WASHINGTON — Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney has withdrawn from the 2020 Democratic presidential contest, only days before the Iowa caucuses.
“It has been a privilege to campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, but it is clear that God has a different purpose for me at this moment in time,” he said in a statement released Friday morning.
Delaney said he didn’t want to draw support away from other moderate candidates in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, which are being held Monday.
The three-term congressman struggled to win significant support in the key early states of Iowa and New Hampshire despite focusing his campaign efforts there.
“I’ve campaigned harder than anyone in Iowa through all 99 counties,” Delaney said in an interview with CNN on Friday. “I’ve done hundreds of events across this great state, but it’s clear to me on Monday, on caucus night, I will not have sufficient support to get to the 15 percent viability threshold.”
Zero percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers expressed support for Delaney in a Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN poll published earlier this month. He hasn’t qualified to appear on a primary debate stage since July.
Through Dec. 16, the former lawmaker had raised $12.1 million for his campaign – nearly 80 percent of out of his own pocket – and spent $11.6 million, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending.
While Delaney’s Iowa campaign listed eight offices around the state, the candidate’s on-air presence was virtually non-existent: just eight television ads were run in November in Iowa and neighboring markets across the state line in Minnesota and Nebraska, according to FiveThirtyEight, which has been monitoring television ad buys by all the candidates. By contrast, the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, ran just one of its many different ads 2,700 times over 12 days earlier this month in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.
The Delaney operation also had set up an office in Manchester, New Hampshire, but had run no ads there. The New Hampshire primary is Feb. 11.
Delaney announced his candidacy in July 2017, giving up his 6th District seat in the House of Representatives to pursue the White House. Delaney was the first Democrat to enter the 2020 field, one that would later become saturated by nearly two dozen candidates.
The Democratic race for the party’s nomination continues to narrow. Delaney is the fourth candidate to withdraw from the competition this month, alongside Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and author Marianne Williamson.
“John Delaney is a true patriot who ran for all the right reasons,” entrepreneur and presidential hopeful Andrew Yang tweeted Friday. “If more of our legislators were like John our country would be a much better place. Plus he inspired much of my team to work out on the trail. John will be back in no time — he knows America needs him.”
While Delaney said he’s not endorsing another candidate yet, a number of candidates — including former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — meet his criteria for a moderate who could unify America.
“It’s clear to me that to have the best chance of beating Donald Trump, which is the most important thing for our party at this moment in time,” he told CNN, “and to actually be able to govern…we need someone with that type of orientation.”
Uniting the nation was a central goal of Delaney’s largely self-funded campaign.
“Our government is hamstrung by excessive partisanship. We are letting critical opportunities to improve the country pass us by,” he wrote in a July 2017 opinion article for The Washington Post in which he explained why he was running for president. “And we are not even talking about the most important thing: the future.”
Delaney said he’ll support whoever becomes the Democratic nominee, but he’s frequently clashed with progressive candidates like Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.
He criticized Sanders’ Medicare-for-all proposal and pushed back against Warren’s plan to tax the wealthy.
“People like Bernie Sanders who are running on throwing the whole U.S. economy out the window and starting from scratch, he’s running on taking private health insurance away from 180 million Americans, I just think that makes our job so much harder, in terms of beating Donald Trump,” he said in the CNN interview.
Despite his campaign coming to an end, Delaney said he’s proud of what he accomplished while in the race and looks forward to advancing his views in the future.
“This race was never about me, but about ideas and doing what’s right for our nation,” the former lawmaker wrote in a statement. “The unique and data-driven ideas that our campaign generated — on how to create a functional universal health care system, price carbon, advance trade, invest in rural America, cure disease, help workers, launch negative emissions technologies, reform education, and expand national service — are now ideas for the party and I will continue to advocate for them in my next chapter.”