DETROIT – John Delaney’s been running for the White House for two years.
Now – for the first time since he launched his bid just six months into Donald Trump’s presidency – the former three-term centrist congressman from Maryland and longshot for the Democratic presidential nomination has become a part of the conversation, thanks to his Tuesday night debate performance.
While pundits will argue whether Delaney was a winner – for leading the charge in blasting top-tier progressive standard-bearers Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over their proposals for a "Medicare-for-all system" that would eliminate private health insurance – or a loser for getting hammered as Sanders and Warren returned fire, Delaney’s being talked about.
And that’s apparently paying dividends.
Delaney’s campaign told Fox News on Wednesday morning that they saw a 10-fold increase in fundraising during the 24 hours surrounding the showdown – the first of two back-to-back nights of second-round Democratic presidential nomination debates.
While it’s unclear how much of a windfall that may be – the multi-millionaire candidate has mostly been self-financing his campaign and only brought in $284,476 from supporters in the April-June second quarter of fundraising, far behind most of his 2020 rivals – Delaney generated buzz for leading the charge against Medicare-for-all and serving as a foil to Warren and Sanders.
“If we run on some of these things, we’re going to lose to Donald Trump,” Delaney told Fox News hours before Tuesday night’s debate.
Even before the questioning got underway, Delaney took aim at the two senators, arguing that “we can go down the road that Senator Sanders and Senator Warren want to take us, with bad policies like Medicare-for-all, free everything and impossible promises that will turn off independent voters and get Trump re-elected.”
Minutes later, Sanders succinctly responded to Delaney's criticism, telling him “you’re wrong.”
Warren joined Sanders in defending Medicare-for-all, chastising their critics.
“Let’s be clear about this. We are the Democrats. We are not about trying to take away health care from anyone. That’s what the Republicans are trying to do,” she said to applause from the crowd.
And she specifically pushed back against Delaney, arguing, “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for. I don’t get it.”
The line went viral and was among the most talked-about moments in the debate.
Later, in the spin room, Delaney pushed back at Warren, telling Fox News “that sounds like someone who doesn’t want to defend her policies.”
“We need big ideas but they have to be workable. I always think you’ve got be able to answer three questions to the American people – is it a workable idea, how do you pay for it, how are you going to get it done,” he emphasized.
And Delaney touted that “I have big ideas for all the important issues. All my plans are workable. I tell people how I’m going to pay for them and I tell people exactly how I’m going to get it done.”
Delaney continued his attacks on Sanders and Warren Wednesday morning on ‘Fox & Friends.’
“If you take what they're saying to an extreme, what's next?” he asked. “Free vacations, free housing, free everything. I mean, at some point we do have to pay for these things.”
Delaney grabbed around 10 minutes of speaking time during the debate – less than most of his rivals on the stage. But he appeared to make the most of moments in the spotlight.
“I think I created a clear contrast between people running on these impossible promises and someone who’s got real solutions. And I think that’s what the American people are looking for. Because that’s, by the way, how we win independents, which is how we beat Donald Trump. But that’s also how we govern.”
After the debate, even one of his rivals, fellow centrist John Hickenlooper, gave Delaney a thumbs up.
“Delaney did great,” the former Colorado governor told Fox News.
While it was apparently a good night for Delaney, he still has a struggle ahead to reach the higher polling and fundraising thresholds needed to reach the third and fourth rounds of debates in September and October.
And Delaney recently admitted to Fox News that it would be challenging to continue on if he doesn’t make the stage for those showdowns.