PHOTO BY SCOTT MURRY
It’s no secret that former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick’s support will come up short in today’s first-in-the-nation primary, but in front of 50 or so people in downtown Manchester yesterday he made a plea for supporters to show up at the ballot box.
“What happens here is very important,” the presidential hopeful and long-shot candidate said at an independent bookstore.
“If we don’t get a big enough vote coming out of here, it’s a whole different story.”
As of Monday morning, many polls had Patrick down to 0 or 1 percent support in the primary.
In the past, he’s downplayed the need to perform well in New Hampshire, even hinting there’s a path beyond the Granite State, as he eyes South Carolina as a more competitive state—a state that billionaire Tom Steyer and former vice-president Joe Biden are betting on and have poured a lot of money into, as has Patrick.
Among the undecided voters in the crowd, Lowell Zangri, 30, of Mancheser said he is voting for moderate candidate and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, but wanted to listen to Patrick’s message at the advice of his father.
“I like Deval. I just want to hear him talk more. Maybe I can be swayed by today,” Zangri said.
As for Amy, “she had a really good debate the other night. I think she’s really for the working people.”
Zangri said it’s understandable that Patrick would be down in the polls, since he announced he would be running for president in November 2019.
“New Hampshire’s got a pretty small amount of delegates, as does Iowa. So I’m curious to see if he ramps it up a little bit in South Carolina, Nevada, and then gets some steam going into Super Tuesday,” Zangri added.
Marci Lyman, 67, of Manchester, who said she thinks Deval is “phenomenal,” is hoping for a better showing for Deval in states other than New Hampshire.
“I would say that I would like to have a progressive candidate and I feel very comfortable with him,” Lyman said. “He just needs to get known.”
Lyman said she likes Patrick because of experience, background, and policies that appeal to her.
Scott Saccenti, 47, of Maryland, a father of six who describes himself as a “political tourist,” can’t vote in New Hampshire but traveled here to hear from candidates.
“I’m a Dem but I’ve even seen Trump,” Saccenti said, referring to the Trump rally going on in Manchester a few blocks away.
He said Patrick comes up “middle of the pack” in terms of candidates he would vote for.
“I’m more on the liberal side of things, so probably like [Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth] Warren or Sanders would be my preference, but I do like Deval,” Saccenti said.
Other than Mike Bloomberg and Steyer, Saccenti said he has seen all the Democratic candidates. As for Deval, he said he “would be delighted to have him represent me in the White House.”
“It’s not like the difference between all these Dems is that great, and it’s not also like who gets elected is going to walk in and be able to get their agenda done … I would trust any of these Dems, especially somebody with this guy’s experience, in office to fight the good fight.”
As for the low poll numbers, Saccenti said, “if I was a Deval supporter, then yes, I would be concerned.”
Saccenti said the electability question really irritates him, as it does for Zangri’s father, David, an underground utility worker who used to work in Massachusetts.
“I’m well aware of Deval Patrick and I always liked him,” David said. “And really for the last year I’ve been mentioning his name saying, ‘where is he? What’s going on?”
Patrick recently appeared on a CNN Town Hall hosted by Dana Bash, but has yet to be on the debate stage in this cycle. Monday’s “Conversation with Deval Patrick” in Manchester was basically a repeat of his CNN appearance, where he argued that he has the experience to unify the country and build a bridge between voters.
He spoke about his personal life, being raised by a single mother and grandparents on welfare in the southside of Chicago, and becoming a civil rights lawyer, business executive and two-term governor.
The former Mass governor also promoted his idea of national service as a way of getting people to work alongside each other, and said he used his role as a business exec to make sure capitalism addressed issues like climate resiliency.
He told voters not to fall for the false narrative that if you’re pro-business you can’t be a social warrior, or that you must hate Republicans in order to be a good Democrat, and blamed dark money and the system for the lack of compromise in Washington.
On issues like health care, Patrick touted his record in Massachusetts, arguing for strengthening the Affordable Care Act with a public option—this as Democrats fight over health care plans, including Medicare for All.
“Everyone’s talking about the importance of everyone having health care, I believe that sincerely,” Patrick, who does not support universal healthcare, said. “We delivered health care to 99 percent of the people living in Massachusetts today.”
Playing it local, Patrick also spoke about dealing with the Boston Marathon bombing, claiming it united Massachusetts residents in the aftermath. True or not, the message of experience and unity convinced Jim McLaughlin, a former Massachusetts resident from Derry, to stick around. He’s from Easton, but has lived in New Hampshire since ’88.
“[Deval’s record] was always in discussion and in the news,” McLaughlin said. “Boston’s got an influence to some degree up here. His experience and what he did in the government were often in the news up here, so you’re just aware of it.”
McLaughlin said he was always casting his vote for Patrick, but just wanted to hear what he had to say to voters.
“I know his polling numbers are low. My hope is as time goes on he’s able to build some momentum and potentially be a viable candidate,” McLaughlin added, liking the fact that Patrick is more moderate and “a bridge builder,” in his words.
“I’m hoping he’s able to build momentum as the primaries go on in various states.”
David thinks Patrick will need to have others show up for him besides his wife Diane Patrick, who is currently campaigning for her husband in South Carolina.
“I’m telling people it’s going to be different soon,” David Zangri said. “I think he could [beat Trump], it really depends on who aligns. Are his friends going to come out for him? And you know who I’m talking about,” he said, referring to Barack and Michelle Obama.
“That’s an important question, because they are popular with a lot of folks,” David said. “Their movie just won an Academy Award last night, that’s a big deal. It depends who gets behind him.”
“The point is, everybody has plans, we have results,” Patrick said. “And getting those requires a bridge building. It’s not fashionable today, but it’s actually the only way forward, because alongside the results, what America needs, I think, is a healing.”
This article was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its Manchester Divided coverage of political activity around New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. Follow our coverage @BINJreports on Twitter and at binjonline.org/manchesterdivided, and if you want to see more citizens agenda-driven reporting you can contribute at givetobinj.org.