Littwin: Hick’s longshot argument — Colorado comity actually beats Washington dysfunction

Former Colorado governor and Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper greets a supporter at Denver's Civic Center on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Photo by Evan Semón)

Now that John Hickenlooper has officially joined the presidential race, he has, let us say, just a few challenges to overcome.

1. Money. It should be noted that several candidates are now rolling in cash, most notably Bernie Sanders —having raised $6 million on his very first day after officially entering the race. Much of the money — and all of Sanders’ — comes directly from grassroots supporters. Kamala Harris raised $1.5 million in 24 hours, Amy Klobuchar $1 million in 48. But more telling for Hickenlooper is that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced he was running for president last Friday and, by Monday, said he had raised $1 million. And now Hick has announced he pulled in just over a million in the first 48 hours, which seems to put him in the game.

2. Name recognition. Outside Colorado, Hick doesn’t have any. In the few national polls in which he has been included, he doesn’t hit 1 percent in what is already a crowded and top-heavy field. Inslee, another western governor who lacks name recognition, is about to get a $1 million TV ad buy in Iowa from a supporting Super PAC (yeah, a Super PAC, which many Democrats don’t find so super). In such a crowded field, it will be difficult for Hickenlooper to get much in the way of free media, having to compete with Sanders, Harris, Warren, Booker, Klobuchar, maybe Beto, maybe Biden, just for starters. On the other hand, Hickenlooper, who survived two terms as a very popular governor, has shown real talent in getting attention. We’ll see if it works beyond Colorado’s borders. The Onion is not so sure. Its headline reads: “Hickenlooper Announces Support for Nuking Australia Just To See If Anyone Paying Attention.”

3. Fracking/environmentalists. Hickenlooper has been touting his efforts to bring oil and gas together with environmentalists in Colorado. This is more than a slight stretch. Candidates are forgiven for stretching their credentials, but we’ll just remember that O&G spend $20 million on two fracking measures — one in opposition, one in favor. Both lost. Hickenlooper, the self-proclaimed failed one-time geologist, may have drunk the fracking fluid, but the argument in Colorado is nowhere near being settled.

4. Guns. Hick is bragging about the gun legislation passed in Colorado in 2013, which Hick signed and which nearly cost him cost him re-election the next year. But a little digging tells a more nuanced story. In what may be the worst moment of Hickenlooper’s tenure, he once told CNN that guns weren’t the issue in the Aurora theater shooting. “This person, if there were no assault weapons available, if there were no this or no that, this guy’s going to find something, right?” Hickenlooper told Candy Crowley.

Given new evidence, he came around to his most controversial move, backing a bill that would limit the size of high-capacity magazines. Two state senators would be successfully recalled for their votes. Another would resign. It was quite brave for the cautious Hickenlooper to stand up against the NRA, Dudley Brown, Magpul and the rest. And yet, he wasn’t exactly bragging about the gun bills back in the day. In fact, after the bills had passed, he told a group of rural Colorado sheriffs — in a meeting that was secretly recorded — he had been surprised by the anger the bills caused.

“A lot of people, if they’d known how much commotion was going to come out of the high-capacity magazines, probably would have looked for something different or a different approach,” Hickenlooper said. He added: “To be honest, no one in our office thought it would get through the legislature.”

5. Health care. Hickenlooper objects to being called a “moderate” or “middle of the road” even though he’s made a career of being as nonpartisan as possible. I’d say he’s moderately liberal, probably to the right of much of the field. But, for Hick and any other candidate, it’s as much about attitude as it is about policy. Hick is not angry. That’s a good thing in Colorado. It may not be a good thing in a national Democratic primary. One issue that does matter is health care. Everyone in the Dem field is for universal health care. The arguments about how to get there — Medicare for All, single payer, expanded Medicaid, adding a public option to Obamacare, etc. — will likely dominate the primary. Hickenlooper is against Medicare for All. That probably settles the “moderate” question. But what does it mean? You may remember where Barack Obama started in his primary race against Hillary Clinton and where we ended up.

