Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick won’t be on the stage Wednesday night when 10 candidates convene in Atlanta for the fifth debate, but he vowed in an interview on ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast to “earn my way” onto future debate stages.
"I understand that I have to earn my way onto that stage, and that's what I'm trying to do," Patrick told ABC News Political Director Rick Klein. "I'm out introducing myself and our agenda and making it clear that this campaign -- just like this administration, if the people give us that honor -- will be about everyone, everywhere."
Patrick, who joined the 2020 presidential race less than a week ago, said he aims to be the alternative choice for voters who are unsatisfied with the current candidates. Like other candidates not on stage, he will still be campaigning in Atlanta, he said.
He added that his administration will focus not just on "folks who are made to feel important because they're in those early states or because they are, you know, donors or are otherwise connected."
The former Bain Capital Managing Director seems to be aligning himself with the party’s moderate wing, but has set out to distinguish himself as someone with more experience than some of the frontrunners. His entrance to the race comes when some of the moderate voices have seen a surge in early state polling.
Des Moines Register/CNN’s latest Iowa poll shows South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg with a nine-point lead over Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is now at second place.
Patrick told ABC News he thinks Buttigieg is "wise beyond his years" and called him one of the most well-spoken candidates in the race, dismissing the notion that the mayor may be inexperienced. He noted that in the current election, "no one is really prepared for the presidency."
Still, he said his accomplishments while serving as Massachusetts’ governor were some of his campaign’s most notable strengths.
"I will say that having had the experience of solving problems with under, you know, sort of normal circumstances and extraordinary ones," Patrick told ABC News. "From a global economic crisis to a terrorist bombing at the marathon and having the language and experience of dealing with the private sector -- which is a big part of how we unify and drive toward a national common objective -- is an advantage that I bring."
Since formally launching his presidential bid on Nov. 14, Patrick has outlined three major pillars of his political agenda, hinting that he’ll be rolling out policies tackling opportunity and democracy.
Patrick also told ABC News that while some candidates are personal friends, such as Warren, who hails from the same state, he is focused on becoming the unifying force during a divisive time in politics.
In an interview in early November, Warren had even named Patrick as a potential member of her cabinet. She later dismissed the notion that his bid would complicate her own candidacy.
"I think many of them have responded to my concerns from the outset that this not be just about removing the incumbent, but actually making fundamental and lasting change in a number of systems that have constrained, constricted in some places, even extinguished the American dream," Patrick said. "And that can't just be about our traditional constituencies."
All of this comes as the House Intelligence Committee publicly questions current and formal government officials amid an impeachment probe into President Donald Trump.
As a former Justice Department official, an attorney and as a Democrat in general, Klein asked Patrick to give his take on the House Democrat's inquiry.
"There is a gravity about this moment, which I think Democrats are respecting," he said. "This is no small thing. But, you know, we have seen a pattern of lawlessness from this president and from this administration that runs deep. It's so deep and so saturating that I think, you know, there is some risk that we're all numb to it -- and we shouldn't be."
He said Democrats are doing their best to sort through and filter "all of the noise, the games and the fantasy so they are able to "make decisions accordingly."
Powerhouse Politics podcast is a weekly program that posts every Wednesday, and includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. The Powerhouse Politics podcast is hosted by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein. This week, Klein welcomed ABC News' Aaron Katersky and Steve Roberts as guest co-hosts.