John Delaney, the little-known Maryland congressman running unabashedly for president since last year, will claim an early milestone in the 2020 contest Sunday: Long before most Democrats formally enter the race, he will have campaigned in all 99 counties in Iowa.
The achievement, which Delaney will mark at a Pizza Ranch in rural Carroll County, is largely symbolic. But it serves as a measure of the unusually early, relentless campaign Delaney has been waging. Delaney, a former banker, has already spent more than $1 million advertising in Iowa, the earliest significant investment from a presidential candidate in the state in memory.
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His Sunday visit to Carroll County will cap his fourteenth campaign trip there.
“It shows I’m willing to campaign everywhere and anywhere,” Delaney told POLITICO on Tuesday. “It shows the voters of Iowa that I’m committed to listen to what they say, learn from them, but also do the work necessary to be their leader.”
Virtually unknown outside of Maryland, Delaney has focused his campaign almost exclusively on Iowa and New Hampshire, banking on a strong showing in the first two nominating states to propel his candidacy nationwide. He has distributed internal polling that suggests his name recognition is rising in Iowa, and he is currently airing advertisements in the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids markets.
“If you do well in Iowa and New Hampshire,” Delaney said, “it gives you a terrific platform to roll into those other states.”
Delaney is planning a spate of appearances in Iowa starting Wednesday, including at the Iowa State Fair and annual Wing Ding dinner in Clear Lake. His ninety-ninth county visit will take him to a west-central county that went for President Donald Trump by more than 30 percentage points in 2016.
Peter Leo, a Democratic state legislative candidate who will appear with Delaney at the Pizza Ranch on Sunday, said that while he is not yet supporting anyone in 2020, he appreciates Delaney’s diligence. “He isn’t afraid to do the retail politics piece, which so many campaigns think is outdated in this age of social media and everything else,” Leo said.
While Delaney’s 99-county trek is no guarantee of success, he said he believes that “my message, which is about bringing the country together so that we can actually get real things done for people, is actually cutting through.”