Looking For A Boost, Bennet Hits The Presidential Campaign Trail With Former Sen. Gary Hart

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Michael Bennet
Robert F. Bukaty/AP
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., speaks during the New Hampshire state Democratic Party convention, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Manchester, NH.

When Colorado’s Gary Hart ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984, he was a “long shot” going into the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. The U.S. senator pulled off a “stunning” victory over the front runner, Walter Mondale, eventually propelling Hart to the head of the pack.

Now another senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet, hopes a little of Hart’s magic will rub off on him. Bennet is way behind other Democrats in the primary for 2020. On Saturday, though, he picked up Hart’s formal endorsement, and the two friends campaigned together in Manchester, New Hampshire in hopes of giving Bennet’s campaign a shot in the arm.

“It’s a great privilege to be here today with Sen. Hart and to have his endorsement for president of the United States,” Bennet said in Manchester ahead of the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention. 

Hart said every presidential nomination contest turns up a surprise candidate, “One who is not high in the polls. May not have the most money. May not be the best known.” Hart thinks Bennet is that candidate.

As for polls showing Bennet making little headway with the electorate, Hart says they really only represent name recognition.  

“The vast majority of the Democratic party nationwide are still making up their minds who they support,” Hart said. He also believes it’s possible for Bennet to improve in polls by campaigning well in Iowa and New Hampshire. He said races there and a couple of other states would decide who are the “serious candidates.”

Yet the double-digit polling and massive fundraising deficits Bennet faces will get even tougher to overcome since he will not be on stage with the leading Democrats at the next primary debate, which is coming up Thursday evening. Other candidates who have polled similarly to Bennet have recently dropped out of the race.

Hart did have some advice for his friend. He said it takes fortitude to run for president.

“Seeking the presidency of the United States is one of the most difficult projects a person can undertake ,” Hart said. “If you don’t have that, you shouldn’t be in the race. Michael has that fortitude.”

While Hart said he respects Joe Biden, who he served with in the Senate for 12 years, he believes in “generational politics” and that from his experience as leaders aged “people began to look for new leadership… and I think that they are doing that today,” he said.

After Bennet’s speech at the state convention, Hart and Bennet participated in a meet and greet with voters at a pizza joint in Manchester.