John Hickenlooper is going to try to unseat Republican Sen. Cory Gardner next November.
In other words, the former Colorado governor has finally realized (after just about everyone else) that his talents can be put to better use ousting a Republican from the Senate than running a losing 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaign.
I guess Hickenlooper’s taste for realistic career options finally outweighed his vanity.
“I’ve always said Washington was a lousy place for a guy like me who wants to get things done, but this is no time to walk away from the table,” the former governor said in a Senate announcement video released Wednesday evening. “I know changing Washington is hard, but I want to give it a shot. I’m not done fighting for the people of Colorado.”
Hickenlooper wasted valuable time this year running a doomed-from-the-start 2020 Democratic campaign, which he shuttered last week, disappointing the 1% of primary voters who backed him.
“A little over six months ago, I announced my run for President,” the former governor announced in a statement on Aug. 15. “People want to know what comes next for me. I’ve heard from so many Coloradans who want me to run for the United States Senate. They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state. I intend to give that some serious thought.”
Finally. What took him so long?
One argument I have heard to explain the existence of so many 2020 Democratic primary candidates, including Hickenlooper, is that they entered the race based on the hope that it would boost their profiles enough to carry them to victory elsewhere. For example, maybe Hickenlooper never intended to win the 2020 presidential primary. Instead, perhaps he intended to use the exposure that comes naturally with the nationally covered quadrennial event to prime his Senate candidacy.
However, based on polling data, which I am sure Hickenlooper has seen, this seems too charitable a theory.
When he launched his since-shuttered 2020 candidacy, Hickenlooper’s profile was already plenty big in Colorado thanks to his two-terms are governor. In fact, he sat on a respectable 49% approval rating when he left the governor’s mansion in January, according to a survey released at the beginning of the year by Morning Consult.
A separate poll released in January also showed Gardner behind a generic Democrat 38% to 46%, meaning the time was ripe for Hickenlooper to declare his Senate candidacy even before he decided for some reason to enter the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. Another survey released in mid-July showed Hickenlooper at 44% as the clear favorite for Colorado’s Senate primary, with the closest competition, House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, clocking in at a distant 12%. Lastly, just to drive the point home, an Emerson College survey conducted between Aug. 16 and Aug. 19 showed the former governor beating Gardner 53% to 40%.
You cannot say Hickenlooper needed to join the 2020 Democratic primary to boost his status for a Senate run against Gardner. Hickenlooper’s failed candidacy was a vanity project and a waste of time. There is no other way to look at it.
In a normal world, I would say Hickenlooper’s chances of unseating Gardner are pretty good. But the former Colorado governor has already displayed remarkably poor political judgment this year by allowing himself to get sidetracked with a hilariously doomed presidential bid, so who knows?
Perhaps Gardner, who some in the press call the “most vulnerable Republican senator in 2020,” will be just fine come election day.