After Crickets Following The First Debate, Hickenlooper Campaign Goes All In On Iowa

Listen Now
9min 43sec
Election 2020 Moderates
Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo
In this June 27, 2019, photo, Democratic presidential candidate former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks during the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, in Miami. It’s been tough to run for the Democratic presidential nomination as a moderate if your name isn’t Joe Biden. But some candidates hope that’s changing.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper knows he needed to shake up his campaign strategy after the first presidential primary debate.

But he’s not taking a page from the most successful candidate onstage that night with him, California Sen. Kamala Harris, who gained momentum in part by going after former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I'm not going to attack my opponents, and use that attack to try and get in the newspaper, get on TV, to attract notoriety,” Hickenlooper said in an interview with Colorado Matters. “After the election, we've all got to work together, and I want to make sure, especially in the primary but in any election, I want to make sure that we try to keep it at least as positive as possible.”

Hickenlooper hired on a new campaign manager and communications director, and has been homing in on Iowa. He acknowledges he’s had trouble fundraising, but he maintains a sense of optimism.

“When I'm in Iowa and I described that I'm the one person who's actually done what everyone else is talking about, that we got to near universal healthcare coverage, we got the methane regulations completed by getting environmentalists and oil and gas industry to work together. All those things get traction,” Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper Is Content To Play The Long Game On The Campaign Trail: ‘My Moment Is Yet To Come’

The former governor estimates he’s spent more time in Iowa the past couple weeks than he did the past few months as his campaign pivots from cross-country visits to focus in on the single state.

“I think Iowa's a pretty balanced state, right? It's a lot like Colorado and its electorate,” Hickenlooper said. “It's one-third Democrat, one-third Republican, one-third independent.”

The next test for the Hickenlooper Campaign 2.0 are the debates July 30-31 in Detroit. Hickenlooper said he “embedded” the “basic context” of his experience and perspective in the first debate. The second time around, he hopes to expand on those ideas and stand out more.

“I think that our ability to hold up the collaborative approach, with which we addressed problems in Colorado, is a valid national model,” he said. “But I've got to say it in different ways and in different formats.”

As news of his campaign shake-up emerged, there was a renewed conversation about Hickenlooper turning over his presidential campaign to run for Sen. Cory Gardner’s Senate seat in 2020 instead. Hickenlooper still pushes back against the notion.

“I certainly appreciate the compliments, but I have to be 100 percent focused, and I mean 100 percent focused, on this campaign to win the Democratic nomination for president,” he said.

“Otherwise, I won't have a prayer.”