Sen. Michael Bennet will run for president, he announced Thursday on CBS This Morning.
"My plan is to run for president," Bennet said on CBS. He is the 21st Democrat to join the field.
“Well, you know, I called my mom and I said to her, ‘Somebody has to be 22, and that’s why I’m running,’” he later joked when asked about the large primary field. “And it turns out I’m not, I’m 21. I’ve already made a little bit of progress.”
The Colorado lawmaker has served in the Senate since 2009, when he was appointed to replace Ken Salazar, whom then-president Barack Obama had nominated to be secretary of the interior. He was elected in 2010 and again in 2016.
Bennet, 54, burst onto the national scene earlier this year when he gave a fiery speech on the Senate floor excoriating Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, for his “crocodile tears” over the evils of a government shutdown (for which Cruz was blaming the Democrats), when Cruz himself had spearheaded a government shutdown in 2009, when the state of Colorado was recovering from flooding. The angry speech was out of character for the senator — and it went viral.
As he tested the waters for a presidential campaign, Bennet presented himself as a “pragmatic” addition to the field. In New Hampshire, he cautioned that Democrats must avoid “falling into the traps that Donald Trump is laying for us” — those traps being the idea that all Democrats espouse the socialist ideas of the most liberal wing of the party. Bennet stood to applaud Trump when he declared at the State of the Union that “America will never be a socialist country.” He opposes “Medicare for All” and has proposed an alternative in the Senate, Medicare X, that would create a public option but not demonstrably change the current health care system.
“It is possible to write policy proposals that have no basis in reality, and you might as well call them candy," he told the Atlantic during a visit to Iowa in March. “That’s what people want, as the song said, but I think that’s not where people are. I don’t think people believe that stuff. I think they want to see a serious approach to politics and a serious approach to policy.”
Restoring bipartisanship in Washington, he said on CBS on Thursday, was crucial. "There is no bipartisanship in Washington today to speak of," he said, singling out the conservative House Freedom Caucus as a culprit.
Americans, he said, "need a politics that recognizes that they have disagreements among themselves, but they have a shared desire to move the country forward. We have drained our politics of that in Washington. Our politics in Washington lack all imagination. And I think going down the rat hole with the people that are dragging us down the rat hole, just is a self-fulfilling prophecy of failing as a republic."
His campaign will focus on health care and increasing "economic mobility," he said, helping people afford a middle-class life. Taking a jab at Trump, who has crowed about the health of the economy, Bennet said he deserved credit only for "not screwing up what was already happening before he got there."
The former superintendent for Denver Public Schools, Bennet has emphasized the importance of education when talking to voters. “I think we need an education president,” he told the Des Moines Register during a visit to Iowa in February.
The man who appointed Bennet to that post was then–Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, whom Bennet had served as chief of staff. Hickenlooper was later elected governor of Colorado and is also running for president.
Bennet will also explicitly seek to roll back some of the Trump administration's policies and stances — specifically, the ban on transgender people in the military, the Muslim travel ban, and the family-separation policy at the border, per his campaign.
And he will seek to tackle the way money influences politics, according to his campaign, with efforts to end partisan gerrymandering, change the campaign finance rules, and end the practice of lawmakers becoming lobbyists once they leave office.
Last month, Bennet announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. A surgery to treat it was successful and left him cancer-free. On Thursday he said the diagnosis was "incredibly clarifying" about his future.
"That gave me a chance to think about whether I really wanted to run or not. And in the context of getting the diagnosis, my reaction was disappointment at the idea I couldn't run. It would've been a great excuse to say this is just some adolescent fantasy and I shouldn't run; that's not how I reacted," he said. "The other reaction I had is to think about what it would feel like to get a diagnosis like that and not have insurance and to know this president has worked so hard since he's been president to take insurance away from people in America."
Michael Bennet visited Iowa in February. An earlier version of this post said that he visited the state last month.