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Credit: Caroline Gibson

Former Maryland congressman John Delaney, who was the first Democrat to enter the presidential race in July 2017, is polling at just 1% in the crowded 2020 field. Nonetheless, the former representative and businessman told a crowd of Penn students that he still thinks he's the right person to defeat President Donald Trump.

At a Tuesday night event hosted by Penn Democrats, Delaney billed himself as a different type of Democrat, offering a centrist vision for the nation. Delaney’s speech centered on dealing with the societal and economic changes the United States is facing, such as the growing challenges presented by globalization and automation.

“One of the things that is so frustrating to me about what’s happened to our country over the last 20 or 30 years is the world has changed tremendously, driven by incredibly powerful forces,” he said. “These things are completely reshaping everything in our society.”

Delaney, who represented Maryland's Sixth Congressional District from 2013 to 2019, pitched a national service program to engage today’s youth. Delaney highlighted four key areas for a potential program, including focuses on military service, community service, combatting climate change, and working on infrastructure.

Another major part of Delaney’s pitch focused on uniting the country in the face of increasing political polarization.

“In many ways, I’m a different kind of Democrat,” Delaney said. “We should stand as the party that actually wants to get real things done."

Credit: Caroline Gibson

The presidential candidate elaborated on his vision of working across the aisle and engaging Republicans to pass bipartisan legislation.

“We have every advantage any country could possibly want to have,” Delaney said. “What we don’t have is a political system that is actually willing to roll up their sleeves and get things done.”

Adding to his bipartisan calls to action, Delaney also sought to appeal to more liberal voices in the crowd. In response to a question from the audience about his progressive credentials, Delaney said he has pushed for plenty of liberal issues.

“I was one of the first Democrats to come out against the Keystone Pipeline. I’ve called for universal healthcare,” Delaney said. “I introduced a bill to bring universal pre-K to this country.”

Penn Dems member and College freshman Aidan Mayer Ahearn said the large primary field of Democratic challengers makes intimate events with candidates like Delaney more insightful. 

The Democratic presidential primary currently contains a crowded list of 18 candidates, from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Former Penn Law professor Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is also running, and current Penn Presidential Professor of Practice Joe Biden is also reportedly contemplating a run. 

“I see him as more of a centrist for the Democratic Party, which could be an asset for helping to unite all Americans if he were to be elected,” Mayer Ahearn said.  

Penn Dems Political Director and College sophomore Owen Voutsinas-Klose agreed, adding that the intimate forum served to inform potential voters of an otherwise unknown candidate.

“He’s just not well-known in our campus circle even though he’s a very legitimate candidate,” Voutsinas-Klose said. "Getting more attainable and allowing one-on-one interactions with some of these candidates can be really helpful.”