Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said Sunday on national TV that he believes there’s room in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary for a moderate candidate with his experience in businesses and as a school superintendent, but stopped short of saying he’ll join the rapidly growing field.
“When I sit on the Senate floor, I often think about what I’m hearing through the lens of the kids that I used to work for in the Denver Public Schools,” Bennet, who at one time led the school district, said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with moderator Chuck Todd.
“And the agenda that I hear has very little to do with them, very little to do with their future, very little to do with the next generation’s future in America,” Bennet continued.
“So I think we have an opportunity to have a presidential campaign. You know, we’ve got a million people that are going to run, which I think is great, we have to do it. And I think having one more voice in that conversation that’s focused on America’s future, I don’t think would hurt.”
Bennet, 54, has been hinting for months that he’s considering a run for the White House.
Speculation has only increased in the two weeks since a video of Bennet blasting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on the Senate floor during the recent partial government shutdown went viral, drawing millions of views online and sparking calls for the typically mild-mannered attorney to run for president.
“I think that I’ve got a different set of experiences than the other folks in the race, many of whom are my friends and people that I like,” Bennet said Sunday. “But I spent time in business and time as a school superintendent before I was in the job that I’m in now.”
Describing Colorado as evenly split among Republicans, Democrats and independent voters, Bennet maintained it’s important to judge politicians on results, instead of their blustery news conferences.
“The country — and I don’t mean this just as a political statement, I think it’s true — I don’t think the country is anywhere nearly as divided as Washington, D.C., is. I think the country is sick and tired of Washington yapping about stuff and not actually doing anything.”
Bennet also tore into President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans for racking up “the biggest deficit that we have ever had [during] a period of economic growth.”
“A Republican president, a Republican Senate, a Republican House — the fiscal hypocrisy is unbelievable,” Bennet said, taking aim at Todd’s previous guest, Trump Chief of Staff and former Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney.
Mulvaney, Bennet said, “was one of the people in the Freedom Caucus who tortured President Barack Obama over and over and over again, calling him a Bolshevik and a socialist and all this stuff, [but] couldn’t lift a finger to help when we were in the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Asked whether he supports the Medicare for All proposal backed by prominent Democrats — including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who made her presidential campaign official on Saturday — Bennet said it “seems like a bad opening offer for me” to do away with the private insurance that covers 180 million Americans, instead pointing to his proposal to create a public option.
“I think we’d be much better off with a bill like the one I have with Tim Kaine called Medicare X, that creates a public option,” Bennet said.
“It helps finish the work of Obamacare. And it says to America, ‘If you want to be in a public plan, you can choose to be in a public plan. If you want to keep your insurance, you can keep your insurance.’”
Bennet’s interview Sunday took place hours before U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, launched her presidential campaign, joining U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, along with U.S. Sen. Kristin Gillibrand of New York, who is formally exploring a run.
Six other Democrats, including current and former mayors and members of Congress, are also running, and at least an additional dozen are weighing bids.
Long-time Bennet ally former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper — he employed Bennet as his chief of staff when he was mayor of Denver — is closing in on a presidential bid, including recent appearances in Iowa and a planned swing through New Hampshire.