Deval Patrick, a longtime Obama friend, says former president should remain neutral in 2020 race

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Deval Patrick has been friends with Barack Obama since before his historic 2008 presidential campaign.

But as Patrick runs for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, he says his good pal should remain neutral in the crowded contest of contenders battling to be the party’s standard-bearer.

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“I think the right thing for the president, President Obama, to do is to wait until we have a nominee. I’m going to work very hard to be, to earn that. But I think it wouldn’t be like him and it wouldn’t be probably appropriate for him to come in soon and appear to put a finger on the scale,” the former two-term Massachusetts governor told Fox News on Monday while campaigning in neighboring New Hampshire.

Obama – who remains extremely popular with Democratic voters – is staying neutral as the primary race involving roughly 15 remaining White House hopefuls plays out. But he has close personal and political ties to several of them, especially former Vice President Joe Biden, adding to the intrigue surrounding Obama's still-undeclared 2020 preference. And nearly every candidate who jumped into the race met or spoke with the former president to seek his advice.

That includes Patrick. He told reporters last month, on the day that he announced his candidacy, that he had chatted with Obama days earlier and noted that the former president “believes, like I do, that a competitive primary is good for the party. It’s good for democracy, particularly if we keep it positive.”

The two men share Chicago roots, both studied at Harvard University, and some of the top advisers that worked on Patrick’s 2006 gubernatorial victory went on to similar roles in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

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But Patrick is among several 2020 candidates with close ties to the former president. Biden spent eight years as Obama’s vice president, and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro served in Obama’s Cabinet as Housing secretary during the president’s second term.

Asked by Fox News if he’d talked to Obama since launching his presidential campaign, the long-shot contender said on Monday: “I haven’t talked to him since I got in.”

Patrick is one of two candidates from Massachusetts running for the White House. Sen. Elizabeth Warren – the state’s senator – launched her bid nearly a year ago. The populist firebrand lawmaker – along with fellow progressive hero Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – has eschewed big-dollar fundraisers and instead relies on small-dollar grassroots donations as she runs for the White House.

Nevertheless, The Hill reports that Obama has gone to bat for Warren recently with top-dollar donors reluctant to support Warren due to her attacks on Wall Street and wealthy Americans. Obama reportedly has told donors they must support the senator if she ends up winning the nomination.

National and early-voting state polls indicate that Biden, Sanders, Warren and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg currently make up the top tier of contenders for the nomination. Patrick has barely registered in the polls since making his late entry into the race.