Here’s a political riddle: Why would a GOP operative like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie want to give a Democrat like Deval Patrick a boost in the 2020 presidential race? And why would Christie pointedly name-check Patrick, the onetime Massachusetts governor who confirmed Wednesday that he was indeed making a run at the White House, a full year before Patrick announced?

Christie made this public display of prescience on Oct. 20, 2018 at Politicon, that annual power-huddle of pundits on the take, in downtown Los Angeles. Among the gems Christie scattered across a series of L.A. Convention Center stages, shared by the likes of Carter Page, Dennis Rodman and Tucker Carlson, was his response to moderator and MSNBC analyst Elise Jordan’s question about whether he’d spotted any formidable challengers to President Trump’s second term rising from Democratic ranks:

Deval Patrick. So, I want you all to think about this, ’cause no one’s talking about him right now. But like two years from now, if he really runs, you’re gonna look back at this and go, “Holy shit, at Politicon, Christie said Deval Patrick — and none of us were thinking about him!”

Nice flourish by Christie, there, in seeding Patrick’s future run while patting himself on the back for his own prognostication skills. Christie was so complimentary of Patrick, and so ready with his reasons as to why Patrick would make an “articulate” (a surefire sign that this is a politician of color being spoken about by a white pundit) and worthy opponent for Trump, it was almost as though his commentary were more rehearsed than extemporaneous:

I want you to think about Deval Patrick, and here’s why: Not of Washington, D.C., and never been there. Two-term executive from a significant state: Massachusetts. And very articulate and smart. Deval Patrick, I think, would give Donald Trump the best challenge, because he could challenge him on executive background, he can challenge him in terms of his ability to have gotten things done in government, and he’s a very articulate spokesman for his point of view. And he will not carry any of the Washington baggage with him that any of these United States Senators will. [Emphasis added.]

While it could be the case that he was expressing his sincere beliefs about Patrick’s chances at the polls, it’s typically not a good idea to take the words of a seasoned politician like Christie at face value. That, and Christie is still pursuing a not-at-all-mutually beneficial relationship with President Trump, in which all the benefit goes to President Trump.

Meanwhile, if Democratic candidates of any description need the Washington Post’s backing more than Christie’s in order to make their way through the already contentious and crowded 2020 field, it’s not looking good for Patrick.

The mystery of what, if anything, Christie stands to gain from boosting Patrick may be solvable only by Christie himself. But he may actually have dropped a hint about a broader motive that could serve his party at that same Politicon panel when he said:

I guarantee one other thing: If the Democrats nominate a sitting United States senator for president, they will lose and lose easily. There is no way Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand [could win]. Forget it! Trump will eat them alive!

Of note is how that above description now applies to sitting Democratic senators and 2020 candidates Warren, Klobuchar, Booker and Harris, as well as to sitting independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. As for what their status as current office-holders has to do with their chances at beating Trump, Christie let that stand as an apparent given without overt justification. But politicians have been known to do that sort of thing.

Watch Christie in action in the video below from Politicon 2018 (video by Kasia Anderson):

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