Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to announce he is dropping out of the 2020 presidential race Thursday but has not said yet whether he would run in Colorado’s competitive U.S. Senate race to challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.
That's according to a person close to the former governor who wasn't authorized to speak publicly before the announcement and who spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday night on condition of anonymity.
More than 10 Democrats are already vying to unseat the vulnerable incumbent in what’s expected to be one of the most high-profile races for a seat that Democrats hope to flip in 2020.
Hick's moderate presidential campaign never gained momentum with the Democratic base.
It was clear he would not meet the threshold of donor support or high enough poll numbers to qualify for the debate stage in the next Democratic presidential debate in September. His presidential campaign has $836,000 cash on hand.
With his resume as a former geologist, brewpub owner and two-term governor in a purple state, he offered an alternative vision to the move toward democratic socialism advocated by rival Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
“Democrats must say loudly and clearly that we are not socialists,” Hickenlooper said at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. earlier in the spring. “If we do not we will end up helping to reelect the worst president in this country’s history. Socialism is the most efficient attack line Republicans can use against Democrats as long as Trump is at the top of the ticket.”
He went even further, saying democratic socialism isn’t just a poor election strategy, but also “a disastrous governing model.” He took issue with the Green New Deal and Medicare for All policies supported by many others in the Democratic presidential field. Hickenlooper backs a public option for health care, rather than Medicare for All.
By the end, Hickenlooper was on his second campaign team and struggling to raise money. He registered at 1 percent or lower in polls.
In recent weeks the drumbeat has grown for him to abandon the presidential race and run for Senate.
It’s a job he’s previously said he doesn’t want and wouldn’t be good at.
“I don't think that's my calling," Hickenlooper told CBS News in July.
Hickenlooper softened his denials of interest in the Senate in recent weeks as his campaign finances dwindled and pressure increased from other Democrats.
He started telling people he'd make a decision by the end of this week.
It's unclear whether Hickenlooper plans to run against Gardner, whom national Democrats have urged him to take on since last year. He's repeatedly said he's not interested in the Senate and prefers an executive position.
But if Hickenlooper did run against Gardner, he'd first have to get through another crowded Democratic primary field.
“I think it’s now a question of who's not running in this race than who is running in the race,” Sen. Gardner told CPR on Tuesday when asked about the possibility of Hickenlooper entering the race.
Colorado already has a packed pool of candidates who reported strong fundraising numbers. Former state Sen. Mike Johnston announced earlier in July that his campaign had raised $1.6 million in the last quarter. He currently has about $2.6 million on hand.
Former Ambassador Dan Baer raised $1.3 million last quarter, and another former Obama appointee, John Walsh, who was U.S. Attorney for Colorado, raised $770,000. Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff’s campaign declared $503,000 in contributions. That would bring his war chest to more than $1 million.
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.”
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.”
CPR reporter Hayley Sanchez and the Associated Press contributed to this report.