Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper ended his campaign for president Thursday after months spent waging a lonely fight against socialism and for his own brand of pragmatic politics.
“In almost every aspect, this journey has been more exciting and more rewarding than I ever imagined," Hickenlooper, sitting outdoors on a porch with an American flag in the background, said in a video produced by his campaign.
"Although, of course," he added with a chuckle, "I did imagine a very different conclusion."
Hickenlooper was not the first to exit the 20-person-plus Democratic primary race, but he leaves at a time when there's added pressure from voters on candidates to shrink the massive field ahead of September's debate, which many candidates currently running will not qualify for.
"Today, I’m ending my campaign for president," he said in the campaign video. "But I will never stop believing that America can only move forward when we work together. Don’t tell me that we can’t figure out how to lower prescription drug costs or tackle climate change. Don’t tell me we have to accept the number of gun deaths or the reduced job prospects of too many Americans."
Hickenlooper, who was governor for eight years, had not registered in polling and was very unlikely to make the third debate in September, after being part of the first two. “I’ve never been a great debater, right? It’s not something I studied or wanted to be good at or practiced,” he told BuzzFeed News after the second debate.
He had tried to sell his record as governor, including on passing gun control, as a sign that he would be able to get substantive things done as president. But he did not manage to cut through in a sprawling field, which includes other former or current executives and even another politician from his own state. Several senior staffers on his campaign team quit in early July and reportedly asked Hickenlooper to do the same.
And at June's California Democratic Party convention, he assailed what he saw as a leftward drift in his own party. “We know that it is absolutely essential to beat Donald Trump — but it is not sufficient. We must address the divisions tearing us apart. We must tackle the kitchen-table challenges facing Americans," he said. "But let me be clear: If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer.”
The activists in the crowd booed. But the argument could be more useful in a statewide race back home.
Hickenlooper did not announce a decision Thursday, but he has not ruled out a run for Senate against Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. The race is already expected to be one of the most closely watched congressional battles next year. There are already several Democrats running in the primary for the seat, and it's not a given that Hickenlooper would come out on top.
"People want to know what comes next for me," Hickenlooper said in Thursday's video. "I’ve heard from so many Coloradans who want me to run for the United States Senate. They remind me how much is at stake for our country and our state. I intend to give that some serious thought. I’ve been a geologist, a small businessman, a mayor, a governor, and a candidate for president of the United States. At each step, I’ve always looked forward with hope. And I always will. Thank you."