Democratic donors are pushing former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to run for president in 2020

  • Some Democratic donors think former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick could beat any of the other major potential party candidates in a 2020 primar, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, sources tell CNBC.
  • They see Warren and Sanders as too liberal and Biden as too old to take on President Trump, a source says.
  • Other Democratic donors, however, are skeptical of Patrick's chances in 2020.
Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick speaks on a panel on leadership during times of crisis at the Newseum in Washington, DC, February 22, 2016.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick speaks on a panel on leadership during times of crisis at the Newseum in Washington, DC, February 22, 2016.

Some top Democratic donors have been prodding former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to run for president, telling him and his close aides they think he could beat any of the other major potential party candidates in a 2020 primary — including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Still, even though Patrick is getting encouragement from some political financiers, others aren't as convinced that his political experience is substantive enough to help him stand against President Donald Trump.

The donors who favor Patrick have told the Democratic politician and businessman's allies that they're concerned Biden, the former vice president who will be on the verge of turning 78 on Election Day 2020, will be too old to run against Trump, a source familiar with the conversations said on condition of anonymity. Patrick, on the other hand, will turn 64 in 2020. Trump will be 74.

The donors have also said they believe Sanders, a left-wing senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, and Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, are too liberal to win over independent voters, according to the source.

According to 2016 exit polls, Trump edged Democratic rival Hillary Clinton with independent voters, a key part of the coalition that pushed him over the top. A CNN poll conducted earlier this month, however, pegged Trump's support among independents at 38 percent, however.

Patrick served two terms as governor in a state that traditionally votes Democratic in presidential elections but has, over the past two-plus decades, mostly picked Republicans in gubernatorial elections, including Mitt Romney. Four GOP governors preceded Patrick in the office, and he was succeeded by Republican Charlie Baker in 2015.

In a Mass Inc. poll conducted in early 2014, as Patrick was heading into his final year in office, 52 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of the Democrat, while 38 percent had an unfavorable view. More than half of the participants in the poll identified as politically independent, compared with 36 percent identifying as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

A spokesman for Patrick did not return repeated requests for comment, and representatives for Biden, Warren and Sanders also did not respond.

Undecided about a run

Patrick, for his part, has made it clear publicly and privately that he has not decided about whether he will jump into the next presidential election.

In an interview in April with Boston radio station WGBH, the former Massachusetts governor acknowledged he was getting encouragement to run but declined to explain who specifically was hoping to see him in the race.

"I'm getting encouragement from a number of places and sources," Patrick said. "But mostly I'm concerned about the country and I'm concerned about the democracy."

A month earlier in a separate interview with Kansas City radio station KCUR, he said a possible presidential run is "on my radar screen," but he added: "I am trying to think through 2020, and that's a decision I'm trying to think through from a personal and family point of view."

President Barack Obama chats with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (L) upon arrival at Worcester Regional Airport in Worcester, Massachusetts on June 11, 2014.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
President Barack Obama chats with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (L) upon arrival at Worcester Regional Airport in Worcester, Massachusetts on June 11, 2014.

Patrick was governor for two terms from 2006 until 2014. He supported President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, signed into law the creation of the Massachusetts Transportation System and dedicated record government funding for the state's school system.

After his stint as governor, he became a managing director at asset investment firm Bain Capital, which was founded by Romney, his predecessor as governor. Patrick's experience in the corporate world also extends to his time as executive vice president and general counsel of Coca-Cola Co. He worked in similar roles for oil company Texaco.

Supporters and skeptics

Patrick already enjoys support from some high-profile figures in the Democratic Party.

Just after Trump was elected, members of Obama's inner circle, including former senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and chief campaign strategist David Axelrod, reportedly met with Patrick to discuss a possible run.

Obama himself, who is friends with the former governor, has also reportedly encouraged Patrick to make a move against Trump.

Still, some Democratic donors, who spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity, aren't convinced Patrick is the answer to what would be a grueling campaign versus Trump.

"We aren't going to elect a liberal Democrat from the Northeast if we want to win in 2020," one top donor said.

The same donor explained that many are not convinced Patrick's political record is enough to take on Trump, particularly since it benefited from the efforts of other leaders in the state.

At the time of his governorship, Patrick was part of a political sphere that included longtime Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who served from 1993 until 2014. During his tenure, Menino appointed neighborhood ambassadors to give residents a bigger hand in city decisions.

Romney, his predecessor as governor, created a statewide health-care system, which would become known as Romneycare and serve as a model for Obamacare. The legislation expanded health coverage by a mandate to buy insurance.

"He was governor of Massachusetts after it was fixed," the skeptical donor said of Patrick. "The economy was booming. They had a great mayor and two previous governors who were extraordinary, so by the time he got there ... all the hard decisions he had to make were made."