John Delaney drops out of the 2020 Democratic primary race ahead of Iowa caucuses

Democratic presidential hopeful former Representative John Delaney speaks on stage at “First in the West” event in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 17, 2019.

Bridget Bennett | AFP | Getty Images

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, the first Democrat to enter the 2020 race for president, has ended his campaign just days before the Iowa caucuses.

The announcement brings to a close the long-shot bid launched in 2017, just months after President Donald Trump took office.

Delaney’s campaign, in its release, cited internal analysis that said he would not be able to reach necessary thresholds to compete in Monday’s Iowa caucuses, and that he didn’t want to obstruct fellow moderate Democrats. Recent polling showed that Delaney barely registered in Iowa, despite spending much of the past three years campaigning there.

“John does 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,” the campaign said.

Delaney, a wealthy businessman who lent his campaign millions of dollars, had pegged much of his strategy to cultivating support in the state. He often boasted of visiting every county in Iowa.

In the statement announcing his decision, Delaney did not say whether he would endorse one of his former rivals, but he appeared to take a shot at liberal candidates, such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

“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,” he said. “And please don’t listen to the cynics, the naysayers and the dividers; while we have significant challenges and too many Americans are struggling, the world gets better every year and the United States of America has driven much of this progress – let’s keep it that way.”

The self-described “progressive businessman” never gained traction among voters despite prolific personal spending. Delaney loaned more than $20 million to his own campaign, FEC records show.

Delaney sought to distinguish himself by criticizing “Medicare for All,” a policy championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and supported by many of the leading Democratic contenders.

But that tactic failed to meet with much success. During a June 2019 event in California, Delaney was nearly booed off the stage when he said Medicare for all was “not good policy, nor is it good politics.”

The Delaney campaign put its own spin on the incident, saying it was responsible for shaping the contours of the race.

After the first Democratic debates in Miami that month, the Delaney campaign issued a press release titled “John Delaney Changed the Democratic Debate on Health Care.”

“It may have blown up our Twitter mentions but it also changed the debate in a very good way,” Delaney said in the release, referring to getting booed in California. “Candidates are being forced to explain whether or not they want to eliminate private insurance. The health care debate is now happening on our terms.”

During the second Democratic debate in July, Delaney sparred with progressive front-runners Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., setting the tone for much of the evening and at multiple points drawing sharp rebukes from the two lawmakers.

“I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for. I don’t get it,” Warren told him at one point.

Delaney failed to qualify for subsequent debates.

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