As They Ponder Presidential Runs, Bennet, Hickenlooper Try To Make Hay In Iowa

· Feb. 24, 2019, 4:55 am
Photo: Hickenlooper-Bennet Iowa Politicking 1| Hickenlooper & Harris - MP
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, right, place their hand on their heart as the state the Pledge of Allegiance at the Story County Democrats Soup Supper Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Ames, Iowa.

Ames, Iowa — Although they share Colorado as a backdrop, John Hickenlooper said it would be wrong to push the idea that he and Michael Bennet are one and the same.

"I'm not going to try and point out where I'm better than he is, or where he's not sufficient," Colorado's former governor said of the state's current Democratic Senator. "But we have different world views and different experiences... we're two distinct voices trying to make sense out of how do you bring this country back in the right direction, back together."

As fate — or some mischievous schedulers — would have it, both men found themselves stumping in Iowa over the weekend, spreading a gospel borne of accomplishments achieved in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Every boast of methane regulations, each "Gang of Eight" nod to immigration reform was met with applause and admiring gazes by audiences that are admittedly desperate to change the status quo in the White House.

What each man is trying to determine is whether the woo they're pitching is enough to make the nation sufficiently swoon.

For Hickenlooper, it seems to be all over but the shouting; as has been the case in his previous two trips to the state, he pointed out that he's uniquely qualified among the multitude of Dems seeking to unseat Donald Trump because of his history of getting things done. On Saturday, he told the Story County Democrats that comes from an ability to brings disparate parties together, and to listen to anyone who might offer a solution to a problem.

Sometimes, even someone very close to home.

"I made the mistake of complaining to my son Teddy (about the 2013 battle for universal background checks and limiting magazine capacities in guns). He said, 'Dad, what do you do all day that's so hard? Make decisions?' I told him it wasn't that easy — he said, 'Dad, get the facts, make the decision, check, next.'"

"So, we went back and got the facts; we had the national facts, but we had never gotten the facts in Colorado... after Teddy chewed me out, I went into the office and asked 'What are the real facts in Colorado?'"

According to the former governor, after the father/son chat — and the subsequent change in state law on background checks— there were 38 people convicted of homicides, 138 people convicted of sexual assaults, 1,300 people convicted of felony assaults, and 420 people under judicial restraining orders from seeing ex-spouses or former bosses, were all prevented from purchasing weapons.

Why Would Anyone Want To Work In DC?

When Hickenlooper formally announces sometime in the immediate future, a fully-formed political apparatus of state directors, finance directors and pollsters will be ready. By contrast, you can comfortably count the number of people committed to Bennet's Presidential explorations on one hand.

"We're pretty lean and mean right now," said one of his staffers.

As is the case with Hickenlooper, Bennet said Saturday there will be familial considerations to weigh before a decision is made, but he also admitted his intrigue with the possibility of taking down Trump.

Photo: Hickenlooper-Bennet Iowa Politicking 3 | Bennet House Party - MPAnthony Cotton/CPR News
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet speaks at a house party hosted by Vicki and Mike Brenner in Winterset, Iowa, Feb. 23, 2019.

"The stakes are really high; the highest they've been in my lifetime, and it's an unusual position to be in, to have the chance to run for that job, and be able to make a contribution to the debate," he said shortly after he spoke for an hour at a house party in Madison County. "I don't think there are people talking about it the same way I was talking about it (today)."

"Having spent time in business, and working in the schools (as the former superintendent of Denver Public Schools), and now having spent 10 years in the Senate, that's a different set of experiences than what other people bring to this."

Bennet's words seemed to resonate with the audience, which his hosts, Mike and Vicky Brenner, said was about one-third, Democrat, one-third Republican and one-third Independent. In turn, the Senator grew increasingly animated, bouncing around a spacious living room as he addressed issues ranging from immigration reform, education and climate change.

"I'm not going to pass judgment one way or another on the Green New Deal... I'm all for anyone expressing themselves about the climate anyway they want... But, I am deeply concerned... I spent the whole summer meeting with farmers and ranchers in places where I'll never get 30 percent of the vote in Colorado, who are deeply worried about being able to pass their farms or ranches along to their children or grandchildren because they have no water because of the droughts brought about by (climate change)."

Bennet recently told Colorado Matters that one way he and Hickenlooper are different is that the former governor hasn't been subjected to the "swamp" that is Washington. On Saturday, he told a crowd of about 50 people just how far his embarrassment at D.C. politics has gone.

"I used to walk through the Denver International Airport when were having these idiotic fights in Washington about things that I could never explain to the people I represent, and I would wish that I had a paper bag over my head, so nobody could see me," Bennet said. "I used to wonder why anybody on the planet would want to work there."

Now Bennet has to decide if he wants to try and bite off an even bigger gig, one in which there may not be a paper bag big enough to hide from the criticisms that come with it. But for at least a couple of days, he found himself in a place that was familiarly comfortable.

"I felt very at home," Bennet said. "It's very similar to what I hear in Colorado."

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