Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is ending his Presidential bid on Thursday, fueling speculation he might dive into another crowded primary field and join the 13 Democrats already vying for a chance to challenge Cory Gardner, the Republican Senator from Colorado, in 2020.
This morning, I’m announcing that I’m no longer running for President. While this campaign didn’t have the outcome we were hoping for, every moment has been worthwhile & I’m thankful to everyone who supported this campaign and our entire team.https://t.co/1ijSjkbzzd
— John Hickenlooper (@Hickenlooper) August 15, 2019
Hickenlooper’s personal story was supposed to have some cache to the party’s primary voters: an oddball scientist who started a successful craft brewery from scratch and presided over the state’s successful transition to a full marijuana legalization — what’s not to like? Plenty, as it turned out: in reality, he’d opposed Colorado voters’ decision to legalize marijuana, and oversaw dramatic increases in oil and gas production.
In the end, Hick’s presidential bid acquired a kind of an old-man-yelling-“socialist-policies!”-at-cloud quality that appealed to no one, his fundraising tanked, and the campaign collapsed under the stress of infighting among staffers split on hunkering down or throwing in the towel. It was a sad turn of events for a guy once considered a Democratic star with crossover appeal.
Ironically, Hickenlooper’s decision to drop out of the presidential race could redeem him in the eyes of Democrats anxious about the prospect of ceding another several years of Senate control to Mitch McConnell and the GOP. There are 34 seats up for grabs in 2020 — and right now the outlook is not great for Democrats. An aggregate of the high-profile forecasts suggests Republicans have a near-lock on at least 51 seats, with Colorado seen as up for grabs, and the states of Texas and Montana likely remaining in Republican control.
Hickenlooper hasn’t said outright that he plans to run, though he suggested Thursday it was a strong possibility. And earlier this month a number of domains — Hick4Senate.com, Hickenlooper4Senate.com, HickenlooperSenate.com and HickforSenate.com — were registered by Curtis Hubbard, a longtime aide to the former governor. (Hubbard claimed he did so “entirely on my own accord.”) And if he does jump into the race, Hickenlooper would become an instant favorite to unseat one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection next year.
Depending on the reception he gets, Hickenlooper could pave the way for other presidential hopefuls struggling to gain a foothold on the national stage to pivot to the Senate. Steve Bullock, who was getting pressure from national political figures to set his sights lower before he even declared he was running, is one obvious candidate.
Another is Beto O’Rourke. O’Rourke has consistently polled in the top tier of candidates, but he’s struggled on the debate stage and has faced increasing pressure from Texans to try his luck running for Senate again. Following the massacre in an El Paso Walmart last week, the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle practically begged O’Rourke to give up his White House dreams.
“Beto, if you’re listening: Come home,” the Chronicle wrote. “Drop out of the race for president and come back to Texas to run for senator. The chances of winning the race you’re in now are vanishingly small. And Texas needs you.”
If all three ran — and, importantly, won their races — it would even the odds for Democrats to retake the Senate: 49 Democratic seats and chances to flip at least two, possibly even four, other seats. (Arizona and Alabama, where Doug Jones is facing reelection, are considered up for grabs; some Democrats see North Carolina and Georgia as potential pick-ups as well.)
There are already lots of Democrats running for Senate in Colorado (and in Texas for that matter), and there are those who will say that neither race is crying out for a 2020 also-ran. But the national exposure those candidates have already gotten, not to mention the fundraising and campaign apparatuses they’ve already got in place, offer a big advantage.
And Democrats should use any advantage they’ve got — that way, even if Trump triumphs again in 2020, at least they’d have some hope of stopping Senate Republicans from replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Judge Jeanine.