Friday, January 6, 2017

Hickenlooper for President

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. John Hickenlooper
The Hill political magazine put Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on its early list of potential Democratic presidential candidates. Hickenlooper was listed number seven out of fifteen. Leading the list were senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. Michelle Obama held the sixth position just ahead of Hickenlooper.

KOA’s April Zesbaugh discussed the Governor’s career path with Floyd Ciruli. A few points:
  • Hickenlooper has been a popular governor, is an effective politician and term-limited. He needs a new job. 
  • In the spring and early summer of 2016, he was considered by the Clinton campaign as a potential vice-presidential pick. It was never clear whether or not he was fully vetted, but he did receive several extended meetings with Hillary Clinton. The campaign picked U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. During the fall as he campaigned for the ticket, there were regular rumors that he would be offered a cabinet post – Interior, Commerce and Agriculture were mentioned. He denied he wanted to leave Colorado and his job early. Few believed him.
  • In the January 12, 2017 State of the State speech, Hickenlooper’s new status will bring attention to how he positions himself with the Trump administration. Both appointments (for example EPA and Interior) and policies (such as public land and energy) will be controversial for Western Democrats. Does he cooperate where he can and resist where he feels he must? 
  • Although it is very likely that the 2018 mid-terms will see Americans still very polarized, Trump may have a good two years or it could be a disaster. Hickenlooper may claim a presidential race is not an interest, but the Democratic Party is in a major transition, and Hickenlooper, as a popular second-term governor (there are only 18 Democrats out of 50), could be a valuable contributor to the party’s attempted revival.
  • Hickenlooper is a Democratic moderate in a party with a very liberal establishment. This election loss may strengthen party moderates, but Hickenlooper is not as well-known as others on the list. There may be a middle position where he helps elect Democratic governors, including his successor, but doesn’t start a campaign. Mostly what is required is a very strong commitment and plan of action. 
This is an extraordinary moment in the political life of the country and most politicians would savor the chance to be in the game. Hickenlooper will have to make a choice and then design a role that is comfortable for him.

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