A 'different' Democrat comes to Iowa

Delaney already is campaigning for president in 2020

U.S. Rep. John Delaney, the first Democrat to declare he’s running for president in 2020, works the crowd at this month’s Iowa State Fair. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau)
U.S. Rep. John Delaney, the first Democrat to declare he’s running for president in 2020, works the crowd at this month’s Iowa State Fair. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau)

DES MOINES — John Delaney says he’s “a different kind of Democrat.”

“I work to pursue goals that I think the Democratic Party shares broadly, but I think about how you do that differently,” he says.

Delaney is a U.S. representative from Maryland and the first officially declared Democratic candidate for president in 2020.

It bears reminding that the 2020 presidential election is more than three years away, and even Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses are roughly 2½ years off.

Yet here was Delaney, making his way around the Iowa State Fair this past week, holding multiple media interviews and meeting with people interested in his campaign over the span of a couple of days in Des Moines.

The 54-year-old Delaney said he is not a typical Democrat because he believes the best government work is done when both major political parties work together, and that he has a different view on economic issues because of his experience as an entrepreneur.

Assuming he stays in the race for the long haul — during the interview he asserted he would — Delaney will be among what almost assuredly will be a large crowd of Democratic candidates.

CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza recently estimated more than 20 possibilities, and that list did not include Delaney.

So Delaney will need a message that differentiates him from the crowd.


A key element of Delaney’s message is that he thinks federal officials are, as he said it, “having the wrong conversation.” He said too much political debate is about re-litigating battles of the past, and not enough about looking forward.

And a critical piece of that forward-looking debate, Delaney said, is technology and the disruption it will have on the global workforce.

“Technology, automation, global interconnections, these are changing everything,” Delaney said. “These things are going to have profound effects over the next 20 or 30 years, and they’re going to create large-scale opportunities and challenges, and we’re doing nothing to prepare our country and our citizens.”

Delaney said the federal government should be doing more by fostering a more competitive and entrepreneurial business climate, creating a better educated and more well-trained workforce, investing in communities and making smarter investments of resources.

“That, to me, is a blueprint for the future,” Delaney said.

Delaney had founded two companies: a finance company for health care providers and a commercial lender. Both went public within three years, according to Delaney’s biography.

He was first elected to Congress in 2012 and serves on the financial services committee.

Delaney said his business background gives him an economic perspective that is different from that of some Democrats — that he does not view the private sector as an enemy.

And that message, Delaney said, is what will help Democrats regain voters they lost in 2016 — including in Iowa, which went twice for former president Barack Obama but flipped for Trump.

“I don’t think it’s the policy goals of the Democratic Party are wrong. But I definitely think that we are not talking to people about what they care most about. We tend to talk to people about what we care most about. And those are very different things,” he said.


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“Obviously what most people care about is their job and the economy in their local community. Because really at the end of the day everything flows from that: a person’s sense of dignity, their ability to raise a family, their ability to support their kids, the ability to make sure the community has the resources it needs so it’s vital and vibrant. And Democrats aren’t talking enough about that.”

As for his early entry in the campaign, he said the reason partly is that he wants to be straight with voters.

“We all know there are a lot of people running for president right now,” Delaney said. “They’re just not saying it.”

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and state government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net.



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