President Hickenlooper ’16? Don’t Rule It Out, But…

As Politico’s Reid Epstein reports, popular Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado sees his own hurdles to a run for President in 2016–and frankly, we see them too:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who founded a brewpub and was twice elected Denver’s mayor, cruised to victory in 2010 in a three-way race against a fractured state Republican Party. He registered a 54 percent approval rating in a Public Policy Polling survey earlier this month, a whopping 30 percentage points higher than his 24 percent disapproval…

“You never say never, but it’s hard to imagine,” Hickenlooper told POLITICO in an interview in his state Capitol office here. “What we’re trying to do here necessarily, I think, is going to irritate and I think in some ways divide some of the strongest constituencies that are going to be making those decisions.”

Hickenlooper’s best path to national office in 2016 would come in a Democratic Party looking for a centrist leader in the mold of President Bill Clinton, said University of Wisconsin political science professor Charles Franklin.

“Under many circumstances, Hickenlooper would represent a Democrat with crossover appeal who can win in swing states,” Franklin said.

There’s no question that Gov. Hickenlooper’s broad popularity and moderate appeal place him on a hypothetical–very hypothetical over five years out–short list of viable Democratic candidates for President in the 2016 elections. But Hickenlooper makes perfectly clear in this interview that positions he holds on hot-button issues like “fracking” in oil and gas production could spell real trouble for himself in a Democratic primary. Hickenlooper talks about Colorado as a “model” in education, health care, and transportation; but most would agree that this is expressing, to put it charitably, an aspirational goal less than a year into his term.

Bottom line: Hickenlooper has the potential to be a great candidate for President, and his centrist liabilities in a Democratic primary could easily become powerful general election assets. It’s true that the recent trend towards more strident ideology on both sides of the aisle represents a challenge for moderates like Hickenlooper. But we’re inclined to accept the argument that, as of now, Democratic primary candidates are subject to less rigid ideological litmus tests in general than Republican candidates.

Perhaps the bigger obstacle to a Hickenlooper candidacy is that another well-known Coloradan is likely to at least kick the tires on a Presidential run in 2016 — and they can’t both become serious candidates. It’s a quiet, but open secret that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar wants a shot at the Presidency himself in 2016, and he and Hickenlooper — who are friends, by most accounts — would probably have to decide quietly which one of them will take the stage and which one will stay behind. If Hispanic voting trends continue to rise, Salazar may have the better argument by then.

A lot can change in the next 4-5 years. Let’s revisit this in 2015 — by then it will either be a serious discussion, or not.

40 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ProgressiveCowgirl says:

    But I’m not convinced Hickenlooper has the right stuff. He’s good, but national good? I don’t know about that. If he doesn’t get a LOT sharper by 2015 I think he’d be middle of the pack in a primary, maybe win a couple states, and then fade out. His current persona is pretty Colorado-specific (kind of like Pawlenty was really a Minnesota candidate) and won’t translate as well to national televised debates and the like.

    On the other hand, I’d love to see his presidential campaign commercials.

  2. dmindgo says:

    probably not terribly popular thing to write, but I think Ritter did more in his four years than it look like we will see from Hick.

    Can’t say I always agreed with him, but I was sorry he didn’t run again.

    • DavidThi808 says:

      I’d work my ass off for him if Ritter ran.

      • pay your taxes! says:

        Uh, there’s a reason he didn’t run for Governor.

        • DavidThi808 says:

          And kudos to him for doing so.

          • pay your taxes! says:

            That’s what it was about. sure.

            • David – you know I love you brother, but I’m critical of Ritter

              Consider that he was given a Democratic House and Senate, yet –

              1. He did not legalize gay marriage

              2. He did not repeal the anti-immigrant business laws that were passed under Bill Owens

              3. Contrasting what Jerry Brown successfully did here in California, Ritter didn’t seem to do much to help the scholarships towards undocumented immigrants

              Let me know if I’m out of line, but Ritter’s record doesn’t impress, as of now

              • DavidThi808 says:

                But he put this state on the road to being the green energy center of the country. And he did everything he could to help education in general. Both efforts that will do more for the state long term than most anything else.

                • BlueCat says:

                  very inept in working with his legislature. Much more of a policy guy than the kind political, deal making leadership guy a Gov or President has to be.  

                  What’s more, I don’t think he enjoyed the role anywhere near enough to be interested in another stab at it at a higher level. And I’m not interested in having another President who doesn’t get how to bargain and lead his own caucus effectively.

                  In short, I don’t think he has any interest in running for Pres and that’s fine with me.  

                    • BlueCat says:

                      but I don’t rate the chances of Hick becoming the Dem candidate in 2016 very high either.

                      Hick hasn’t completely pissed off an all Dem majority state legislature (he doesn’t have one, to be sure so whether he would or not if he did is hypothetical. My guess is he’d behave accordingly in a bluer environment) and his general approval ratings remain healthy. I still don’t see it for either one.

                      Nostalgia time:  Remember when GOP Gov. Owens was the hot Gov. with such promising presidential potential?    

  3. ArapaGOP says:

    Today, I basically agree with all of this. Hickenlooper is steerng a middle course and wants business to thrive. He is taking a stand against tax increases in a recession. But what would make Hickenlooper more viable to me in the next three years will probably not endear him to the Pols.

  4. Legalized Gay Marriage

    Cut Taxes

    Cut Spending

    Never apologizes.

    Pretty damn good in my book.

  5. caroman says:

    Now that’s from Senator Jim Demint. (Thank god he’s right.)

    I guess you could say every governor sees a president in the mirror, too.  (Gov. Palin?)

    Only one more week to go before the pre-Labor Day sillies are behind us.

  6. Voyageur says:

    Constitution requires the two ticket mates to be from different states.

  7. Diogenesdemar says:

    I mean, all right, I can think of a hundred less desirable politicians I would not want to see on either ticket in 2016, but have we gotten so far from hoping that Hickenlooper becomes imaginable, and for some even desirable, as a President?

    Hickenlooper talks about Colorado as a “model” in education, health care, and transportation; but most would agree that this is expressing, to put it charitably, an aspirational goal less than a year into his term.

    IMHO you’re being rediculously charitable with your “charitably.”  Just WTF is the Colorado “model” (except another euphemism for “[slowly] starve the beast [while gently wringing your hands and bemoaning present ‘appetites’]”)?

    I will admit that Mr. Hickenlooper has a tremendous acumen for going along and getting along. (More’s the pity.)  Is that what you Democrats have been reduced to, you can’t even hope for someone even slightly visionary and driven by a purpose to build a better future?  Somone with a desire and a vision to mold the future in some way, rather than just being swept along amiably by the tides and the currents?

    Whatever you guys are smoking today, I would be willing to pay top dollar . . . just sayin’.

    • Car 31 says:

      Unless Hickenlooper comes out strong for a TABOR repeal, or tax hike, or tax cuts, or something, he’s another moderate Governor from another state that has too many problems to fix and not enough money to do so.

      The Colorado model seems to be – do the politically expedient thing so as to be able to do the next politically expedient thing the next time you get elected.

      Wait – if that’s the case, Hickenlooper would fit right in!! Not fair, I know. Way to early to be even discussing this.

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