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Deval Patrick joins 2020 field, faces daunting challenges

Presidential hopefuls who jump in late invariably fall short. Deval Patrick may buck the trend, but the odds are not in his favor.
Deval Patrick
Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick speaks on Sept. 8, 2014, in Pembroke Park, Fla.

About a year ago, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) said he'd received encouragement to run for president in 2020, but he wasn't prepared to subject his loved ones to "the cruelty of our elections process." It came on the heels of related comments the former governor made to David Axelrod.

"It's hard to see how you even get noticed in such a big, broad field without being shrill, sensational or a celebrity -- and I'm none of those things and I'm never going to be any of those things," Patrick said in a podcast interview.

That was then; this is now.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced Thursday that he will run for the Democratic nomination for president.His decision to enter the primary comes against the backdrop of the realities of the political calendar -- the filing deadline in all-important New Hampshire is Friday -- as well as continued consternation from some Democrats about whether the current field presents viable options to beat President Donald Trump in 2020.

The former two-term governor of Massachusetts will reportedly travel to New Hampshire this morning, where he'll file for the nation's first presidential primary in person.

For those keeping score, Patrick pushes the Democrats' 2020 field back up to 18 members -- it was starting to shrink a bit from historic highs -- though he and Montana's Steve Bullock are the only current or former governors in the race. (Washington's Jay Inslee and Colorado's John Hickenlooper also ran, but ended their campaigns months ago.)

What's more, the field may yet grow larger: former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is inching closer to a national bid -- he's already filed for a couple of primaries -- and former Attorney General Eric Holder is reportedly still weighing his 2020 options.

In terms of the calendar in a historical context, MSNBC's Steve Kornacki added yesterday that Patrick is entering the race at the latest date of any presidential candidate since Pat Buchanan entered the 1992 Republican race on Dec. 10, 1991, though he did not win any primaries or caucuses. Gary Hart re-entered the 1988 Democratic race on Dec. 15, 1987, though he didn't win any contests, either.

All of which serves as a reminder of the serious hurdles Patrick is facing.

In his favor, Patrick will be able to point to his successes as a two-term governor and his personal friendship with Barack Obama. Given the importance of the New Hampshire primary, it won't hurt that the Massachusetts governor is from a neighboring state.

On the other hand, Patrick has limited national name recognition, no national operation, empty campaign coffers, little chance of making the next round of primary debates, and in New Hampshire he'll face two rivals -- Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren -- who are also from neighboring states.

Complicating matters, I'm not altogether sure how Patrick will explain away his work with Bain Capital after Democratic criticisms of Mitt Romney's work with the same private-equity firm in the recent past.

Presidential hopefuls who jump in late invariably fall short. Patrick may buck the trend, but the odds are not in his favor.