DES MOINES — Former U.S. Rep. John Delaney, the first declared candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential contest, announced his decision to withdraw from the race Friday — three days short of the first test of organizational strength in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.
Delaney, 56, who served as a Maryland congressman for three terms, said he was ending the presidential quest he launched in July 2017 to avoid siphoning support from other moderate candidates in Monday’s first test of Democratic support.
“This race was never about me, but about ideas and doing what’s right for our nation,” Delaney said in a statement announcing his decision to withdraw.
He said his decision to drop out of the 2020 race was “informed by internal analyses” indicating his backing was insufficient to meet the 15 percent viability threshold among Iowa’s caucus precincts but “sufficient enough to cause other moderate candidates to not to make the viability threshold, especially in rural areas” where he believed he “campaigned harder than anyone.”
Delaney, the first Democrat in the 2020 race to log appearances in all 99 Iowa counties, had contended that his business perspective and his plans to invest in infrastructure, people and communities were different from other Democrats in the crowded field and were resonating in smaller-population counties, communities and rural areas.
It was among those parts of Iowa that he said he hoped to deliver a “better-than-expected” finish for him in the caucuses that would propel his campaign toward the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. But on Friday he conceded that was not to be.
In bowing out, he encouraged his party and the remaining 2020 contenders to sharpen their focus on the growing opportunity inequality that exists in both rural America and struggling urban communities.
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He also encouraged the candidate to advance progressive values “on the big issues of our time” by committing to govern “with pragmatic, fact-based, bipartisan solutions” that produced Democratic victories in 2018.
“We have many candidates in the 2020 race, running in Iowa and otherwise, who meet these criteria,” according to Delaney.
He said he did not want “the good work” of his campaign “to make it harder for those like-minded candidates on the bubble of viability in many Iowa precincts to advance in the Iowa caucuses and garner delegates.”
Despite his early entry and multiple Iowa visits and TV commercials touting himself as the progressive businessman in the field, Delaney failed to gain the traction he needed to move up from the bottom tier of candidates.
And his absence from the nationally televised debate stages kept him from juxtaposing his centrist views with more liberal opponents pitching Medicare for All and other ideas he feared would hurt his party’s 2020 chances.
“Let’s stop the nonsense of unrealistic and divisive campaign promises and be the party the American people need — a decent, unifying, future-focused and common-sense party,” Delaney said in his exit statement.
The former congressmen said many of the problems facing America are fixable, but the first corrective step must be for Democrats to beat Donald Trump and restore decency to the office of the president.
“In many ways, this is all that matters, and I am fully committed to supporting our nominee and fulfilling that mission,” he said in his statement.
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“We need to provide workable solutions to the economic issues facing hardworking Americans, create opportunity for young people in all communities, restore a sense of unity and common purpose to our nation, and re-establish the United States as an engaged global leader,” he added.
“I believe our campaign was unique in its consistent focus on these four themes,” he said. “Our economic, environmental and technological future is dependent upon the choices we make and the actions we take. For too long we have made bad choices and failed to act; we must change course.”
Currently, 11 major candidates are competing in Monday’s precinct caucuses that start the Democratic presidential selection process.
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