As Politico’s Reid Epstein reports, popular Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado sees his own hurdles to a run for President in 2016–and frankly, we see them too:
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who founded a brewpub and was twice elected Denver’s mayor, cruised to victory in 2010 in a three-way race against a fractured state Republican Party. He registered a 54 percent approval rating in a Public Policy Polling survey earlier this month, a whopping 30 percentage points higher than his 24 percent disapproval…
“You never say never, but it’s hard to imagine,” Hickenlooper told POLITICO in an interview in his state Capitol office here. “What we’re trying to do here necessarily, I think, is going to irritate and I think in some ways divide some of the strongest constituencies that are going to be making those decisions.”
Hickenlooper’s best path to national office in 2016 would come in a Democratic Party looking for a centrist leader in the mold of President Bill Clinton, said University of Wisconsin political science professor Charles Franklin.
“Under many circumstances, Hickenlooper would represent a Democrat with crossover appeal who can win in swing states,” Franklin said.
There’s no question that Gov. Hickenlooper’s broad popularity and moderate appeal place him on a hypothetical–very hypothetical over five years out–short list of viable Democratic candidates for President in the 2016 elections. But Hickenlooper makes perfectly clear in this interview that positions he holds on hot-button issues like “fracking” in oil and gas production could spell real trouble for himself in a Democratic primary. Hickenlooper talks about Colorado as a “model” in education, health care, and transportation; but most would agree that this is expressing, to put it charitably, an aspirational goal less than a year into his term.
Bottom line: Hickenlooper has the potential to be a great candidate for President, and his centrist liabilities in a Democratic primary could easily become powerful general election assets. It’s true that the recent trend towards more strident ideology on both sides of the aisle represents a challenge for moderates like Hickenlooper. But we’re inclined to accept the argument that, as of now, Democratic primary candidates are subject to less rigid ideological litmus tests in general than Republican candidates.
Perhaps the bigger obstacle to a Hickenlooper candidacy is that another well-known Coloradan is likely to at least kick the tires on a Presidential run in 2016 — and they can’t both become serious candidates. It’s a quiet, but open secret that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar wants a shot at the Presidency himself in 2016, and he and Hickenlooper — who are friends, by most accounts — would probably have to decide quietly which one of them will take the stage and which one will stay behind. If Hispanic voting trends continue to rise, Salazar may have the better argument by then.
A lot can change in the next 4-5 years. Let’s revisit this in 2015 — by then it will either be a serious discussion, or not.