NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Former Governor John Hickenlooper ends his stalled presidential campaign

On August 14th, FiveThirtyEight’s week­ly pol­i­tics chat dis­cussed the like­li­hood of strug­gling Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates drop­ping out of the race in the near future. Colorado’s John Hick­en­loop­er, the for­mer gov­er­nor of the Cen­ten­ni­al State, was the first name to be brought up (by elec­tions ana­lyst Geof­frey Skel­ley).

John Hickenlooper

John Hick­en­loop­er’s cam­paign for pres­i­dent has offi­cial­ly end­ed (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Less than twen­ty four hours lat­er, the pre­dic­tion came true; Hick­en­loop­er declared via tweet that he was end­ing his cam­paign for pres­i­dent.

Hickenlooper’s with­draw­al is hard­ly a sur­prise.

At the start of July, sto­ries start­ed com­ing out of his cam­paign was seri­ous­ly strug­gling: he had lost key staff mem­bers (includ­ing his cam­paign man­ag­er, com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor, dig­i­tal direc­tor and finance direc­tor); fundrais­ing was so lack­lus­ter that the cam­paign risked run­ning out of cash entire­ly by the end of August; his staff were prac­ti­cal­ly beg­ging him to con­sid­er oth­er options.

The Hick­en­loop­er campaign’s inter­nal strug­gles were only a sign of his over­all efforts; he was get­ting nowhere in his bid for the White House. Hick­en­loop­er was unlike­ly to even make it into the third round of Demo­c­ra­t­ic debates – he only qual­i­fied in one or four required polls, and he only had 13,000 indi­vid­ual donors (10% of the num­ber required to get to the stage in Sep­tem­ber).

Aside from his trou­bled orga­ni­za­tion, Hick­en­loop­er was unin­spir­ing as a can­di­date. He posi­tioned him­self as a “prag­mat­ic” alter­na­tive to pro­gres­sive can­di­dates like Sen­a­tors Eliz­a­beth War­ren and Bernie Sanders, but in the July debate against those two he seemed unpre­pared, trip­ping over his words, and at one point – seem­ing to lack a plan on immi­gra­tion – asked, “How hard can it be?”

Off the debate stage, he didn’t endear him­self to Demo­c­ra­t­ic activists.

In May, he earned the ire of pro­gres­sives by com­par­ing the left­ward turn in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics to, “the dis­cred­it­ed ideas of Karl Marx and Josef Stal­in.”

At the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­ven­tion in June, he returned to his old tac­tic of attack­ing social­ism, but was booed by the crowd.

There were plen­ty of fac­tors that nudged Hick­en­loop­er out of the race, but there was also an entic­ing pull; he now has the chance to run for the Sen­ate in Col­orado.

Not only that, but he has a good chance of win­ning; one poll shows that he cur­rent­ly leads Repub­li­can incum­bent Cory Gard­ner 51% to 38%. In 2020, every Sen­ate seat will count for the Democ­rats, as the Par­ty has only nar­row mar­gins to win a major­i­ty there, even if their can­di­date is elect­ed to the White House.

Hickenlooper’s allies and sup­port­ers have been encour­ag­ing him to “drop out grace­ful­ly” from his quixot­ic pres­i­den­tial bid and run for Sen­ate for months now, from both out­side and with­in the cam­paign team. The first sign that he was con­sid­er­ing such a move came a cou­ple of weeks before his with­draw­al, when a com­pa­ny linked to Hick­en­loop­er reg­is­tered the web domain, “HickForSenate.com”

John Hick­en­loop­er will not be much of a loss to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial field. Aside from his own inad­e­qua­cies as a can­di­date, there is just not enough space for a can­di­date like him in a field that includes Joe Biden, and in a par­ty that is grav­i­tat­ing towards can­di­dates who are tru­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of its increas­ing­ly younger, more eth­ni­cal­ly diverse, and pro­gres­sive base.

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