- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2019

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who jumped into the Democratic presidential race Thursday, was immediately fending off questions about his ties to Bain Capital, the same investment firm that was a major liability for Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid.

Mr. Patrick has resigned from the firm, but his connections could make liberal activists wary of a candidate with such deep ties to private equity in a race where villainizing capitalism and the wealthy has become mainstream.

Anthony Rogers-Wright with the Climate Justice Alliance could barely contain his laughter when talking about Mr. Patrick’s background and his potential positioning within the 2020 Democratic field.

“OK, we just added another billionaire, now we’re going to put in a hedge fund executive who works for Mitt Romney’s company,” Mr. Rogers-Wright said and laughed. “So it’s like, I don’t know.”

For his part Mr. Patrick tried to wave off criticism over the firm Thursday as he trekked to New Hampshire to file the official paperwork to get on the state’s primary ballot.

“I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now,” he told reporters. “But I do think that capitalism, and I am a capitalist, has a lot to answer for.”

In 2012, President Obama and his allies used Mr. Romney’s experience at the firm, which also engaged in corporate takeovers, as fodder to attack Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat who wouldn’t hesitate to shut down factories or ship jobs overseas if it improved the company’s bottom line.

Mr. Patrick, who counts Mr. Obama as a close ally and who was a key surrogate during his 2012 reelection bid, actually got crosswise with the campaign’s messaging at one point by defending the firm.

“I think the Bain strategy has been distorted in some of the public discussion,” Mr. Patrick said on MSNBC in May 2012. “Bain is a perfectly fine company. They’ve got a role in the private economy, and I’ve got a lot of friends there.”

Mr. Romney also faced criticism over his ties to the firm from such GOP primary opponents as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

But Eric Fehrnstrom, a top adviser to Mr. Romney’s 2012 presidential bid, said Mr. Patrick’s connection to the firm is a bigger problem this time around than it was for Mr. Romney, who now represents Utah in the Senate.

“Mitt only struggled with it in the general election,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said. “In fact, we believe the Bain attacks against Mitt in the primary actually backfired because they were taken by Republicans as an attack against the free enterprise system. In Deval’s case, there will be no safe harbor.”

Mr. Patrick’s past business ties could end up out of place in a race that features Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who have enthralled far-left activists by running on anti-corporate platforms and calls to impose significant new taxes on the wealthy.

“They’re already going after it anyway, whether or not they use the word ‘Bain,’” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

Mr. Patrick, the first black governor of Massachusetts who served as the commonwealth’s chief executive from 2007-2015, announced his presidential bid on Thursday after he had said last December he would not run for president in 2020, citing the “cruelty” of the process that would affect people close to him.

Mr. Patrick’s late entry into the race reflects a dissatisfaction in some quarters of the party with the current field. Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is also moving toward a potential run, and 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton said recently people are urging her to think about jumping in.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who entered the race as the clear front-runner earlier this year, has stumbled recently, providing openings for more liberal candidates like Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Patrick on Thursday offered some implicit critiques both of Mr. Biden, who has predicted that Republicans will work more with Democrats if President Trump is defeated, and Ms. Warren, whom the former vice president has criticized for a “my way or the highway”-style approach to politics.

“We seem to be migrating to, on the one camp sort of nostalgia — let’s just get rid … of the incumbent president and we can go back to doing what we used to do,” Mr. Patrick told “CBS This Morning.”

“Or, it’s ‘our way, our big idea or no way,’” he said. “Neither of those, it seems to me, seizes the moment to pull the nation together and bring some humility that, frankly, we have a lot of ideas but no one candidate, no one party has [the] corner on all the best ideas.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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