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Delaney Courts Rural Iowa

Posted: January 23, 2020 | By: Madeleine Leigh Tagged: Blog

PANORA, Iowa – On Jan. 21, I attended an event for former Maryland Representative John Delaney at The Owl’s Nest. A crowd of twenty people, many of them staffers for the Delaney campaign, listened to Delaney give his stump speech and answer questions from potential caucus-goers.

Part of Sen. Delaney’s three-year-long strategy involves visiting all 99 counties in Iowa.  His message focuses quite a bit on rural voters, particularly small-town Iowans. In his stump speech, former Sen. Delaney talked about stagnating rural economies and running a campaign that only makes political promises it can deliver on.  One older Panoran asked him how social security would operate under his administration, which later—hilariously—devolved into another Panoran man, who was most likely on social security, wasting ten minutes of former Sen. Delaney’s time arguing about how social security funding works.

Little trip-ups like fruitlessly wasting time trying to explain one of the U.S.’s oldest social safety net programs to potential caucus-goers seem to plague Delaney’s small-town appearances.  His stump speeches and Q&As are hit or miss; usually, miss.

Despite his low polling numbers, Delaney’s campaign can still afford to do things like buy out half of a bar and pay for all of the attendees’ dinners (my burger was delicious, by the way).  But that doesn’t make up for his lack of support in Iowa, and he seems to know that. 

I went to this event with two other Drake students. When they approached Delaney with a question, he finished his answer with a plea for them to caucus for him.  Mathematically, getting enough small pockets of supporters in enough small precincts could gain Delaney some delegates at the state convention.  If he does better than expected in the caucuses, that momentum could propel him to more “better than expected” performances in later primaries.  But at this point, his path to the nomination is long, and victory is an almost nonexistent possibility.

Yet, Delaney remains in the race. He declared his candidacy in July of 2017. By the Democratic National Convention, he will have been running for three years.  This election cycle has seen a couple of dozen candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, and many of them have dropped out by this point in time because they did not have the money to continue.  Candidates like Sen. Cory Booker, who were actually polling higher than Delaney, and might still be if they could have remained in the race.

The only difference between Delaney and these candidates is that his personal wealth allows him to fund his campaign even though he polls consistently at zero percent, even though he only qualified for two of seven debates and hasn’t qualified for the next.  Rich people clearly have a distinct advantage over those who rely on others to finance their campaigns. 

In a country where money is a form of free speech, it seems fitting that it’s easier for people with more money to run for president.