John Delaney speaks at an Iowa event. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
On July 9, John Delaney's senior team sat him down and told him to drop out of the presidential race by mid-August, according to three sources close to the campaign.
Why it matters: He's been running for president for 721 days. He's spent nearly $19 million as a 2020 candidate since 2017. He's loaned over $11 million of his own money to his campaign this year. He's visited all of Iowa's 99 counties already, including at least 14 stops in Carroll Country alone. And it's all been for nothing.
“I think a lot of people who did leave thought, 'You gotta eat. You need a paycheck.' So that was a big part of it,” said a former staffer.
The backdrop: Those close to him think there's no chance he makes the September debates, which have a harder qualification threshold than the first two.
- They thought he flopped at the first debate in Miami. "There was no real breakout moment, which is what everyone in leadership had been hoping for," said one former staffer.
- “Every other day he would have a different position,” whether on economic policies or racial issues. That's a common refrain that came up in my conversations with these sources close to the campaign, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
- Some said he's not spending enough money to run a competitive race, and that all the money he's spent so far hasn't moved the needle for them.
- One source close to the campaign argued he'd be better positioned to run for governor or get a Cabinet position if he drops out before September.
- And others, who made sure to tell me they "genuinely" like the guy, painted Delaney to be the most Republican-Democrat who's just "not made for the moment."
One source familiar with the meeting said Delaney seemed open to the idea of dropping out later this summer, but that he'd still attend the next debates in Detroit July 30-31.
- Two sources said that Delaney's wife, April, was in the room, too, as she often is during official campaign meetings — even though she doesn't work for the campaign.
- All three sources described the unusual role April played in Delaney's presidential campaign. "She’s basically running the thing," said one former staffer.
Between the lines: The tension between Delaney and his staff comes from a larger feeling that he's been easily influenced by "outside" forces, like his wife or his friends, rather than his own staff.
Yes, but: Not all was bad. Ahmed El-Sayed who worked with Delaney's campaign in various capacities through the end of May, said "he’d make a really good president. ... He’s probably one of the smartest people I’ve met."
FWIW: Delaney has been polling between 0% and 1% since the beginning of 2017.
Delaney's campaign sent out the following statement on July 19:
"Alexi McCammond’s report on our campaign this morning is incorrect. No one on my team asked me to drop out of the race and I have no plans to drop out of the race. In addition, anyone who spent any time actually reading the FEC reports would see clearly that we did not spend $19 million on the campaign - we spent $9 million since we launched my Presidential campaign. Ms. McCammond is including a large interparty transfer in her calculations. This easy to confirm error puts the accuracy of the whole story in perspective.”
- It's unclear what "large interparty transfer" Delaney is referencing here, but a source close to the campaign said that Delaney put an unspecified amount of his own money into the campaign right before the Q2 deadline and then took it out the next day.
- According to FEC filings, he repaid a $9 million loan that he had previously made to his own campaign, so roughly half of his total spending was just repaying that loan.
- He's spent over $9.7M on things like travel, day-to-day operations, media, personnel, etc., per those same filings.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect Delaney's latest statement and address the money discrepancy.