And then there were … two hundred and thirty-one or so. Colorado governor John Hicklenlooper will drop out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination today, which might come as a surprise to the masses who didn’t realize he was in it. Hickenlooper saw the writing on the September debate wall, according to CNN:
Hickenlooper framed his candidacy around stemming the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party. The two-term Colorado governor was a moderate voice in the primary, making his opposition to democratic socialism– including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ political philosophy — central to his campaign.
But that strategy failed to gain traction and Hickenlooper’s campaign lost three of its most senior staffers in early July, including Brad Komar, the campaign manager. The losses signaled to many Democrats that Hickenlooper’s campaign was on its last legs, but Democrats close to the governor said he wanted to stay in and reassess his chances after CNN’s debate in late July.
Following that debate, it appeared the former Denver mayor would struggle to make the stage in the next round of debates in September as he was behind on both the fundraising and polling thresholds for qualification.
That’s putting it mildly. Hickenlooper isn’t even showing up on RCP aggregate charts any longer, not even at the 0.3% level of fellow governor Jay Inslee or 0.6% for Steve Bullock. Hickenlooper’s high water mark — such as it was — appears to have been reached in June:
So what’s next for Hickenlooper? Democrats want him to switch to the Senate race to take on incumbent Republican Cory Gardner, but Hickenlooper’s camp isn’t sure the governor wants to join the club. He won’t be talking about it today, CNN predicts:
Hickenlooper, who struggled to break out of the crowded field of candidates, has not yet decided whether he will run for the Senate as party leaders have urged him to do, sources said. He does not plan to make an announcement on that decision Thursday.
The national party might keep the pressure on Hickenlooper, Aaron Blake warns, along with Beto O’Rourke in Texas, and Bullock in Montana, where Republican incumbents face a tough Senate re-election environment. Democrats have an opportunity to seize control of the upper chamber but also have a lack of quality candidates to make good on it:
There are lots and lots of high-profile Democrats running for president; there are not many high-profile Democrats running for Senate. And the pressure to change that is becoming more overt, as a party hopeful of winning back the presidency in 2020 confronts difficult math when it comes to also taking the Senate.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of how this shakes out. …
Democrats need at least three pickups to take the Senate, and they may need four. Yet Republicans are defending only two states that went blue in the 2016 election. In that same election, every state with a Senate race picked a senator and the presidential candidate from the same party. In our increasingly polarized, almost-parliamentary political system, it’s tougher to buck the top of the ticket.
Unless, perhaps, you are a candidate with a strong image and a demonstrated history of outperforming your party. That’s what these Democrats could bring to the 2020 Senate races.
Just how strong would Hickenlooper be, though? He barely won his last re-election campaign in 2014, failing to get to 50% against Bob Beauprez despite the sharp Democratic turn in the state. That was the same election in which Gardner won a narrow victory over incumbent Democrat Mark Udall to get his first term in the Senate. After Hickenlooper’s embarrassing presidential run, he might not have the political strength in Colorado to put up the kind of fight that Democrats will need against Gardner, who has been careful to go his own way from other Republicans on issues important to more libertarian-minded Coloradans.
Hickenlooper has to know this as well, but he doesn’t have much time to decide. If he’s going to take a run at Gardner in 2020, he’ll have to start immediately. And if he’s not, Democrats have to know immediately so they can recruit another challenger. If Hickenlooper’s not prepared to discuss it today, he’d better make up his mind by Labor Day at the latest.