Two longshot 2020 Democratic candidates are bashing socialism and the left wing of their party as part of their campaign strategies

John Hickenlooper CAJustin Sullivan/Getty ImagesJohn Hickenlooper
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney have both made bashing socialism a strategy to drum up media attention.
  • Both candidates were slammed and nearly booed off stage at the California Democratic Primary Convention for denouncing socialism and single-payer healthcare.
  • But the backlash over their remarks helped both campaigns gain more media attention than they’d received in months.
  • Hickenlooper’s speech was mentioned on multiple Sunday morning talk shows and applauded by centrist political pundits.
  • And Delaney’s campaign got a PR boost after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York slammed his remarks and urged him to drop out of the race.
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Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney are both businessmen-turned-politicians and moderate Democrats running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. And they have both made bashing socialism part of their campaign strategies in an effort to drum up media attention.

Despite running for president since 2017, Delaney hasn’t yet broken 1% in the polls or qualified for the first Democratic debates in June. He has largely self-funded his 2020 bid.

And while Hickenlooper’s campaign got off to a strong start in March of this year, former Vice President Joe Biden‘s entrance into the race has swallowed up much of the space in the moderate Democratic lane.

Both Hickenlooper and Delaney originally pitched themselves as centrist, business-friendly Democrats and experienced deal-makers – squarely in Biden’s wheelhouse. But Biden’s stature as a former vice president and his cross-coalitional base of support have significantly diminished the unique appeal of Delaney and Hickenlooper’s ideas.


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Hickenlooper and Delaney both had opportunities to get out their moderate message and bring more attention to their floundering campaigns this weekend, after Biden skipped the California Democratic Party Convention to campaign in Ohio.

But both candidates were resoundingly booed on stage at the convention for denouncing socialism and single-payer Medicare for All healthcare, a policy supported by many progressive candidates.

“If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve progressive goals, socialism is not the answer,” Hickenlooper said in his speech on Saturday, a remark met with a resounding chorus of boos.

The booing and heckling continued as Hickenlooper decried Medicare for All and the idea of a federal jobs guarantee, saying, “we shouldn’t try to achieve universal coverage by removing private insurance from 150 million Americans.”

The next day, Delaney was nearly drowned out by boos when he slammed Medicare for All as something that “sounds good but is actually not good policy nor is it good politics,” emphasising he wanted to achieve universal healthcare coverage but like Hickenlooper, did not want to “kick” 150 million Americans off their current private insurance plans.

But instead of seeing the forceful chorus of boos and criticism as a setback, both campaigns leaned into the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad press, and celebrated the boost of attention – both positive and negative – their campaigns received.

After the event, Hickenlooper’s campaign sent out a press release titled, “Hickenlooper lost the room but gained a national audience,” quoting a line from a Washington Post story on his speech.

The release went on to highlight all the mentions of Hickenlooper’s speech by Sunday morning news shows, journalists, and prominent political pundits who applauded Hickenlooper sticking to his principles and taking an unpopular stand.


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And for Delaney’s part, his campaign got the most national attention it had received in months after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York – a vocal advocate of Medicare for All – slammed Delaney’s speech and even encouraged him to drop out of the race in a fiery Sunday tweet that received over 50,000 likes.

“Instead of obsessing over who’s a ‘frontrunner’, maybe we can start w some general eliminations,” she wrote of the 2020 field. “This awful, untrue line got boo’ed for a full minute. John Delaney, thank you but please sashay away.”

Delaney’s campaign amped up the feuding and shot back with a Monday press release declaring “the only person Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez helped with her tweet about Congressman Delaney was Donald Trump” and blasting the so-called “Bernie wing” of the Democratic Party for “grandstanding.”

“2016 should have taught us that if we allow this primary to become a popularity contest on Twitter rather than a debate of ideas in the public square, the country will lose,” Delaney’s campaign release added.

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