DENVER (CN) – Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper bowed out of the 2020 presidential race Thursday after failing to resonate with voters despite nearly six months on the campaign trail.
“I ran for president because this country is being ripped apart by politics and partisan games while our country’s biggest problems go unsolved,” Hickenlooper explained in a video. “Now today I’m ending my campaign for president but I will never stop believing that America can only move forward when we work together.”
Despite his ability to unite his purple state on gun control and health care, the pragmatic progressive did not meet polling and fundraising thresholds needed to qualify for the third round of Democratic debates in September.
“He mounted a very, very spirited attack on socialism, which polling indicates is not a popular thing to do,” observed political journalist Grant Stern of Hickenlooper’s debate performance. “You shouldn’t try to run a general election campaign during the primary.”
Many supporters remain loyal.
“Hickenlooper has an amazing track record,” said Minyoung Sohn, a Denver-based investor and conservative. Sohn wrote in Hickenlooper’s name for president on his 2016 ballot and gladly supported his 2020 run. “He stood up for what he believed even though it cost him politically. It’s really hard to put the governor’s accomplishments together in a 60-second sound bite.”
Originally from Pennsylvania, Hickenlooper moved west in 1981. Within five years and after being laid off from his job as a geologist, he taught himself business and opened a thriving brewery.
“Nobody wanted to go to downtown Denver in the 90’s,” Sohn recalled. “What’s really remarkable is when he started the Wynkoop Brewery, he was unemployed. He had been unemployed for two years, and when the brewery took off, he brought the whole neighborhood with him.”
In 2003, Hickenlooper stepped into politics and was elected mayor of Denver. He later served two terms as governor of Colorado, touting among his achievements securing health care for 95% of the population, growing the number one economy in the country, and requiring background checks for gun licenses. While he never supported legalizing marijuana himself, he followed the will of the voters by overseeing the rollout of the nation’s first recreational market for the federally banned Schedule I substance.
Hickenlooper was rumored to have been on Hillary Clinton’s shortlist of potential vice presidents during her 2016 run. And many Coloradans still trust Hickenlooper to represent their interests in Washington.
“There are not very many scientists in public policy and there needs to be,” explained Josh Morrow, executive director of 314 Action Fund. “We believe in fact-based and evidence-based policy, and to tackle issues like climate change you need people who understand the science of climate change.”
For the 2020 election cycle, 314 Action Fund expects to raise more than $20 million to help elect Democratic candidates with science backgrounds nationwide. Leading up to Hickenlooper’s announcement, 314 Action Fund spearheaded a very public campaign to “draft” him into the U.S. Senate race against Republican incumbent Cory Gardner.
“Hickenlooper has proven he gets things done. He’s been able to walk across the party lines and work with Republicans and work with independents to enact progressive legislation on health care and gun violence,” Morrow said. “It is a great sacrifice for him to step down from running for president to consider running for Senate, but I believe it will have a bigger impact on America.”
According to a 314-sponsored poll of 739 Coloradans conducted by Public Policy Poling, Hickenlooper could enter the race 13 points ahead of Gardner.
But he would be leaving one competitive race for another. A whopping 16 Democratic candidates are vying for Gardner’s seat, with former state senator Michael Johnston leading the fundraising at $3.3 million according to the Federal Elections Commission. Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is also running a very aggressive campaign to unseat Gardner.
The FEC reported Gardner’s re-election campaign has raised $6.6 million. Gardner is endorsed by the Koch Network-funded political action group Americans for Prosperity.
In his usual way, Hickenlooper only promised only to give the opportunity “some serious thought.”