A source familiar with his plans confirmed reports that Hickenlooper will make the announcement Thursday. Hickenlooper won’t be the first to exit the 20-plus person Democratic primary race, but he’d be leaving 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.
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 debates.
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.”
Hickenlooper is not expected to announce a decision now, 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 races 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.
“As Democrats, if we don’t define a clear space between us and socialism, we run the risk of helping to reelect the worst president in American history, and we should take that very seriously,” he told BuzzFeed News in June. “The Republicans are definitely already trying to paint us into a corner as socialists, and we need to be very clear to say we are not socialists. We believe we can create a better country, with a better future, but it’s not through massive [expansions] of government.”