at least they’d get to play. And at the end of the day, that’s what this is about.

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