The Slatest

John Delaney Creates His Own Campaign Bounce

John Delaney
Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney speaks during Nevada’s “First in the West” event at Bellagio Resort & Casino on Nov. 17 in Las Vegas. David Becker/Getty Images

People line up for hours to take a selfie with Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney wanted a recording of himself doing a set of box jumps at the beginning of his workout, so he propped up his phone in an empty room and filmed himself.

He then tweeted out the video. The tweet was ratio’d. As of publication, it has 1,900 comments, 401 retweets, and 4,200 likes. It wasn’t the most insane ratio I’ve ever seen, but it did catch my attention.

Along with a lot of other people, I had forgotten that the former Maryland congressman was still in the race. He hasn’t made the cutoff for a debate since July, when he spent his second and apparently final session onstage pushing back against other candidates’ enthusiasm for “Medicare for All.” But where other debate washouts like New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan have given up, Delaney is enduring.

His workout clip suggests why he might have staying power. As self-explanatory as a box jump seems—you jump up onto the box—it’s actually a very advanced plyometric movement that allows you to build strength, explosive power, and functionality throughout your entire body. Delaney’s self-described “warmup” of three sets of 10, on a 30-inch platform, would be a finisher for most people, if they can do it at all. And he delivered his on-camera set with damn good form. He actively used his arms to propel himself onto the box. His hips remained parallel to the ground, and he landed squarely on his feet. His core is clearly strong, and, instead of mindlessly hopping off the box, he safely stepped down onto the ground. (As a gym gurl who may have propped my own phone on a dumbbell for a workout video, I was impressed.)

And Delaney’s gag, as Dad Joke™ in essence as it may have been, wasn’t wrong. Even as his old rivals like former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke were dropping out, new candidates like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick were sidling toward the ring, preparing to throw a hat in. The field is confounding, disorienting, and crowded as a rush-hour train on a rainy summer day.

Delaney was available to take a phone call to talk about it. “See I actually had forgotten about Deval Patrick because, as you said, a lot of people keep jumping in,” I said when I spoke to him on Monday.

“I know,” he said with a laugh. “A lot of people keep jumping in, yeah.”

Another short laugh—“Maybe I should do workout videos with metaphors in them. Maybe that’ll be my new thing.”

Delaney hasn’t been polling as well as he lands a 30-inch box jump, which means that national media and voters haven’t been paying much attention to him. But he’s been tuned in. Delaney told me he watched a little bit of the last debate and he’s not sure that candidates are talking about issues that matter to most Americans.

He said he expects that Trump will regurgitate a version of his 2016 campaign by focusing on jobs and claiming that he’s standing up for the economically anxious. Delaney maintains that he’s the only person running who is focusing on rural America—he was the first candidate to visit all 99 counties in Iowa—and who will bring jobs to people desperate for them, to voters he believes would have voted Democratic but went for Trump because they believed his pitch about bringing back jobs.

“The Democratic Party is never going to put itself in a position to govern unless it has a plan for America’s heartland,” he said. “And I think that was missing from the debate.”

(After our conversation, I reached back out to the congressman to ask about his plan for black Americans, a demographic that is heavily depended on during elections yet consistently failed in the interim. In a statement sent over by a member of his campaign staff, Delaney ran through his various plans for black constituents. “I think it’s wrong to set up the black community and the heartland as competing interests,” he added. “Millions of black Americans live in the heartland, including in rural areas, and policies that promote economic growth in these communities benefit black Americans and white Americans alike.”)

I circled back to the box jumps. The replies under the tweet have, mostly, been vehemently encouraging Delaney to exit the race.

“Why is that something you’re not considering?”

“I don’t see why I would,” he said. “I think I’m talking about very important things and as we’ve seen with two people ‘jumping’ in the race … obviously people are uncomfortable with our front-runners.”