This morning outlets began reporting that former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO) will suspend his presidential campaign. The announcement would not be totally unexpected – Hickenlooper has struggled to gain traction in the crowded 2020 field and he has yet to qualify for the third debate being held next month. A Morning Consult poll released on Tuesday showed the former governor polling at 1% among primary voters and he has struggled in fundraising. What remains to be seen, however, is if he will run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). It would be an interesting move for the candidate, as Hickenlooper has consistently claimed that he would not run for Senate if his presidential bid didn’t work out. Earlier this year he claimed that he was “not cut out” for the job.
Hickenlooper’s switch to the Senate race would make him an instant front runner in the crowded primary; a poll released earlier this week showed him leading the Democratic field by 51 points. Should he choose to make the jump, here are three things you need to know Hickenlooper.
Hickenlooper’s Gubernatorial Campaigns
Hickenlooper is best known for serving as Colorado’s governor from 2011 through 2018. His 2010 campaign focused on his business background (he owned and operated his own brewery), which he used to argue that he could properly address government inefficiencies. His “pro-business” message proved effective and he was elected by over a 10-point margin.
Hickenlooper’s reelection campaign in 2014 was a bigger challenge. With his first term in the books, Republicans were able to cast him as an inconsistent and indecisive leader. His positions on issues like gun control, energy development, and regulatory reform were often at odds with his public comments and gubernatorial actions. Ultimately, Hickenlooper won reelection, albeit this time by a narrow margin.
Hickenlooper has a history of riding the fence on big issues, a political strategy that has caused him to walk back statements and flip positions amid public backlash. Earlier this year during a conversation with MSNBC, for example, Hickenlooper flip-flopped his position on single-payer health care during the course of the interview. After initially saying that the country needed a single-payer option, he went on to say that such a system would be “very disruptive and very divisive.”
A similar act played out for Hickenlooper regarding the Green New Deal. During a February town hall in New Hampshire, Hickenlooper said “I’m going to guess that 90 percent, or 95 percent, 99 percent of what’s in the Green New Deal I will be happy to embrace.” The very next month, however, Hickenlooper penned an op-ed in The Washington Post saying the Green New Deal “sets us up for failure” and that we need “a better approach.”
Can Hickenlooper Succeed In The Crowded Primary?
While it’s hard to deny the primary polling results from earlier this week, Hickenlooper should not expect to waltz into the Democratic nomination. Nearly a dozen Democrats are running for the seat and there is a top tier of roughly five candidates. As Politico notes,
“Former state Sen. Mike Johnston already has $2.6 million in cash on hand, and former ambassador Dan Baer has more than $1 million. Two other candidates — [Former U.S. attorney John Walsh] and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff — have war chests in the high-six figures. They’ve already carved out endorsements and strategies to guide them over the coming months, whether Hickenlooper runs or not.”
Although Hickenlooper is popular in the state, he has never faced a Democratic primary challenge and the state has moved to the left since he was last on the ballot. His (current) positions on top liberal issues like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal could open him up to trouble in a primary contest.