Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney speaks at the Iowa Federation of Labor convention, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in Altoona, Iowa.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney speaks at the Iowa Federation of Labor convention, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in Altoona, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Former Maryland congressman John Delaney said Wednesday that he will remain in the presidential race – which he says is still fluid – but won’t qualify to participate in the next debate on Sept. 12.

“I am fully committed to staying in” the contest for the Democratic nomination, the former Potomac businessman told The Baltimore Sun.

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“When you’ve been in Iowa and New Hampshire as I have and you talk to voters, you realize very few voters are even decided at this point. And I think we’re going to have a dramatically changing field. I just think there’s a lot of action left in this primary,” Delaney said.

Delaney, who cultivated a reputation for bipartisanship during three terms in Congress representing Maryland’s 6th district, announced his bid in July 2017. He was the first candidate to challenge President Donald Trump.

He had participated in previous debates but didn’t reach the bar to compete in the one in Houston on Sept. 12. A second date would be added if enough candidates qualify. The criteria is money raised from at least 130,000 donors and support of 2% or better in at least four sanctioned polls.

Delaney and other candidates have criticized the Democratic National Committee for seeming to want to quickly cut the debate field in half.

“I think the Republicans kind of did it better in 2016,” Delaney said. “There was a night for candidates who were polling at the top, and then a night for the other candidates.”

That, he said, “accomplished the objective of getting the higher-polling candidates all on one stage but it didn’t stifle debate.”

The candidates making the next debate are former vice president Joe Biden; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Obama housing secretary Julián Castro; Sen. Kamala Harris of California; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; former congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Author Marianne Williamson’s campaign has criticized the party for not ensuring there were more sanctioned polls from which to qualify. She wasn’t expected to make the cut. Other lower-tier candidates have said the system favors visibility and restricts new voices.

The Democratic National Committee has countered that this election cycle has provided more opportunities to qualify for debates than in the past.

Delaney, a centrist Democrat, has faced a steep climb in building a credible national campaign.

He has stressed a free-trade message and said the nation is poised to rebound if Washington embraces a “new economy” that is more entrepreneurial and forward-looking.

A memorable moment in the presidential campaign came in a July debate when Delaney characterized Warren’s health care plan as extreme.

“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,” Warren responded.

While it became a popular video clip for Warren and her supporters, Delaney — an opponent of a single-payer, Medicare-for-all plan pitched by some candidates — maintains he was responsibly urging restraint.

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“It’s pretty obvious how we win not only the Senate and the House, but also the White House – by putting candidates forward who can win the center," he said.

Delaney was in New York Wednesday doing network interviews. Part of his strategy to qualify for a debate in October will be raising his profile through such national appearances.

But he said he was not abandoning old-school campaigning and is sticking to his strategy of targeting two states early in the primary process: Iowa, where he says he has visited all 99 counties, and New Hampshire.

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