A new poll by Emerson College gives John Hickenlooper a 13-point advantage in a hypothetical matchup against Cory Gardner for the U.S. Senate.
If only it were that easy for Hick. But it’s not.
I suspect Hickenlooper couldn’t help but run for senate, not because he wants to be a senator but because he doesn’t want to be unimportant. All politicians love being loved, but with our former governor, it is an addiction.
The social trappings of being Denver’s mayor and Colorado’s governor was custom-made for the cravings of John Hickenlooper. This is not a dig at Hick. It’s a description of his out-going personality and his self-identity.
Look at the lives of Colorado’s recent past governors. Roy Romer went off to be the superintendent of the Los Angeles school district, a grueling, messy and unpleasant job if ever there was one. Dick Lamm taught at the University of Denver to young students who haven’t the slightest idea what a big deal he is (I know because I have spoken in his class many times). Bill Owens is happily out of the limelight in the private sector. And Bill Ritter yammers on about the “new energy economy” from a crony-funded ivory tower at CSU.
Can you envision John Hickenlooper living out his years in any such roles? I can’t.
As often as he has publicly confessed that he’s not cut out to be a senator, he’s not cut out to be unknown even more. That’s why he’s running.
The only reason he wouldn’t have run is if he thought he was going to get a cabinet post or even the VP spot in a new Democrat administration. After the cruel tease that Hillary Clinton perpetrated on him considering him as her running mate last time, he should be much wiser now.
Cory Gardner is the most vulnerable Republican up for re-election in the U.S. Senate, and Hick would make a strong challenger, as the poll suggests. But there’s a small hurdle before that. Hick has to win a competitive primary, something he has never had to do before.
When Gardner announced his run for U.S. Senate in 2014 it cleared the field of all other serious Republicans lusting after the office. Hick will get no such courtesy from the army of well-funded, well-organized Democrats already campaigning for the spot.
As senate-hopeful Angela Williams aptly said of Hick dropping his presidential run to contemplate the senate seat, “This won’t be a coronation.”
The same Emerson poll that is so encouraging for Hick should also scare him.
The poll indicates that among likely voters for Colorado’s Democrat presidential primary, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are battling for first place.
But look deeper.
In the poll democratic socialist Sanders garners 26% support from likely Colorado Dem primary voters. The more moderate Biden gets 25%. Seems pretty even split between hardcore progressives and old-school liberals. It’s not.
Add in the other progressives: Elizabeth Warren’s 20% support, Kamala Harris’s 13, Pete Buttigieg’s 5, Andrew Yang’s 4, and Cory Booker’s 2 to fellow progressive Sanders’ 26 and you get 71% of Democrat primary voters preferring nouveau-socialism to the 25% that want Biden’s moderation. (Fun fact, only 1% went to Michael Bennett. Way to exploit the home-field advantage.)
Said differently, Democrat primary voters seem to prefer hard-edged progressivism to the traditional Dem party by three-to-one.
Where does that leave a fracking fluid-swilling, pro-oil and gas, anti-pot legalization, entrepreneurial capitalist “moderate Democrat” like John Hickenlooper?
It leaves him in a potential buzz saw.
As angry Trumpsters upset the Republican establishment applecart in 2016, angry democratic socialists and progressives are doing to the Democrat establishment today. Yesterday’s Hillary is today’s Biden and Hickenlooper.
The advantage Hick has is progressive hubris and ego to battle his own. With 11 progressives running for the Democrat senate nomination, all mostly running to his left, it splits up the whacky left vote. It could leave him last liberal standing and allow him to win the primary. But he’ll be battered and bruised because all 11 will be attacking him throughout it all.
Remember how the bitter primary between Marc Holtzman and Bob Beauprez nearly a decade ago left Beauprez so that injured Hick became governor? This could be karmic payback.
The political circular firing squad is usually found on Colorado’s right. It’s the left’s turn.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.