Election 2020 John Hickenlooper
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Former Gov. John Hickenlooper for — U.S. Senate?

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Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson has a message for John Hickenlooper: Stop doing what you’re doing.

In a Washington Post column on Monday addressed to the two dozen Democratic candidates for president, Robinson says: “Some of you ought to be spending your time and energy in another vital pursuit — winning control of the Senate.”

He adds: “I’m talking to you, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who would have a good chance of beating incumbent Republican Cory Gardner.”

He also mentions Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, whom he views as a lot more likely to win Senate seats — and possibly tip the chamber to the Democrats — than the White House.

After months of campaigning, Hickenlooper has been hovering around 1% in polling of whom Democrats support for president.

A Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday shows the former Colorado governor at zero percent support among Democrats (after rounding).

But in Colorado, where Morning Consult says Hickenlooper left office with a 49% approval rating versus 30% disapproval, he is seen by many Democrats as the dream candidate to take on Gardner, in a state where Democrats just captured every state government executive office.

As of late 2018, Morning Consult pegged Gardner at 37% approval versus 35% disapproval among voters.

“Democrats ought to be able to take this seat,” says Elaine Kamarck at The Brookings Institution. “But for reasons that are not immediately apparent, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was courted to run against Gardner, is instead running for president.”

“Democrats facing a steep uphill climb to win back the Senate want Beto O’Rourke to reconsider his long-shot bid for president and take another look at running for the Senate in Texas, especially if his White House bid fails to pick up momentum,” Alexander Bolton wrote for The Hill this week.

“They feel the same way about two other White House hopefuls who are polling at around 1% or lower: former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.”

“For someone like Hickenlooper, he might clear out a lot of competition in the primary if he were to mount a Senate bid, and he probably would be favored to win in blue-leaning Colorado,” Geoffrey Skelley, election analyst at FiveThirtyEight, said Wednesday. “Considering that his chances of winning the presidential race seem slim to none at this point, a Senate bid might make sense for him.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow made a similar point — to Hickenlooper’s face — late last month in an interview: “I mean pragmatically, I wish you were running for the Senate.”

The roster of Colorado Democrats vying to face Gardner for Senate is long. It includes former diplomat and state agency chief Dan Baer, former state Sen. Mike Johnston, former state House Democratic leader Alice Madden, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and former U.S. Attorney John Walsh.

But none of the candidates has won a statewide election before, although a few have tried. Hickenlooper has won statewide twice, including in 2010, when Republicans snatched 11 governorships from Democrats nationwide.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. and chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, met with Hickenlooper this year hoping to recruit him for a Senate bid. Hickenlooper has tried to explain over and over why he’s running for president instead of the Senate.

“It would be hard for me — and I am not saying I couldn’t do it and I am not saying my patriotic duty may compel me to do it — but my character, what activates me, motivates me is building teams and surrounding myself with really talented people, taking big bites out of major challenges and then doing them,” Hickenlooper said to CNN before entering the presidential race.

As for the Senate, he said, “You are one of 100. And my natural inclination is to go somewhere where I can create that team.”

He said it more definitively to Politico back in February: “I’m not cut out to be a senator,” adding that he loves assembling administrative teams. “Senators don’t build teams. Senators sit and debate in small groups, which is important, right? But I’m not sure that’s my — I’m a doer. That’s what gives me joy.”

Hickenlooper still has time to change his mind. He has until early next year to file for the Colorado primary in the Senate race.

Managing Editor, Colorado Politics

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