U.S. Representative John K. Delaney (MD-06) is the first Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential race. If you don’t know who he is, you’re not alone.
According to Politico’s Morning Score newsletter, sources close to Delaney have said he is serious about a run for the highest office and will forego reelection to the U.S. House and an election for Maryland governor.
The decision to run is “quixotic,” as Elena Schneider put it in the newsletter. Delaney has low name recognition, even within Democratic Party circles. No wonder he announced his candidacy four years out from November 2020.
On Friday, Delaney wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post titled: “John Delaney: Why I’m running for president,” officially announcing his bid.
The crux of his strategy is to gun for the political center: “The American people are far greater than the sum of our political parties. It is time for us to rise above our broken politics and renew the spirit that enabled us to achieve the seemingly impossible.”
Delaney will run as a centrist Democrat, shunning the left wing of the party, represented by Sens. Sanders and Warren, and espousing a free-market-first approach to economic questions.
Delaney claims in his op-ed that he is considered one of the most “innovative and bipartisan members of Congress,” by “simultaneously celebrating the power of our free-market economy, while insisting there is a role for government to set goals and rules of the road and take care of those who are left behind.”
The two-party system is such an entrenched political reality that even life-long Independents like Bernie Sanders had to run as a Democrat to have a shot. Third-party candidates, for the most part, end up as footnotes in the annals of American political history.
Moving to the extremes worked for Donald Trump and the Republicans, but not for Bernie Sanders and the Democrats. Despite upheaval from left-wing Democrats, Hillary Clinton was the nominee, and former Obama cabinet member Tom Perez is party chairman.
There are strong arguments for a centrist Democratic run.
With more Independents than either registered Republicans or Democrats, a candidate who presents a middle-of-the road message could gain traction. Further, President Trump’s dismal approval ratings point to a substantial number of Republicans unhappy with their party’s tenure in the White House. (As of July, a Gallup Poll reports 45% of Americans identify as Independent; 25% Republicans and 28% Democrats.)
There is one serious downside to appealing to the center: primaries.
Usually, staunch party members vote in primaries, and few states have open primaries where independents can vote. This could prove to be the most serious roadblock for Delaney. There is nothing in his platform that assumes a slide to the left in order to bolster party-base support.
There is one part of his message, however, that can appeal across intra-party lines and rally support. “For too long, the conversation in politics has been about trying to return to the past instead of focusing on the most important thing: the future.”
While there are four years until the 2020 race, and critical midterms coming up, Delaney is hitting the ground running. He wants to pave a centrist road to the Democratic nomination.