Early bird makes White House pitch

AUDUBON — A Maryland congressman with blue-collar roots and a district that spans a vast rural expanse brings a message of middle-class uplift and a workmanlike approach to economic policy to the out-of-the-gate stump speeches in his presidential campaign — for 2020.

“I’m sure you didn’t think you’d have somebody running for president this early,” U.S. Rep. John Delaney said Sept. 24 in Audubon in one of the earliest official events ever in Iowa for a formally announced White House aspirant with congressional credentials.

Delaney, a Democrat and former businessman, keynoted the Audubon County Democratic Party Fundraiser at the Old Park Hotel. About 30 people attended, including Democratic candidates for governor John Norris and Jonathan Niederbach.

Delaney, 54, a New Jersey native who described himself as an “active Catholic,” stressed opportunities for Republicans and Democrats, now deeply divided, to cooperate on issues on which they agree, like infrastructure development.

“We need a leader who is going to step forward and say, ‘The time for fighting is over,’ ” Delaney said.

Delaney proposes a $1 trillion infrastructure plan he’d fund with revenue from international tax reform on American corporations.

He’d require the government to bid contracts in struggling economic areas, not in Washington, D.C., or San Francisco, places with robust business climates. His plan would also incent investment in beleaguered rural areas of the nation by allowing investors breaks on capital income taxes if they move their money to forlorn reaches.

“We’ve lost our muscle memory as to how to actually do things,” Delaney said.

On health care, Delaney says people 55 and older should be eligible for Medicare. The age requirement for that federal program is now 65 unless a disability or certain other factors are involved.

The Maryland congressman opposes so-called “Medicare for all,” but thinks Medicaid should be available to all Americans, with credits provided to people who want to opt out and purchase more comprehensive policies from private insurance markets. Medicaid, he said, should be a default for all.

“I think everyone should have health care as a right,” Delaney said.

During his speech, and in an interview, Delaney made scant reference to President Donald Trump, and at one point referred to him as “the man in the White House.”

Delaney said Hillary Clinton lost the presidential race because many Democrats and independents believed Trump was speaking to them on day-to-day issues.

“It’s hard for us to imagine because I think he’s the most narcissistic person I’ve ever seen in my life,” Delaney said. “And everything is about him, every single thing is about him.”

Big picture, the Democratic Party needs to reach voters on what matters to them, not get bogged in intraparty posturing.

“It’s been too much about us and not enough about the voters,” Delaney said.

Bob Nelson, a retired lawyer and former Audubon County attorney, said Delaney is wise to start early.

“It’s a very good idea on his part because he’s unknown,” said Nelson, who lives in Exira.

Charles Carpenter, of Coon Rapids, a retired beekeeper, said Delaney is “worthy of some thought” but remains a long shot in what promises to be a large 2020 White House field populated with high-profile Democrats.

“I know you need to get name recognition, but you can also fizzle out if you get started too early,” Carpenter said. “He means well. I wish him well. He’s got good ideas.”

Peggy Smalley, chairwoman of the Audubon Democratic Party and a former county treasurer, said she’s impressed that Delaney visited western Iowa.

The veteran political activist says it’s the earliest in the process she can recall hosting a presidential candidate.

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