Deval Patrick got pushed into the "Democrats to watch" category when members of the Obama administration, including senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, publicly pegged him as their candidate in 2020.
Patrick says all the encouragement is touching, but that for now, he is focused on 2018. Political analysts like Tufts Professor Jeff Berry, however, think he's just being coy.
"Deval Patrick is running for president," Berry said. "He seems to be all in at this point."
That is a common perception following a recent spate of political activity by Patrick — including a national TV appearance on CNN, where the inevitable question about 2020 got a response from Patrick.
"Thank you, but don't interview me for 2020 yet," he said.
That's not a no, which has politicos, including Patrick administration alums, talking. Patrick's former communications director, Jesse Mermell, says Patrick could be the right person at the right time.
"He has the ability to really speak to people, to motivate, to call to their higher angels," Mermell said.
Berry says the kind and dignified approach could work two ways for Patrick.
"Deval Patrick comes across a bit as the Mister Rogers of politics," Berry said. And that, for some, might be an advantage."
For others, Berry says, Patrick may not exhibit enough of the fighting spirit on display by louder, more aggressive Democrats like Elizabeth Warren.
Mermell says Patrick is bold in articulating a vision for the Democrats, saying it would be "one that isn't just anti-Trump, but also stands for something."
Patrick has staked out some of the most progressive positions, calling Medicare for all calling a "terrific idea." On impeaching Trump, Patrick said, "If the grounds are there, then we should proceed."
But the growing crop of so called "democratic socialists" might have a hard time embracing Patrick's corporate career path, as he describes himself as a capitalist.
"There's going to be two lanes that open very quickly," Berry said of the 15 or so Democratic candidates expected to jump into the 2020 race. "One is going to be the liberal lane and one is the very liberal lane. He's going to be in the liberal lane."
Berry says if Patrick decides to run, he could have a slight early advantage given that Massachusetts borders New Hampshire, the nation's first primary state.