The first ad of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries will run Sunday in Iowa, more than two years before the state’s voters will head to vote in caucuses. The candidate: Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, who for six months has been the only declared candidate for the party’s nomination.
Delaney’s ad, “Dirty Word,” is as jarring as anything else viewers might see during the Super Bowl. In it, Iowans cast wary glances at the camera as a narrator “admits” that “John Delaney said a dirty word” during his campaign stops in the state. That word, revealed 20 seconds in, is “bipartisanship” — an encapsulation of Delaney’s promise, if elected, to spend his first 100 days passing and signing bills supported by both parties.
Delaney’s pitch is aimed at voters who have never made up a large portion of the Hawkeye State’s caucus electorate.
In 2016, an entrance poll found 68 percent of Democratic Iowa caucusgoers called themselves liberal and just 28 percent called themselves moderate.
In 2004, the last year that there was no contest on the Republican side, 37 percent of caucusgoers called themselves moderate — but most of those voters picked John F. Kerry, who was running as a liberal foil to President George W. Bush.
Delaney’s initial ad buy is small — $37,000 spread across the Des Moines, Sioux City and Cedar Rapids markets — but over the next four weeks, the Democrat intends to spend a million dollars on similar ads. They are the first ads for any 2020 Democrat; President Trump’s reelection campaign went on the air in May 2017.
However, neither Delaney nor Trump broke the record for earliest ad in a presidential cycle: The winner in that category was probably the Patriot Super PAC, which in March 2013 went on the air in Iowa to attack then-Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) over a tax increase.
McDonnell, briefly discussed as a potential presidential candidate, eventually would be convicted of selling access to his office to a friendly donor. That conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court.