John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado, has reportedly decided to end his presidential campaign after failing to gain traction in either of the first two Democratic debates. Hickenlooper will also miss the cut for the September debate and it appears he has decided that pushing on with his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination is proving fruitless at this point.
Hickenlooper was sometimes seen as a “fish out of water” at the debates where his more moderate tone on issues came in sharp contrast to progressives on stage with him. Often clashing with Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders over policies and whether voters truly want such a leftward tilt on the issues, Hickenlooper was fighting an uphill battle for a moderate lane already being filled by former vice president Joe Biden.
CNBC reports on the Hickenlooper decision, which is expected to be announced today though was confirmed on Wednesday by the Associated Press:
The two-term former Colorado governor, who ran as a moderate warning of the perils of extreme partisanship, struggled with fundraising and low polling numbers. His planned departure from the 2020 race was confirmed Wednesday night by a Democrat who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly before the announcement and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
As with several of the other Democratic contenders, it appears that Hickenlooper may still be running for office in 2020, just not the presidency. The U.S. Senate seat in Colorado currently held by Republican Cory Gardner appears to be on Huckenloooper’s radar, as CNBC also notes:
Hickenlooper, 67, is not expected to announce a decision Thursday on whether he will run for Senate in Colorado, though he has been discussing the possibility with advisers. Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, up for reelection in 2020, is considered one of the most vulnerable senators in the country because of Colorado’s shift to the left.
Hickenlooper softened his denials of interest in the Senate in recent weeks as his campaign finances dwindled and pressure increased from other Democrats. He started telling people he’d make a decision by the end of this week.
It’s unclear whether Hickenlooper plans to run against Gardner, whom national Democrats have urged him to take on since last year. He’s repeatedly said he’s not interested in the Senate and prefers an executive position.
With the change in tone coming from Hickenlooper, it’s almost certain that he decides to revamp his presidential campaign into a Senate campaign with the intention to challenge Gardner and win back an important seat for Democrats. As a former governor of the state, he’s already in the best position to tackle the race with statewide name recognition, fundraising support, and a political temperament which is well-suited for Colorado.
Furthermore, as CNBC notes, Gardner will have a tough relection campaign next year given Colorado’s propensity to lean much more blue in recent years than it used to. Hillary Clinton won the state by five points in 2016 and President Trump remains unpopular there in terms of approval rating. Add Trump to the top of the ticket next year, something which was missing when Gardner first won this seat in 2014 during a banner year for Republicans, and this race is irresistible for a Democrat like Hickenlooper.
With a large 2020 field, Hickenlooper’s departure won’t be missed on the campaign trail or the debate stage since he was already missing the cut for September and October.