6. How Hick could win. In an interview with Joe St. George on Fox31, Hickenlooper made a bold statement. He hopes, he said, to win in Iowa and finish in the top two in New Hampshire. In such a large field, that is basically impossible. But when St. George asked him if the race would be over for him if he doesn’t finish near the top in those states, Hick responded: “If I’m not near the top — yeah — I think it would be very difficult for someone like me if I can’t perform in Iowa and New Hampshire.” 

Hick has much going for him. He’s a good politician. He knows how to be quirky without looking foolish — although his tendency to gaffe is another matter. He has made as many, if not more, memorable campaign ads than anyone in the field. Colorado has done well under his watch. Some of that is luck. He came into the job with the economy in terrible shape and which had to improve. Some of it is not luck. He came into the job with the economy in terrible shape and Colorado is now arguably the hottest state in the country. In a huge field, with no real favorite, someone will probably come from the back of the pack to challenge. Mike Bloomberg, who would have run in Hick’s lane, just said he wouldn’t run. Joe Biden, who would also run in Hick’s lane, remains undecided. By the way, if Michael Bennet gets in, he would also be running in that lane.

7. Why Hickenlooper (probably) can’t win. I once wrote that Hickenlooper’s base is moderate Republican columnists who like Hick’s kind of Democrat. Washington Post’s Jen Rubin, an anti-Trumpist conservative, once wrote that Hick is the opposite of Trump — the best compliment she could have paid him. But Paul Waldman, writing more from the left in the Post, says moderates like Hickenlooper misread the Republican Party. The idea of comity, he says, is basically a pipe dream. Can the idea — which is central to Hick’s message — that he can bring people and parties together because he did so as a mayor work in Washington, where the parties are basically at war?

Waldman points to an interview Hickenlooper did with ABC News in which George Stephanopoulos asks him how he’d deal with Mitch McConnell, and, in reply, Hickenlooper cites agreements he forged with suburban mayors.

“When I come into office,” Hickenlooper said, “I would go to Mitch McConnell to his office and I would sit down with him and say, ‘Now what is the issue again?’ And we would talk and I would continue to speak back to him — it sounds silly, right? But this works, this is what I did with the suburban mayors, and they hated the city of Denver. You go to any metropolitan area in the country, the arguments between the big-city mayor and the suburban mayors, they’re almost endless. We’re the one place where this has gotten done, and I think it’ll work in Washington.”

The best thing you can say about this statement is that it’s naive. Washington is obviously broken. Can Hick fix that? Obama couldn’t. He ran on bringing the nation together. McConnell responded by saying he would do everything he could to make Obama a one-term president. McConnell didn’t succeed on the one-term, but he blocked Obama wherever he could. I mean, you think Hick could have gotten Merrick Garland past him to the Supreme Court?

That’s the argument Hickenlooper will try to make. Everyone agrees it’s a longshot. But as they say in the sports world, that’s why they play the games.

19 COMMENTS

  1. ok then…Frackenlooper…never frackenlooper…never…blue dog with fleas…we need a real Democrat in the White House, and we need to get rid of gardner, and tipton if we are to regain some semblance of democracy..

  2. “Certainly no (2020 Democrat presidential) candidate is going to say on the record what one almost-candidate, Michael Avenatti, said last year—that to have the best chance of beating President Donald Trump, the Democratic nominee “better be a white male.” “- Politico.com February, 2019

    “We know that some of the front-runners for the Dem Nom are woefully short on spine, so much so that the condition seems to have robbed them of the ability to speak…Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren being the two standouts in this regard.” – Anonymous January, 2018

    {}

    “In such a crowded field, it will be difficult for Hickenlooper to get much in the way of free media, having to compete with Sanders, Harris, Warren, Booker, Klobuchar, maybe Beto, maybe Biden, just for starters.”

    Mr. Littwin is being far, far too modest. He already knows three of those potential Democrat 2020 presidential nominees don’t stand a chance. In fact, he knew it four years ago:

    “While Democrats like to mock the overflowing Republican clown car presidential field, Democrats don’t have enough legitimate presidential candidates to fill a Mini.

