The First Democrat Talking About A Presidential Bid Is A Pro-Business Moderate

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Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Rep. John Delaney, a 54-year-old moderate Maryland Democrat and former banking executive, has been discussing plans for a potential presidential campaign in 2020, three people familiar with the talks said on Thursday afternoon.

The Democrats said that Delaney has told people he will forgo both a run for reelection in Maryland's 6th congressional district and a run for governor in 2018, and that he's increasingly moved toward the idea of a presidential bid instead.

He is expected to lay out his plans in a Washington Post op-ed, set to run in print on Sunday and online as early as Friday afternoon. A number of Maryland news outlets and blogs have been closely monitoring developments on the Delaney story, with one site, Maryland Matters, dubbing Friday “D-Day” in Maryland politics, “the day that Rep. John Delaney announces his political plans for 2018 — and perhaps beyond.” Maryland Matters and Bethesda Magazine reported first this week on Delaney's mounting interest in 2020 and on Friday's forthcoming op-ed.

A spokesman, Will McDonald, did not return requests for comment.

The news would make Delaney the first Democrat to openly declare his interest in a presidential bid. It would also put a centrist, pro-business, self-funding Democrat out early in a primary that will come down in part to the progressive voters that backed Bernie Sanders and nearly upended Hillary Clinton's chances at the nomination.

In Congress, Delaney caucuses with the centrist “New Democrats,” and considers himself to be socially liberal but fiscally prudent. Since his election in 2012, he has championed a wide range of legislation, including measures to create access to universal pre-K, form an independent commission for redistricting, reduce the corporate tax rate, institute a federal tax on carbon pollution, and establish a new aid program to provide financial assistance and benefits to coal workers.

In Delaney's view, Democrats close to him said, there is room in the race for a candidate who can run as a job creator who understands the need for regulation in business but also the value of the free market — a strong general election candidate if he can weather a primary, as a person familiar with his plans put it on Thursday.

Asked about the idea of a New Democrat entering the 2020 race first, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Adam Green, replied, “John who?”

Another consideration for Delaney, whose estimated net worth is more than $91 million, comes down to a question of self-funding: If he's going to spend millions of his own money, better to do it on a national level, as two Democrats put it.

“He was never gonna run for governor,” said a top Maryland Democrat, noting that the sitting Republican in office, Gov. Larry Hogan, has a strong approval rating and would be tough to beat for any Democrat. “It sounds crazy, but it’s not as crazy if you take a second to think about it. There is no Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama this time.”

Even with more than three years to go until the next presidential election, Delaney has been considering the idea of a 2020 bid for a number of months now.

His political advisers have included strategists at SKDKnickerbocker, the prominent Washington firm, as well as friends from a large cross-section of the political word. (The invite list for his annual Christmas party ranges from financial executives and leaders in the Catholic Church to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.)

Although the Washington Post op-ed is expected to explicitly state his interest in running for president, Democrats said there could be a last-minute change.

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