2019

Bennet & Hick in 2020

This is a heady time. Future historians might look back at this period as a time of seminal shift in Colorado’s political trajectory. We recently elected Jared Polis, a Jew and openly gay man, as governor by a greater margin than his predecessor, John Hickenlooper, had won.

In 2014, incumbent Hickenlooper eked out a victory over Bob Beauprez by 68,000 votes. In 2018, Polis defeated Walker Stapleton by 10.6 percent, which the Denver Post suggested “promised a leftward shift for a state that long had reveled in its middle-ground status.”

Colorado was trending blue for more than a decade. But the metro area’s population explosion, the Republican Party’s increasing marginalization, and the mountain recreational communities’ booming growth, including Clear Creek’s, have accelerated the pace. Though not California navy blue, Colorado is Rocky Mountain sky blue. Forget the purple.

Up to last week, Colorado boasted two candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination. With their candidacies, Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet raised the state’s profile in the national political discussion.

With Hickenlooper abandoning his pursuit of the presidency, focus sets on a potential run for the Senate seat occupied by Cory Gardner. If he does, it will throw the Democratic race for the nomination into paroxysm. Eleven Democrats are currently running, several of whom having raised serious dough.

Would Hickenlooper clear the field? Because of his support for fracking and tepid leadership and positions on TABOR, education, and more, Hickenlooper wasn’t always held near and dear by Democrats. His greatest asset in his elections, besides his good-guy, even-keel persona, was that he wasn’t Beauprez or Tom Tancredo. Still, he won in tough Democratic years.

The Denver Post has reported that according to a poll by the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, which has a B+ pollster rating from FiveThirtyEight, Hickenlooper is the choice of 61 percent of Democrats. The reason: Hickenlooper is seen as Colorado’s Joe Biden candidate: best able to defeat Gardner. The reason for that: In Catholic catechism terminology, Hickenlooper’s sins are venial compared to Gardner’s mortal. And he’s rightly viewed a moderate voice of reason, which would be quite appealing to Republicans in search of stability and sobriety.

Bennet is also struggling to catch on, but he has an asset Hickenlooper lacks: a day job. Thus, there isn’t a clock ticking for Bennet’s aspiration…yet. If the donations keep flowing, he can play a longer game. However, the only scenario for Bennet to be given serious consideration is if Biden implodes or has a health issue, but that’s contingent on Bennet showing strength in polls and primaries.

It has been more than a generation since the conventions had an air of suspense. They have become coronation rituals, full of political pomp and forgettable speeches by also-rans and others seeking seven minutes of fame.

Being of age but still too young to vote, 1968 was likewise a heady time for political nerds like me. The Democratic Convention in Chicago was one of the wildest in American political annals. Even the Republican Convention in Miami provided a bit of suspense. Ronald Reagan made a respectable showing challenging Richard Nixon, positioning him to take on Gerald Ford in 1976 and finally win the nomination in 1980.

The 1980 Democratic convention provided a memorable moment when Ted Kennedy dismissively refused to shake Jimmy Carter’s hand in congratulations. But since then, boring! Candidates like Bennet were once called dark horses. If Biden fades, imagine a deadlocked Democratic Convention. Could it turn to Bennet? TBD.

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