Littwin: Hick has made his big giddy-up move. He’s now officially thinking of running.

John Hickenlooper at his 2017 State of the State address. (Photo by Allen Tian)
Gov. John Hickenlooper at his 2017 State of the State address. (Photo by Allen Tian)

John Hickenlooper has officially announced that he will, at some point, decide whether to run for president. This is apparently news because, although he has been saying forever that he will, at some point, decide whether to run for president, he’s now got a pre-presidential-run Giddy Up PAC to prove he means it.

This PAC is designed to raise money to pay for those things required of a potential candidate, including talking to rich people and, of course, taking as many trips as possible to Iowa and New Hampshire. The PAC will also give Hickenlooper the opportunity to explain to people why his PAC is called Giddy Up, meaning many new people will be introduced to Hick’s giddy-up shtick. Such is the cost of being the first-in-the-nation caucus or primary state.

So, Hick for president?

Say it a few times and try not to smile. I know some of you are tempted even to laugh, but remember — as I have to remind myself — the whole prophet-without-honor-in-his-own-Rocky-Mountain-state concept.

Admit it, there’s hardly anyone you know who seems like presidential material unless, of course, you look at some of the people who have actually become president. What I mean is, after Donald Trump, everyone is qualified.

In any case, the pre-announcement announcement is already paying off for Hickenlooper. He got a very nice write-up in The Washington Post from conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin. This may stem from the fact that conservative pundits, particularly those (like Rubin) who can’t stand Trump, tend to see good things in the centrist, personable, always-pro-business Hickenlooper, who will say, with hand on the Bible, that bipartisanship is a good thing.

In Rubin’s column, she says people may think of Bernie Sanders as the opposite of Trump, but it’s actually Hickenlooper, or at least someone like him, who is the real anti-Trump. And, in her reasoning, if enough candidates run to the left in the Democratic primary — and there will be many — it could leave room for a moderate like Hickenlooper on the right.

Meanwhile, over at The Atlantic, there’s a look at Hickenlooper that offers up many of his better qualities — it calls him “charismatic” in the headline — while conceding the obvious fact that a centrist, pro-business governor is unlikely to win the Democratic nomination in the anti-Trump world of 2020. It quotes Colorado’s own Dick Wadhams saying that Hickenlooper is “virtually un-nominatable” due to his pro-fracking stance.

I think Wadhams gets ahead of himself here. First, Hickenlooper would have to gather enough support to be a credible candidate and only then would any potential rivals take a hard look at his record on the environment or anything else.

The real question is where Hickenlooper would find his base. It wouldn’t be, as we’ve just noted, environmentalists. It wouldn’t be labor. There will no doubt be many female candidates running. As Bernie Sanders learned in 2016, it’s hard to win a Democratic primary without being competitive in appealing to the black vote. For most of Hickenlooper’s time in politics, he has been loath to even admit he’s a Democrat, although that did change to a degree during the Clinton-Trump race.

On the other hand, Hickenlooper does have a resume. His approval numbers are good by two-term-governors’ standards. The Colorado economy is booming. He can take some credit on guns (even though the gun legislation was forced on him) and credit for the successful enforcement of pot laws (even if he opposed them). And he’s got that clean-politics shower commercial. It’s certainly a lot more than Tom Tancredo had when he ran for president in 2008 and got as high as 2 percent in the polls.

I can see Hickenlooper’s appeal. For everyone tired of the divisiveness in America — and that would include almost everyone — Hick does provide an alternative. He and John Kasich — who’s also thinking of running for president, but in a 2020 Republican primary – did their bipartisan tour touting an alternative health care reform when it looked like Obamacare was doomed.

But it’s not just being an anti-Trump that makes Hick a reasonable candidate. My crack research team, otherwise known as the computers over at Google, informed me that I wrote my first column about Hickenlooper as potential presidential material column in — wait for it — 2011. 

And, yes, I was skeptical then, too, when he was being mentioned as a possible 2016 candidate. But George Will had come to town and declared that “Manifest Destiny seems to have pointed toward Hickenlooper’s Colorado.” I’m not sure Manifest Destiny is considered a plus everywhere in the Democratic community, but you will recall that Clinton would be sufficiently impressed to consider Hickenlooper as a finalist in the vice-presidential sweepstakes in 2016.

 And even though he didn’t make the cut, it seemed pretty clear that if Clinton had won, Hickenlooper would have been offered a Cabinet post. Clinton didn’t win.

And because Clinton didn’t win, there are as many as two dozen, or maybe even more, possible Democratic candidates ready to oppose Trump in 2020. I wouldn’t get too excited unless or until Hick somehow sneaks into the top 10.


  1. One qualification NOT to be overlooked — Hickenlooper does “concerned” and “compassionate” very well. He’s had to show up in public on many occasions of mourning, and unlike so many elected officials, he’s been able to make the focus on those lost, those who remained, and not himself.

    And I can’t recall the he, members of his campaigns, or any one of his appointees was indicted.

  2. I’ve met Hick a couple of times. Nice guy. Bright. Dork. They’ll Jimmy Carter the hell out of him.

    Don’t get me wrong…I’ll vote for him if he wins the primary, but I think his campaign has more to do with positioning him for a future cabinet spot (and bringing his cadre along) than a realistic shot of a nomination.

  3. List ten qualities about Hick and ask people to rank them, ‘Entrepreneur’ would come out pretty high and ‘Democrat’ would be dead last. ‘Carnivore hunter white male’ would be even lower.

    Thus he’s got a chance.

    But the real proof he’s running? Max scoffs at the notion, and then stops the replies.

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