It turns out Gov. John Hickenlooper isn’t the only Colorado Democrat with his eye on the White House.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is considering a presidential bid, according to three people who confirmed to CPR News that they talked with him about it earlier this fall. The individuals declined to use their names because they were not authorized to speak about the matter. One of them discussed it with Bennet in the last 30 days.
“What he said to me is he is seriously thinking about running,” said another individual. “He has not made up his mind yet but he is seriously thinking about running.”
These aren’t the first rumblings of presidential ambition for the state’s senior senator. In a story from late November, The Associated Press reported that Bennet has been in contact with influential Iowa Democrats. Iowa is home to the first caucus of the 2020 Democratic presidential nominating campaign. In an interview eight days later, CPR asked Bennet about a possible run for the country’s top job.
“I don’t have anything to say about that today,” he said.
If Bennet does enter the race he could be competing against his close friend and former boss. Colorado’s outgoing term-limited governor is already farther along in the presidential nominee game. Hickenlooper has formed a federal PAC and visited Iowa and New Hampshire. He said he would make a decision on his own presidential run sometime after his term ends in January.
A source familiar with the conversation said Bennet spoke to Hickenlooper about a run for president within the last few months. Hickenlooper declined to comment.
Political analyst Eric Sondermann pointed out that the two Democrats’ “donor bases are not identical, but certainly there is high overlap, as even in their social circles.”
“Perhaps most importantly, in a field of up to two dozen Democratic candidates, they would be running in a similar, narrow lane,” he said. “That being the moderate lane contrasting with [President] Trump in tone, temperament and personality, instead of the sharper, harder-edge ideological appeal.”
Bennet and Hickenlooper both graduated from Wesleyan University, although at different times. Bennet served as Hickenlooper’s chief of staff in the Denver mayor’s office before going on to become the superintendent of Denver Public Schools. Former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter appointed Bennet to the U.S. Senate in 2009. He’s currently working on legislation to reduce evictions and change how Congress budgets. In 2016, he ran as a moderate who can work across the aisle.
One Democratic insider who has offered Bennet advice and encouraged him to run said he doesn’t believe there would be much overlap between him and the governor.
“Bennet is a U.S. senator focused on finance, education and foreign policy,” the insider said. “Hickenlooper is a centrist, midwestern mayor and governor who worked in a bipartisan way to get things done. I think they have different cases to make to the public. They just happen to be friends and allies.”
Bennet is expected to release a book within the year, a standard step for presidential hopefuls. It won’t be an autobiography, according to someone familiar with the text, but an analysis of where the country currently is, with a focus on what’s working with American politics and what’s not.