Hickenlooper lands on another list of possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidates

Author: Ernest Luning - May 9, 2017 - Updated: May 11, 2017

Gov. John Hickenlooper laughs as he answers a question from reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in his office at the state Capitol in Denver. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)
Gov. John Hickenlooper laughs as he answers a question from reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in his office at the state Capitol in Denver. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

For the second week running, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has found himself on a list of potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, this one compiled by D.C.-insider publication The Hill. And although the former geologist and brewpub pioneer maintains he’s taking no steps toward a run, he recently told a national radio audience that he’s open to considering it after he finishes his term as governor.

The Hill’s Lisa Hagen puts Hickenlooper rather high on a lengthy list meant to encompass all the Democrats who whose names have been floated as candidates in the next election. Ranked 10th out of 43 possibles, Hickenlooper comes in behind national heavyweights former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker but ahead of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, all considered contenders who could mount serious campaigns if they decide to run.

“The 2020 presidential election could feature the most crowded Democratic primary in decades, with scores of Democrats rumored as potential contenders,” Hagen writes, and then proceeds to name dozens.

Hickenlooper, she notes, was on Hillary Clinton’s short list for vice presidential picks and “has been floated.” Hagen also points out that he told The Denver Post in February that he isn’t running after some remarks to CNN the newspaper described as “coy” fanned flames of speculation.

Writing for CNN last week, former Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza includes Hickenlooper on a somewhat shorter list — just 22 Democrats. Hickenlooper is among what Cillizza labels “3rd Tier” potential candidates, grouping him with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. (Cillizza’s 1st Tier includes Biden, Sanders and Warren, while his list’s 2nd Tier includes Booker, Cuomo and Kaine.)

“Quietly,” Cillizza writes, “the governor of Colorado made it to the final cut of Clinton’s vice presidential list. He has a powerful story — small businessman, mayor of Denver, two-term governor — and represents a part of the county where Democrats are growing. But, he is very low-key — and may be too moderate for Democratic primary voters.”

During an appearance on National Public Radio’s popular “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” quiz show that aired April 8, Hickenlooper told host Peter Sagal that his attention for roughly the next two years will be on his job as governor.

“My focus — and I’ve said this a dozen times — my focus — I’ve got about 662 days, I think,” Hickenlooper said after the host asked if there was anything he wanted to say to “listeners in, say, Iowa.”

Pressed by Sagal, Hickenlooper gave a more detailed answer but left the door open, as the political parlance goes.

“We’re going to keep a hundred percent of our concentration — no PAC, no committees to run for office. And two years from now, if everyone else is running, then we’ll see,” Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper was the program’s guest for a regular segment called “Not My Job,” which features celebrities answering questions completely unrelated to their supposed areas of expertise. In the governor’s case, Sagal said, “We’ve invited Hickenlooper to play a game called ‘Somebody Has Plans for 2020’ — three questions about exciting things scheduled for the year 2020 that definitely aren’t the next U.S. presidential election.”

With a little help from the audience — the show was taped on April 6 at the Buell Theater in the Denver Center for Performing Arts — Hickenlooper got all three questions right.

“Let this be a premonition,” said announcer Bill Kurtis. “The governor is a winner.”

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.