Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) made some big news today by declaring that former Gov. John Hickenlooper has his support for a potential 2020 U.S. Senate campaign:
— Ed Perlmutter (@Ed4Colorado) August 18, 2019
Perlmutter’s support carries a great deal of weight amid a crowded field of Democratic candidates for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, Perlmutter is (not very) arguably the most well-known, and well-liked, member of Colorado’s Democratic congressional delegation. This kind of pre-emptive announcement of support is also not something you normally see from the seven-term Congressman, so Democratic activists and party leaders are going to take notice.
And, of course, Perlmutter himself had long been considered to be a potential top candidate for U.S. Senate in 2020. We actually moved his name off of The Big Line on Friday as speculation mounted that Hick was likely to enter the race sometime soon; our logic: It is unlikely that Perlmutter would still consider the Senate race if Hickenlooper is indeed running (for the same reason, we also dropped Rep. Joe Neguse of Lafayette from The Big Line).
Perlmutter’s early endorsement is an unmistakable signal that Hickenlooper is both likely to enter the Senate race and likely to pick up support from notable other Democrats once he does. Hickenlooper announced last week that he was dropping his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination, at the same time acknowledging that he was considering taking a run at the seat currently occupied by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). Gardner is widely considered to be among the top 1-2 most endangered incumbent Republican Senators on the ballot this cycle, which only increases the pressure for Democrats to find their best potential challenger in 2020.
As we wrote here on Friday, both polling and simple logic point to Hickenlooper as the best candidate for Democrats to defeat Gardner in 2020. Supporters of the Senate candidates already running argue that the Party would be fine with any number of those candidates. Maybe, but it’s tough to make a strong case that Hickenlooper is not the Democrat with the best chance of defeating Gardner. Perlmutter surely thought about that and came to the same conclusion.
This is a blog about politics. Fundamentally, success in politics requires that you win elections. As we’ve seen in the last four years, Senate Republicans aren’t going to do a damn thing about anything — they won’t even consider discussing any number of important pieces of legislation passed out of the House this year — so Democrats need to take majority control of the Senate for anything significant to happen on issues from health care and education to equal rights and gun safety. For Democrats to win the majority in 2020, they need their best candidates (say, Hickenlooper) running against the most endangered Republican incumbents (like Gardner) around the country.
It’s tough to argue against Hick’s likely frontrunner status should he enter the race for Senate. Lots of people can, and will, argue about how far left Hickenlooper sits in the Democratic Party. But what that discussion can’t change is this: Among Colorado voters, Hick has already shown — twice — that he can carry the top of a ticket in a statewide election. These are just factual truths.
Perlmutter’s endorsement of Hick today is both symbol and signal. Another signal that Hick is coming, and a symbol of the support that appears to be waiting for him. If Democrats around the country can find their Hickenloopers — the candidates with the best chance of winning, period — then they can re-take the Senate majority and maybe even turn that mess back into a functioning government.