Some Coloradans are increasingly enthusiastic about former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's campaign, and at least one recent poll suggests he's got a pretty good shot at it. The catch: It's not the campaign he's currently running.
Pressure -- and rumors -- are mounting around the idea of Hickenlooper withdrawing his bid for president to instead run for U.S. Senate.
A New York Times story said on Tuesday that Hickenlooper is giving the senate race serious thought, and reported that he was in talks with another Colorado presidential candidate, Sen. Michael Bennet, on Friday. Hickenlooper and Bennet drove around Clear Lake in Northern Iowa before the Wing Ding dinner, a Democratic fundraiser.
“The Hickenlooper campaign has no comment on the story in the New York Times,” said Peter Cunningham, a spokesman for Hickenlooper.
Meanwhile, Shannon Beckham, Bennet’s communications director, confirmed that the two spoke on Friday, but added she did not know what the conversation entailed.
Aides and advisers to both Bennet and Hickenlooper declined to reveal what was discussed between the two, according to the New York Times.
Colorado already has a packed pool of candidates running to unseat Republican Cory Gardner in the 2020 race.
“I think it’s now a question of who's not running in this race than who is running in the race,” Gardner said Tuesday. “And so we’ll continue to do what’s right for Colorado and focus on Colorado solutions. I’m the fifth-most bipartisan member of the Senate and we’ve passed a number of great things for this state including moving the headquarters of BLM to Colorado. We’ll continue to just focus on what's best for the people of Colorado."
The 314 Action Fund, a political group that supports Democratic candidates with a background in science, technology, engineering and math, launched a campaign on Monday to “Draft Hickenlooper for Senate.” The group helped run a Senate campaign for NASA astronaut Mark Kelly in Arizona.
Hickenlooper, a former geologist, previously said he didn’t want to run for Senate but wouldn’t rule anything out.
Ian Silverii, executive director of Progress Now Colorado, said if Hickenlooper were to run for Senate, he would “dominate.”
“It’s clear his presidential aspirations aren’t quite clicking and it would be a smart move,” he said. “(Hickenlooper) would be a very credible force in the U.S. Senate race. Right now, there’s no clear front runner… I’m glad to know he's considering it.”
In a survey conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group of 600 likely democratic primary voters in Colorado, Hickenlooper would have the support of a large majority of voters in the primary. Seventy-seven percent of voters said they would have a favorable reaction if Hickenlooper joined the 2020 Senate race.
His presidential campaign is struggling to gain momentum and financial contributions. The third round of Democratic presidential debates in September requires 2 percent of support in four national or early-state polls released between June and August. They must also have at least 130,000 individual donors, with at least 400 from 20 different states. Hickenlooper does not currently qualify by either metric.
CPR reporters Bente Birkeland and Anthony Cotton contributed to this report.