    Joe Biden is not just too old. He’s Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren is not running, and, as appealing as she might be to liberals, she wouldn’t win if she did run. Bernie Sanders? At this point, he’s not even a Democrat.” – Mike Littwin March, 2015

    “Bernie (Sanders) is the most benign of summer flings. He’s part Gene McCarthy, part Howard Dean, but mostly part Jefferson Smith (do the Google if you don’t get the reference). Of Bernie’s many parts, only Jefferson Smith wins in the end, and that was in a movie..” – Mike Littwin July, 2015

    “History tells us that 74-year-old Jewish socialists are 0-for-forever in U.S electoral politics.” – Mike Littwin February, 2016

    No one has ever won the Democrat’s presidential nomination after having their chances of winning the presidency kicked to the curb by Mr. Littwin. No one. Ever. And in a recent Real Clear Politics Poll Biden, Sanders and Warren were three of the top four most popular candidates.

    So while Governor Hickenlooper still faces a steep uphill climb to become the Democrat’s presidential nominee, with the help of Mr. Littwin’s astute, unchallenged, unassailable political acumen he has three less worries.

    *

    “Politicians say more taxes will solve everything
    And the band played on” – Temptations

    “Let me tell you how it will be
    There’s one for you, nineteen for me
    ‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
    And you’re working for no one but me” – Beatles

    “Tax the rich, feed the poor
    ‘Til there are no rich no more?” – Ten Years After

    “Eat the rich
    There’s only one thing that they are good for
    Eat the rich” – Aerosmith

    Laquan McDonald/Rahm Emanuel
    Jussie Smollett
    Virginia Governor Ralph Northam
    Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax
    Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring

  3. I’m trying to keep an open mind on John Hickenlooper running. When asked (and sometimes when NOT asked but the topic comes up), I try to separate things Hickenlooper
    * explicitly ran on, led a process toward, or strongly advocated to a “win”
    * mediated and compromised on to “good enough”
    * competently managed or found others who would manage/administrate.
    * muddled through or
    * effectively opposed.
    There are a whole lot of things in the middle three categories, fairly few in the first and last.

    I don’t know anyone who thinks Hickenlooper was the key to Democrats winning elections in Colorado or elsewhere. Nor have I heard of large numbers desiring a whimsical or off-beat style of campaigning at the national level.

  4. Don:
    Bernie and Biden are too old. Warren’s roll-out of her Native American heritage was a disaster and shows her political skills are lacking. Hickenlooper is a nobody on the national stage. They all have faults.

    These are all true things.

    Each of these candidates are far and away infinitely better than the national embarrassment we have in the oval office today. This is the worst presidential administration ever.

    Those are also true things.

  5. Jim,
    Mr. Littwin also said neither Bernie nor Biden nor Warren could win the presidency.

    Is that a true thing?

    And there are others who believe Mrs. Clinton lost the election because of the lack of support from some Bernie supporters.

    How true is that?

    • Mr. Lopez. Great to see you back. Did I say in this election cycle that neither Bernie nor Bicden nor Warren could win? I’m not doubting you, but you are so good at providing the evidence. I don’t remember saying that in the 2020 cycle. I believe any Dem nominated should be able to beat Trump, although my confidence level on this has obviously been shaken by 2016.. I think I may have been talking about these people getting nominated in the last cycle. PLease let me know if I’m wrong about that. Again, great to see you back.

      • Mr. Littwin,

        Thanks, it’s great to be back.

        No, you did not say that in this election cycle neither Bernie nor Biden nor Warren could win but you did say that about all three in 2015 and that’s exactly what I said in my comment.

        But you were so very dismissive about their chances of winning the presidency in 2016 against an opponent who had:

        —–– never held an elected office
        —— historically high unfavorable ratings
        —— been called the loser of all three presidential debates by every pundit in the universe.
        —— been characterized by you as “a demagogue, a xenophobe, a misogynist, a bigot, a sexist, an authoritarian, a boor, a crypto-fascist and the least-prepared person ever to be nominated by a major party.

