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Hickenlooper closes door to presidential run, opens one that could lead to the U.S. Senate

Hickenlooper closes door to presidential run, opens one that could lead to the U.S. Senate 1

In a sign that the sprawling field of Democrats running for president in 2020 may finally be thinning, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper ended his candidacy Thursday.

He said in a video that he was giving a run for U.S. Senate back in his home state against Republican Eric Gardner, who is running for re-election, “some serious thought.”

“Now today, I am ending my campaign for president. But I will never stop believing that America can only move forward when we work together,” Hickenlooper said. “I know that when people work hard enough, get past their differences, you can make amazing progress. That’s what we did in Colorado and I’m so proud to travel around the country and tell people that change is possible when you work together.”

Hickenlooper is the third presidential candidate to drop out of the race over the past two months, joining former former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel (Alaska) and U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA).

He launched his campaign in March promising to rely on years of experience as governor and former mayor of Denver to run the country, and vowing to stand up to President Donald Trump, whom he called a “bully.”

Hickenlooper tried to connect with Americans by mentioning his career as a laid-off geologist and the owner of a brew pub. But he never was able to make a dent in the national polls or garner the attention needed to win the presidency, in a robust and competitive field of contenders.

Hickenlooper closes door to presidential run, opens one that could lead to the U.S. Senate 2

He said he is now considering a Senate run, although he once said he felt he was “not cut out to be,” a legislator, having served mostly in executive functions.

Hickenlooper had a fair share of successes as Colorado’s governor from 2011 to 2019. He worked with Republicans to expand Medicaid and passed methane gas regulations. He also helped pass gun control laws in the state, following the 2012 mass shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, including universal background checks for gun sales and banning magazines that hold over 15 rounds of ammunition.

He referred to those legislative successes and the state’s dramatic job growth that occurred under his watch in his video announcing the end of his candidacy.

Voters he spoke with on the campaign “want solutions, they want this country moving forward. They are sick of the chaos and disfunction of Washington D.C. and I couldn’t agree with them more,” Hickenlooper said. “I ran for president because this country is being ripped apart by politics and partisan games while our biggest problems go unsolved.”

With Hickenlooper gone, there are still 23 Democratic candidates running for president. There has been increasing pressure on other low-polling candidates, including former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, to drop out and run for Senate in their hometown states where they have a shot at flipping critical Republican seats.

O’Rourke became a national celebrity after narrowly losing to Republican Ted Cruz in Texas’ U.S. Senate race last November. He recently regained momentum and relaunched his campaign after being praised for galvanizing residents in his hometown El Paso, Texas, following this month’s mass shooting carried out by a white supremacist that killed 22 people.

As it loses contenders, the Democratic field also has gained one or two.

Two-term former Rep. Joe Sestak (PA) joined the race in mid-June. And Tom Steyer, a billionaire Democratic donor, announced his run for president in July, pledging $100 million from his own coffers to support his campaign.

Despite the late start to his campaign, Steyer is close to qualifying for a spot at September’s Democratic presidential debate. (Steyer is a former board member of the Center for American Progress. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent site housed at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.)

Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia state representative who narrowly lost to Republican Brian Kemp in the race for governor thanks to blatant voter suppression tactics, announced on Thursday that she would not run for president. Instead, she is using her popularity to launch Fair Fight 2020, an initiative to help enfranchise voters in a number of key swing states.

So far, nine Democratic candidates have qualified for September’s Democratic presidential candidate debate by polling at least 2% in four recent national or early-state polls and garnering campaign contributions from at least 130,000 unique donors from at least 20 states. That includes former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, philanthropist Andrew Yang, O’Rourke, and U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris (CA), Bernie Sanders (VT), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Cory Booker (NJ), and Amy Klobuchar (MN).

Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI) are also within striking distance of making the debate stage, the New York Times reported.

But it is unclear whether other long-shot candidates who are unlikely to qualify for the debate, such as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, author Marianne Williamson, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (CO), and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, will follow Hickenlooper’s lead and drop out.