Supporters gather to hear Delaney in FD

Democratic presidential candidate aims for top-tier finish in Iowa caucuses

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Elijah Decious Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney courted about 20 potential voters at Amigos Tuesday, including supporter Sharon Cline of Webster City.

FORT DODGE –Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney explained his mindset on the road to the February caucuses in which poll respondents say there are too many candidates.

“If I can be in the top three or four of the Iowa Caucus, based on expectations being where they are, that’ll change everything,” the candidate said Tuesday on a warm patio at Amigo’s by the Des Moines River. “That’s how I think about it.”

By the same token, a third or fourth place finish for so-called “top tier” candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden would constitute “a failure,” he said.

A few supporters in the gathering of 20 were energized by Delaney’s recent performance in the Democratic debates, where some pundits said he finally got the recognition he had long been pining for after setting the tone with challenges of senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Delaney was the first Democrat to throw his hat into the ring in July, 2017, months before murmurs of other candidate runs rose to the surface.

Delaney is banking on a moderate majority to come out in full force by February for his “common sense’ solutions, rebuking what he calls unrealistic ideas touted by the likes of more liberal candidates in the party like Sanders and Warren.

Just a mention of off-teleprompter rouses of passion by President Donald Trump got the group chattering excitedly during question and answer time with Delaney, displaying a passion among the moderates.

“I’m not a good Democrat, I’m a good independent,” said retiree Jean Helmers, of Fort Dodge.

“You’re like most of the country, then,” Delaney interjected.

A pro-life, pro-union Catholic who suffered under what she called the “gutting” of her family’s public sector unions at the hands of conservative leadership, Helmers said she and her husband have grown frustrated as independents without a party they feel comfortable calling home.

“I don’t want to be identified by a party because I’m embarrassed by both of them,” she said. “People are sick and tired of the (partisan) divide.”

Delaney is one of the first candidates for president she decided to explore, saying the Democratic party needs someone with “the guts to go out there” and challenge the party’s status quo as it stacks up to challenge Trump next year.

As the party fights to reclaim states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, some of which were blue strongholds before Trump, the roadmap to success may require winning back union and blue collar workers that have a lot in common with the Helmers.

“Common sense is what we need, I think,” said Alan Helmers.

After hearing Delaney’s stump speech include proposals for universal health care coverage, unity and bipartisanship, the Helmers moved Delaney to the top of their rankings.

“He’s the best, he has a plan,” said retired chemist Sharon Cline, of Webster City. “I think he’s got a vision for making legislators legislate.”

Cline has a spreadsheet of the candidates, with parameters ranking them for her ultimate decision.

“I’m a chemist by training, so there’s a spreadsheet for everything,” she said. “The other moderate candidates — yes, I like them. But I like Delaney better.”

And while she appreciates the passion of more liberal offerings from Warren, she says the ideas aren’t practical.

That’s the type of thinking that Delaney is banking on as the rubber meets the road in his RV in all 99 counties.

Calling this election cycle a “social media primary,” the former congressman said the Democratic National Committee has encouraged “viral” moments of coverage, giving the party a tendency to cater to more ideologically extreme points of view with social media users that tend to be more “extreme” than the average Iowa Democrat.

He encouraged supporters like Cline to get out the word on the same platforms, nonetheless, to help others recognize the value they believe his candidacy brings to the table.

“I think this is a center-left or center-right country. Period,” Delaney said, telling attendees that every Democratic president elected since World War II was a moderate.

But even if a moderate doesn’t get the party’s nomination come next year, those gathered– Delaney included — said the biggest priority was removing Trump from the White House.

“I’d vote for the Grim Reaper over Trump,” Jean Helmers concurred. “That’s not (me being) anti-Republican, that’s anti-Trump.”

Delaney also stopped in Webster City following his Fort Dodge appearance. The candidate said he hopes to make the cut for the fourth debate, but likely won’t qualify for the third debate in September.

“The third would be hard to do,” he said. “But the extra month would give us time to make the fourth debate.”

Candidates have to meet the same criteria for both debates — 2 percent in four polls and 130,000 unique donors.

Delaney said he believes he’s running for president for all of the right reasons.

“I think I’m really focused on what the country needs — we need a decent unifer who wants to solve problems.

“And the way you solve problems is with real solutions, not impossible promises, “ he said,

Anne Blankenship contributed to this story.