Littwin: Colorado’s not a swing state anymore, but that doesn’t mean we’ll skip 2020 campaign

Sen. Michael Bennet drops back for a pass. (Photo by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., via Creative Commons: Flickr)
Sen. Michael Bennet drops back for a pass. (Photo by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., via Creative Commons: Flickr)

When the news broke that Michael Bennet was mulling a run for president and even talking to Iowa politicos about the possibility, one thought immediately sprang to mind:

What the hell?

I mean, I’m not exactly shocked that Bennet is considering a run in 2020. Every halfway viable Democrat has to be considering a run against Donald Trump because, come on, it’s Donald Trump and Democrats, to this point, still have no clear idea how to counter the alternative fact of his Trumpiness. It would seem to be anyone’s game.

Of course, it’s possible that Trump, in ever more trouble, won’t even survive two more years in office. There’s not a great history for presidents who are also unindicted co-conspirators, and Trump seems to be moving quickly in that direction.

But back to Bennet, it’s one thing for a moderate Colorado Democrat with little name recognition outside Colorado to run for president. It’s another for two such moderate Colorado Democrats —and two with a longstanding relationship — to both run for president. Bennet you could maybe understand. John Hickenlooper you could maybe understand. But Bennet and Hickenlooper? Bennet who was Hick’s chief of staff when he was mayor and then Denver’s superintendent of schools? Hickenlooper, who will soon be ex-governor and in need of a job?

It would be as if when Tom Tancredo made his (still funny every time I think about it) abortive run for president in 2008 that Marilyn Musgrave had also decided to get in the race. Or maybe it’s just Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter redux.

I understand that Bennet and Hickenlooper have discussed all this, and I’m guessing Hickenlooper’s reaction was somewhat along the lines of, you know, what the hell? I mean, which one gets to run on the why-can’t-Washington-be-more-like-Colorado ticket? Hickenlooper can lay claim as governor. Of course, Bennet would have a keener understanding of Washington dysfunction. You can see the problem here, and that doesn’t begin to describe the problem potentially facing the big-money Denver donors who would have to choose between them.

There are as many as 30 Democrats — here’s a list — who are being mentioned as possible 2020 candidates, and I’m guessing maybe half or more will actually make at least a brief showing. Among those named: Biden, Beto, Bernie, Booker, Brown, Bloomberg, Bullock, Buttigieg (he’s the mayor of South Bend, Ind.) and that’s just the B’s. 

Why not Bennet? He has to believe he’s in the top 30, anyway. He’s a senator. He’s smart. He can raise money. He’s got a book coming out. He may not be a, uh, gifted speaker, he may not be long on big-room charisma, but he just got a big push in Vox, which called Bennet’s child-credit-expansion bill from last year, crafted with Sherrod Brown, as “quite possibly the most important legislative policy idea of the 2020 election.”

OK, I can give you about a dozen reasons why Bennet can’t win, but I don’t have any reasons why running would be bad for him. In theory, it would increase his stature. And in a race in which so many are running, and without a real favorite, no one would be surprised if there’s a surprise. I mean, Beto O’Rourke, who had no name recognition outside of El Paso a year ago, is now the hot new thing, even after losing his Senate race in Texas.

But then there’s Hickenlooper, who, by his latest estimation, is 63 percent of the way to deciding whether to run. Let me fill in the last 37 percent. He’s running. I don’t think he can win either, but I have to admit that I’ve been a little too tough on the idea. Something about a prophet in his own state. His biggest problem is that while he may be able to compete in the moderate lane, this doesn’t seem to be a time for a Democrat, who as mayor and governor, has pushed the concept of nonpartisanship about as far as you can take it.

He’s a very good politician who has put a lot of planning into this step. I mean, Hickenlooper already had his book out. And even though he can be a gaffe machine, he has that same thing going as Biden where his gaffes never seem to define him. Of course, Biden has been running for president since 1988. He did make it to vice-president, of course. And Hickenlooper was on Hillary Clinton’s veep short list, but it’s just as well he didn’t make it.

Neither Bennet nor Hickenlooper is on anyone’s top 10 list as of now, or anywhere near it. If you’re looking for something new, there are Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris and Julian Castro. If you’re looking for not-so-new populist left, there are Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Joe Biden has the working-class vibe and memories of weekly lunches with Barack Obama. In the anything-can-happen category, George Will just put in 800 good words for liberal Sherrod Brown, who, I think, has a real shot. Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand.

But if Hickenlooper and/or Bennet run, there is this: Like many of you, I have been struggling with the new conventional wisdom that Colorado is no longer a swing state, for at least as long as Trump is president anyway. If the campaigns stop in Colorado in 2020, it will probably be either to raise money or for a layover at DIA on the way to Phoenix.

So, if the 2020 presidential campaigns won’t come to Colorado, there’s still the chance that we may go to them.


  1. There is nothing like a good election(D) and a lying republican (but I repeat myself) in the White House to silence the lies and propaganda from the right.

    Just look at the number of comments from them on these pages for the past few weeks.

    Let’s finish the job and get the ugly(R) out of Washington in 2020. Our democracy and Constitution depend on it.

  2. Historically, in modern times, Democrats like to vote for younger men with lots of charm and charisma: John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Obama ….So Beto is my bet. Bennett is a good senator but he doesn’t have the magic x factor. Bernie and Biden are too,old. Hickenlooper isn’t exciting. Sherrod Brown is a sensible idea but who among the Trump voters would go for sensible? The women? Booker? A lot depends on whether The Donald is in the picture….

  3. If you think you’re struggling with the notion that Colorado is no longer a swing state, Mike, how do you think the Trumpsters feel?

    It has to feel like someone else’s home now.

    There’s always Wyoming…

  4. And a once great state relegated to the cesspool of cities just like your dream places in California.,
    Don’t step in the feces in downtown Denver and Boulder but then again it will seem just like home.
    You can have the maniac drivers, the thoughtless liberals and all your new toll roads. When you run out of water maybe you can get your nifty windmills to make water for you.
    You can have your POT heads and then you can kill yourselves with your assisted suicide.

    In the meantime I will transfer my wealth to a place where they will appreciate the morals and value conservatives brings to there state.

  5. So what you’re saying is that the state gets to tax your “wealth” in exchange for silencing the “thoughtless liberals” that reject your “morals and values” to be a bigot and/or a gun fetishist?

    Why is it always in code with you folks?

    Just speak plainly.

    No deal by the way, but Kansas could really use your “help”.

  6. Robert Smith needs to load up his covered wagon and leave town. This newfangled fancy-like Colorado just chaps his ass.

  7. Well, we’ve been told about people self-selecting their partisan locations — and it sounds as if you’ve chosen.

    One more vehement R who won’t be voting (legally) in Colorado. Or working for the candidates here. Or probably, donating to the campaigns.
    Not sure where the place appreciating “morals and value conservatives brings to there state” may be taking you. Please enjoy wherever you go.

  8. 1. Bennet looks like a dork. Wearing a boring dark suit and holding a football.
    2. When Bennet enters a room–charisma leaves.
    3. Bennet loves Wall Street way too much.

  9. Bennet’s “charisma” has nothing to do with his chances of going further up the political ladder. He’s the kind of Dem politician who has put us in the mess we’re in now with trump. He’s unwilling to take a stand on…anything, really. Here’s a VoteSmart page for him: ”
    Michael Bennet
    Office: U.S. Senate (CO) – Sr, Democratic
    Michael Bennet has refused to provide voters with positions on key issues covered by the 2016 Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests from Vote Smart and voters like you.

    Want to know what the key issues are?:

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