        I never thought in a million years you would think that four years later their chances of winning the presidency would improve against a sitting president who had already defeated (cue the trumpets) the mighty Hillary Clinton.

        And I never thought in a million years your opinions had an expiration date.

        Plus there’s this:

        —— In 2015 you said, “Joe Biden is not just too old. He’s Joe Biden.” Has Joe Biden gotten younger since 2015?

        —— In 2015 you said, “Bernie (Sanders) is the most benign of summer flings.” and “At this point, (Bernie Sanders) is not even a Democrat” and in 2016 you said, “History tells us that 74-year-old Jewish socialists are 0-for-forever in U.S electoral politics.” Is Bernie no longer benign? Are you now satisfied that Senator Sanders is a Democrat? Does history now tell us that 74-year-old (currently 77-year-old) Jewish socialists have ended their miserable 0-for-forever losing streak in U.S. electoral politics?

        —— In 2015 you said, “Elizabeth Warren is not running, and, as appealing as she might be to liberals, she wouldn’t win if she did run.” But now you believe she’s viable? Against a sitting president? Really? Wow!

        Again, it’s great to be back!

        • Mr. Lopez,

          In 2016, I was talking about their chances of winning the Democratic primary. I was of the (mistaken) impression that anyone could beat Donald Trump. In 2020, on Dem side, I have no idea who will win. I don’t think Sanders will. I think Warren could, not that I think she’s favored now. I’d be surprised — but not shocked — if Biden won. His age, like Bernie’s, wouldn’t be as much of an issue running against Trump, considering they’re all in the same age bracket.
          Different year, different race. I didn’t think the Nuggets could get to the Western Finals in 2016. I think they have a very good chance in 2019.

          • Mr. Littwin,

            Thank you for your response but more than that thank you for your candor. I very much appreciate your candor.

            I agree that the Nuggets could reach the Western Conference finals this year but drawing a comparison between them and this year’s group of Democrat presidential hopefuls is, well………….

  6. Don:
    Answer to question 1 – No
    Answer to question 2 – ask Vlad
    Trump is a national embarrassment and a disgrace
    Thanks,
    Jim

  7. Jim,

    Thanks for responding.

    It’s nice to see you and Mr. Littwin have a little disagreement.

    It’ll be interesting to see the reaction when collusion can’t be proved.

    Don

    • Don …
      I’m not certain about “collusion” — do you have any speculation on the other 16 current investigations of Trump?
      Any comment about the over 150 Senate-confirmed positions sitting empty two years into Trump’s tenure? When the Senate has a Republican majority and changed the rules to allow confirmation on a simple majority vote?

      John

      • John,

        I’m not certain about the over 150 Senate-confirmed positions and I won’t speculate on the other 16 investigations but I thought those who opposed our president thought proving “collusion” was considered to be pretty much a foregone conclusion, a lock.

        It doesn’t seem to be that certain now.

        Any comment on whether you agree with Mr. Littwin’s assertion that neither Bernie nor Biden nor Warren could win the presidency.

        Don

    • “Show me the man, and I’ll show you the crime.”” – Lavrentiy Beria, head of Joseph Stalin’s secret police. Seems you and the dims support Stalinist tactics. None of the crimes were what were originally alleged. No Trump Russian collusion.

      Wait until there’s no one left to support you. And you’re taken away in the dead of night. Don’t think it will happen? There’s something you do or love that people don’t agree with. You have some tax detail that could land you in jail? Cheated on your wife? Speed? Like your pot a little too much? Drive over 0.08%? Surf weird porn? Want more kids while occasional cortex says that contributes to global warming?

      History repeats itself. Especially for those who remain ignorant of it.

      • You need to lay off the Fox and put down the tinfoil. There have been indictments. Want some more? Wait until Friday.

        Trump has never enjoyed the support of the majority of Americans…ever…so there’s no conspiracy at work here…just common sense.

        You don’t get it. You’re the authoritarian extremist tyranny of the minority that the country is worried about, not the other way around.

  8. Anyone else see Hick’s dumpster fire of a press tour this weekend?!? Holy No-Interview-Prep Batman, that did not go well.

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