Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has a big decision to make and the clock is ticking in terms how long other options will be available to him. He’s one of many bottom-tier presidential primary candidates who has been under pressure from his party to drop out of the primary and take a run at a Senate seat. (Similar calls have been made to Beto O’Rourke, hoping that he might unseat John Cornyn.) GOP Senator Cory Gardner is viewed as being vulnerable next year and the Democrats would love to field a top-tier candidate against him.
But even if he decides to bail out and give it a go, Hickenlooper may not have the easy path to victory that some may think. As the WaPo reports this week, there’s already a packed field of local talent in the Senate primary race and they have no plans of simply stepping aside if he decides to jump in.
The Democrats already running are giving no indication they intend to end their campaigns, meaning Hickenlooper could face a difficult primary featuring many of the troublesome currents he has struggled to navigate in the presidential race.
“This field is not going to stand down for him,” said Mike Stratton, a veteran Democratic consultant in Colorado who said Hickenlooper remained a formidable statewide candidate but that his presidential run exposed vulnerabilities that could spell trouble: “If you can’t get this to galvanize for you in the presidential, can you get it to galvanize for you in the primary in Colorado?”
For Democrats, Colorado is a must-win if they are to have any hope of the net gain of four seats they would need to retake the Senate majority — and thus make any Democratic president’s legislative agenda even close to viable.
From the beginning, I failed to see why Hickenlooper decided to try for the presidential nomination. Another elderly white guy with a moderate background isn’t exactly what the base was looking for, and even if they were, they’ve already got Joe Biden. In the latest Monmouth poll from last weekend, Hickenlooper barely managed to reach one percent and there aren’t many surveys out there where he does better than two. That campaign isn’t going anywhere at the moment.
Hickenlooper won two terms as Governor in Colorado, but he never faced a serious primary battle. Now we’re in 2019 and he would be facing fellow Democrats, many of whom are pushing significantly more liberal agendas. They’re just waiting to point out the former governor’s record in support of the oil and gas industry and his reluctance to embrace strict gun control measures. Of course, if they nominate someone too far to the left, Cory Gardner might wind up cruising through to another narrow victory and the Democrats’ already slim chances of taking back the Senate would be virtually extinguished.
But even with all of that said, some of these bottom-tier candidates have to start dropping out pretty soon, right? Two rounds of debates haven’t done much beyond rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic for the majority of the field. And if some of the zero to one percent people start dropping out, it might consolidate additional support for one of the top five. Not that I’m trying to offer any winning advice to their party, but if they can’t get that field cleared down to at least a number in single digits by late September, they’re going to have some real problems heading into Iowa and New Hampshire next year.