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John Delaney, Democratic presidential candidate and Maryland congressman, speaks to the Black Hawk County Democrats at their Waterloo headquarters Oct. 16.

WATERLOO — Democratic presidential hopeful John Delaney says the country is in a “tight spot” right now. And he’s not just talking about the current occupant of White House.

“If you think about some of the really big challenges that we have to deal with as a nation, our ability to make any progress against these issues is completely hampered by the hyper-partisan environment that we’re in now,” Delaney told a crowd of two dozen Democrats at their Black Hawk County headquarters Sunday night.

Delaney, 54, is the first Democratic candidate to announce his bid for the 2020 presidential election. He joked to the Democrats they may be surprised to see a candidate so early, except “you’re in Iowa, so you’re probably not that surprised.”

Delaney is a third-term congressman from Maryland and worked as an entrepreneur before that. He announced his bid in July and has since made several stops in Iowa.

Delaney pledged to visit Iowa at least twice a month. His tour this time took him to 16 stops.

His short speech in Waterloo focused largely on the cost of inaction due to partisan politics in Washington, D.C.

He said the dysfunction is putting the American dream in jeopardy.

“Right now, 60 percent of the kids under 18 in this country live in a county where there’s absolutely no evidence that there’s economic upward mobility, so what that means is almost two-thirds of the young people in this country we’re writing off, because we’re not doing anything to put them in a position where they can succeed,” Delaney said.

He said bipartisan solutions could address economic stagnation — skills training, modernizing the education system, are examples — but it won’t happen unless the hyper-partisanship gets addressed.

Delaney didn’t just diagnose the problem, he also talked about solutions.

“First of all, you can’t talk about half the country as if they’re entirely wrong about everything they believe,” Delaney said in a separate interview. “I have some specific ideas as to how you bring it together, but it really starts with how you talk about people.”

About half the crowd acknowledged they had family members who’d stopped speaking to each other over their votes in 2016.

Delaney said he would pledge as president to consider only bipartisan bills during his first 100 days and would run on a call to national service.

He also is an advocate for working on a bipartisan basis to better prepare companies, employees and society for a technological future.

Delaney pointed to two reasons Republican President Donald Trump was successful in 2016. He said the first was apathy among Democrats. The other was many independents, and some Democrats, thought Trump better made the case he would fight for the American people.

“If we want to win elections, we have to talk to the American people about what they care about, not what we care about as elected officials,” Delaney said.

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