A low-profile congressman from Maryland is the first Democrat to throw his hat in the ring for the 2020 presidential election.
John Delaney, currently representing Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, surprised pundits everywhere when he announced he will forgo re-election in 2018, and instead prepare for a national campaign to challenge Donald Trump. Delaney explained his reasoning in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
The timing of the announcement is truly record setting – we are barely six months into the Trump presidency. The idea of a serious candidate announcing a presidential run before the preceding midterms is unheard of, but Rep. Delaney is absolutely serious about his campaign. A wildly successful entrepreneur before entering politics, Delaney’s net worth is estimated to be around $90 million. The Democrat has the potential to drop millions of his own money into a national race.
Despite his massive wealth, the three-term congressman has many liabilities that will likely block him from scoring the Democrat Party nomination – let alone the presidency.
Delaney who? No one knows who Rep. John Delaney is. He walked into the political scene in 2012 when first elected to Congress – not much time has passed since then. He enters the race with zero name recognition. Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight openly admitted in a recent piece that he had never heard of the guy. Polls have tested potential candidates as obscure as Mark Cuban and Oprah Winfrey – but not Delaney.
Representatives don’t win presidencies. Have you ever heard of a U.S. representative move directly to the White House? That’s because it’s unheard of. The last sitting representative to do so was James A .Garfield in 1880. Sure, some reps have gone on to serve as presidents – but only after getting a promotion or two along the way. Politicians need a larger base of support to successfully launch a national campaign. Reps have tried in the past to run for president, but it’s extremely difficult. Even former speakers of the House (the top position in the lower chamber) have struggled to wage national campaigns.
He isn’t what national Democrats are looking for. Delaney reminds me of another Maryland Democrat: Martin O’Malley. In case you already forgot about him, O’Malley ran for president last year. He is easily forgettable, however, because virtually no one paid attention to him. That is because – like Delaney – the former Maryland governor is not what national liberals want to see anymore. They are both simple, plain white guys. Progressives very much place an emphasis on minority and female candidates (Bernie was able to overcome this appetite last year by sheer leftist ideology).
He is a centrist Democrat. Delaney represents Maryland’s 6th District. It was long held by a Republican before being gerrymandered by Democrats in the state. However, it’s still more-or-less a swing district. This is perhaps why Delaney has accrued a centrist resume while in Congress. He was the only congressional Democrat in his state to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to the chagrin of local labor unions. He is known for several bi-partisan infrastructure-improvement initiatives – he made clear infrastructure spending would be a high priority of his. Unfortunately for Delaney, his national party has strongly shifted left in recent years. It’s highly unlikely a moderate candidate will be a top choice for liberals in 2020.
In his op-ed announcement, the outgoing lawmaker touched on the risk of leaving Congress and running for president: “No games, no cat-and-mouse, no backup plan at the 11th hour if a focus group goes badly,” he said.
Delaney, you should really give this more thought before you quit your day job.