Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was often mentioned in the lead-up to the 2016 Presidential Primaries as a potential Democratic candidate for the top job in the land.
As a popular Governor from a swing state, Hickenlooper’s name has been mentioned as a Presidential candidate numerous times over the past six years (here’s one from 2013, and here’s a mention from 2011). Hickenlooper was also reportedly a consideration for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, a job that ultimately went to Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (though Hick did get a big-time speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention as something of a consolation prize).
Because it’s never too early to talk about the next election, Chris Cillizza of “The Fix” offered up his top guesses for potential Democratic Presidential candidates in 2020. Guess who made the list?
Gov. John Hickenlooper: The Colorado governor was almost Clinton’s vice-presidential pick this time around. And in a field filled with Washington types, the governor of a swing state in the West could have real appeal. Hickenlooper also has a terrific life story — a Denver brewery owner who became mayor and governor — and a down-home demeanor that screams, “I am not a politician.” Hickenlooper’s biggest problem as a candidate may be that he is viewed as too moderate for the current Democratic Party. But some governor (Missouri’s Jay Nixon? Delaware’s Jack Markell?) will run for president, and, at the moment, Hickenlooper seems first among equals for that role.
Cillizza’s early list is very much preliminary and has already been changed to include several more names. Hickenlooper is an obvious name to include on an early 2020 list — as Cillizza wrote, “some governor will run for president” — but is it a real possibility?
Seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination certainly makes more sense for Hickenlooper in 2020 than it did in 2016. The most obvious reason, of course, is that Hick is term-limited in 2018 and will have plenty of time on his hands. Running in 2016 never seemed likely, both because Clinton was essentially entrenched as the Democratic nominee and because Hick had just been re-elected to a second term in 2014.
In the debut episode of The Get More Smarter Show in May, we asked Hickenlooper about how seriously he might have considered seeking the Presidency in 2016. Hick was not shy about expressing his concern in first making it through a partisan primary (question begins around the 13:20 mark):
“I’m the type of person — a small business guy who’s really not a traditional politician. I wouldn’t do well in a primary.”
It is true that Hickenlooper’s moderate image would not have been ideal for seeking the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination — which is a point we’ve made in this space before — but 2020 could be a different story. Hickenlooper was much more active as a partisan surrogate for Democratic candidates in the last election cycle, and he has two more years as governor to demonstrate a more liberal agenda that could interest potential primary voters. Add to this the fact that the 2020 field should be fairly wide-open (barring the outcome of recounts, of course), and a potential Hickenlooper Presidential run makes more sense than it ever did before.
We’d still guess that a Hickenlooper run for President is unlikely, but much depends on how he decides to position himself for his remaining years as Governor and what kind of outreach (and response) he might garner from the chattering/donor class in the next 12-18 months. After all — a President Hickenlooper wouldn’t be more of a surprise than a President Donald Trump.