ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The Iowa caucuses are in 81 days, and so you would think the Democratic field of candidates running for president would be shrinking. But today former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced he is running for the Democratic nomination. Patrick thinks he has a path. He filed his candidacy paperwork in New Hampshire today.
NPR's Scott Detrow is here to explain. Hi.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. Good afternoon.
SHAPIRO: About a year ago, Patrick said he would not run for president. Now he is hopping in the race just one day before the New Hampshire filing deadline. What changed?
DETROW: A couple of things. Patrick says a big reason he didn't get into the race last year was that his wife had just been diagnosed with cancer. He says she's now cancer-free. Patrick says he looks at this race and he sees one where many voters are still undecided. And he says he sees the front-runners dividing into two camps that he thinks both have big downsides.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DEVAL PATRICK: Camps of nostalgia on the one hand, and big ideas - sort of my way or no way - on the other. And I think we have to be about how we bring people in, how we bring people along and how we yield to the possibility that somebody else - or even some other party - may have a good idea.
DETROW: So a not too subtle reference to former Vice President Joe Biden on one hand and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders there. But this pitch of unity, of broad coalitions, bringing people together - this is not something that's missing in the race.
SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Right. We've heard this on the debate stage every time they gather.
DETROW: Absolutely. Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker and Beto O'Rourke, before he dropped out, all making very similar arguments.
SHAPIRO: Is there any chance of any candidate entering this late in the game actually winning?
DETROW: If there is a chance, it is very, very small. Most other candidates have been running for almost a year. They've been building up donor bases, volunteer networks, staff in key states. They've figured out what works and doesn't on the campaign trail. They have endorsements. And Patrick has none of these things. And he said today that he realizes how much of a long shot this is.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PATRICK: You know, if running for president is a Hail Mary under any circumstances, this is like a Hail Mary from two stadiums over.
DETROW: So just look at the debates, though. He's not going to get it in time to be in the next debate in December. You now have to have 4% in four polls and 200,000 donors from at least 20 states - very hard criteria. A lot of candidates haven't reached it. It's hard to see how he does.
SHAPIRO: Tell us what this says about the race because, not long ago, Democrats were applauding the biggest, most diverse field they had ever seen. And they were so excited about how many people there were. And now suddenly you've got New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg trying to get on the ballot in several states. Like, what does this say about the state of the race and the way Democrats feel about it?
DETROW: This is part of the big establishment and donor freakout...
DETROW: ...That's been going on.
SHAPIRO: Is that a proud tradition?
DETROW: It is - even more so this year because they're so desperate to beat Donald Trump. They know it really comes down to a handful of states, mostly in the Midwest. And they look at Warren and Sanders and what they're running on, things like totally doing away with private health insurance, and they're nervous most voters in the fall wouldn't buy that. And they see Biden, on the other hand, struggling to raise money, looking a little bit unsteady at times in his performances on the campaign trail. And they're very concerned about the establishment moderate.
SHAPIRO: You're talking about donors and party bigwigs. Just briefly, is there any sign that voters share the anxiety you're describing?
DETROW: Not at all, the opposite - really high enthusiasm, really high engagement. You've seen a ton of excitement. And most polls show they're very happy with this already enormous field of candidates.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Scott Detrow about to hop on a flight to New Hampshire. Go get to the airport.
DETROW: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.