Well, it looks like we could have our first Democratic drop out for the 2020 race. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has tried to get a foothold in this race. It hasn’t worked out. The collapse has been quite rapid. His staff was reportedly jumping ship, with his finance director leaving to join Beto O’Rourke’s (he’s really a white guy named Bob) campaign, which will also end in failure. Still, for those looking for work in this arena, Beto is a few more weeks of oxygen (via Politico):
The national finance director for John Hickenlooper’s presidential campaign is departing and joining rival Beto O’Rourke’s effort, O’Rourke’s campaign told POLITICO on Monday.
The aide, Dan Sorenson, is leaving the former two-term Colorado governor the day after the deadline for 2nd-quarter fundraising and after last week’s Democratic debate — an ominous sign for a presidential bid that has struggled to gain traction.
“We wish him the best with his new opportunity,” Lauren Hitt, Hickenlooper’s communications director, told POLITICO in a text message.
Twenty-four hours later, we have reports of Hickenlooper’s senior aides telling him to drop out…a month ago. Oh, and he’s about to completely run out of money:
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s senior team urged him last month to withdraw from the presidential race gracefully and run for Colorado’s Senate seat or pursue other opportunities, a source familiar with the situation told POLITICO.
The source said that the campaign only has about 13,000 donors, making it almost impossible to qualify for the next round of presidential debates in the fall. The campaign also only raised just over $1 million in the second quarter — about what he raised in the first 48 hours of his candidacy — and will likely run out of money completely in about a month.
At least five staffers have left or are leaving Hickenlooper’s struggling operation, including his campaign manager, communications director, digital director and finance director. Hickenlooper named a new campaign manager on Monday night.
Hickenlooper publicly blamed his former staff Tuesday for his failure to gain traction in the crowded Democratic primary.
“We thought it was time to make a change,” he told MSNBC’s Craig Melvin. “You know, these campaigns are long, hard campaigns and you don’t always get it right with the first team.”
So, did Johnny even have a chance? His polling position has been consistently low to disastrously low. FiveThirtyEight noted that the former Democratic governor lacked a base of support and that success would be incumbent on his ability to literally pull himself up from his own bootstraps. That evidently didn’t happen [emphasis mine]:
…His tenure as governor was marked by economic success and liberal wins on social issues, his style of getting things done was undeniably bipartisan (perhaps out of necessity, given that Republicans controlled one chamber of the legislature during six of his eight years in office). Indeed, the only time Hickenlooper’s popularity as governor faltered was when he swerved left in 2013, signing those gun-control bills and staying the execution of convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap. He pivoted back to the center for 2014 and became Colorado’s only statewide Democrat to survive that year’s Republican wave. As he was preparing to leave office in late 2018, his approval/disapproval spread stood at 49 percent to 30 percent, giving him a +18 PARG — Popularity Above Replacement Governor. That’s nerd-speak for “a very high approval rating in a politically divided state.” Clearly, Hickenlooper is a consensus-builder, but it’s hard to imagine his motto of “there’s no profit margin in making enemies” resonating with the current mood of the Democratic electorate.
As FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver has written, Hickenlooper follows in the tradition of other politicians from the American West — candidates who wear cowboy boots and stand amid the great outdoors in ads espousing a nonideological, anti-politician message. That sort of branding has obvious appeal in the Mountain West, but Hickenlooper will have to expand his support elsewhere to win the nomination. In the 2016 primaries, the mountain states2 accounted for just 7 percent of pledged Democratic delegates, a function of their small size and Republican lean. Not to mention that Democrats have never nominated a presidential or vice-presidential candidate from west of the Central time zone in their 191-year history as a party.
Even more troubling, it’s hard to point to a clear base for Hickenlooper — at least one big enough to propel him meaningfully in a national primary. Contrary to his folksy image, the former big-city mayor doesn’t have a great track record of appealing to rural areas. As governor, his administration’s renewable-energy and gun policies alienated some rural counties so much that they symbolically voted to secede from Colorado.
Perhaps his penchant for viral videos will make him a favorite among millennials; the craft beer lover and banjo player already has a touch of hipster cred. A smarter strategy might be leaning into being the “cannabis candidate.” As governor of the first state where marijuana sales became legal (in 2014), Hickenlooper oversaw the law’s implementation and has nurtured a thriving cannabis industry. But while he hasn’t been shy about touting the benefits of recreational pot, activists may not be willing to forget that he initially opposed legalization in 2012.
Perhaps the strongest card in Hickenlooper’s hand is his status as a former governor; historically, they have better track records than members of Congress at being nominated for and elected president. But that is no guarantee of future success, and Hickenlooper starts the campaign a clear underdog. Once again, the self-made man will have to lift himself up from nothing to prevail.
And that was made even more difficult by the fact that there are better known and more left-wing Democrats in the mix, who are dying to fight Trump. It’s 'fix bayonets' time for both sides, and Hickenlooper was, well, that odd guy out. Still, he’s not done, and he’s still an issue for Republicans. He remains popular in Colorado. Republican Senator Cory Gardner could have a fight on his hands.