DES MOINES — If the idea was for John Hickenlooper to make himself feel comfortable while he made a case for Iowans to support his possible run for the White House, Sunday night was the optimum environment.
First, the former governor was the guest of honor at a house party hosted by a pair of college friends. Then, he toured a local brewery, where he hoisted an IPA and an ale, and poured a few for some customers as well.
Although he flew here from Washington, D.C. and plunged directly into a crowd of more than 100 people at the house party, it was clear that Hickenlooper was jazzed by the encounter.
“I got my rest — I even left a gala event (in Washington) early to make sure,” he said.
The gathering was more than twice as large as the initial estimates, providing a too-literal meaning of pressing the flesh. Yet Hickenlooper seemed game as he took endless photos and struck up numerous conversations.
Quite the crowd in West Des Moines Iowa for former Governor Hickenlooper who’s doing a meet and greet at the home of an old college friend. pic.twitter.com/JdC7RQxeom— Anthony Cotton (@AnthonyCottondp) January 27, 2019
When the time came, he spoke for about 15 minutes; as was the case during his talk last Thursday at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, he tried to portray Colorado — and his accomplishments during his two terms as governor — as a beacon that could be followed by the rest of the nation should he A) decide to run, B) win the Democratic nomination, and C) defeat an incumbent Donald Trump, or whomever’s at the top of the Republican ticket.
“I’m interested in running for president,” he said, “Because like you, I agonize, I am over-the-top angry about what’s happened to our country in such a short period of time...there are a lot of my friends running for President...but I don’t think there’s anyone who’s as reliably — as I can — beat Donald Trump.”
Afterward, Hickenlooper answered questions about climate change, education, Roe v. Wade and other topics. One member of the audience asked what he would do to “build a bridge about health care.”
Hickenlooper referenced his partnership with former Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich. While he said there wouldn’t be a partnership in ‘20 — “I’m sorry, the guy doesn’t support Planned Parenthood” — he did suggest the alliance had a tangible effect.
“When John McCain (the late former senator from Arizona) made that vote, and was the deciding vote in protecting the Affordable Care Act, the day before, he said, in the end, maybe the senators ought to look to the governors, who actually implement health care policy.”
“He didn’t mention Kasich and he didn’t mention me, but in my heart, I’d like to think that he was saying, ‘If Hickenlooper and Kasich can agree, then why not?’“
One of Hickenlooper’s hosts for the party, Neil Salowitz, said that while the evening appeared to be a success, it was really just a beginning. The Iowa caucuses take place Feb. 3, 2020.
“Iowans take their role very seriously; they believe they have the right to meet with, and talk to, all the presidential candidates,” he said. “It’s very much retail politics. What’s happening in our home tonight will be repeated throughout the next several months as we get closer to the caucuses.”
“If you finish first second or third, you have a ticket out of here to New Hampshire and South Carolina. If you don’t, maybe you’re candidacy is over...I’m sure John will be here quite often, it’s a matter of building momentum; people who come to Iowa often, often do well in Iowa.”
Local political observers say that in his 2012 re-election campaign, Barack Obama made 35 trips to Iowa before the caucuses. Although they’re more than a year away, other potential Democratic candidates, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have already made stops in the state, and on Monday night a third senator, Kamala Harris of California, will host a televised town hall here on the campus of Drake University.
At the brewery, a patron suggested that Hickenlooper could make a splash by riding a tractor in each county in the the state — all 99 of them.
While he conceded the enormity of the undertaking — “It would probably take two months to get that done!” — he didn’t dismiss it out-of-hand either.
Giddy Up indeed.