John Hickenlooper to drop out of presidential race, source says

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is set to announce Thursday that he is ending his bid for the presidency, a person familiar with the decision tells CBS News

Multiple people familiar with his plans have said in recent days that Hickenlooper is expected to drop out of the presidential race and spend time mulling a possible bid for the U.S. Senate, where he has faced pressure to take on Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.  These people asked for anonymity to speak frankly about his deliberations.

Hickenlooper, 67, a onetime Denver mayor and businessman and geologist by training, served as Colorado governor from 2011 to 2019. He has repeatedly said along the campaign trail, “I’m the only candidate in this race who’s actually achieved the big, progressive things politicians in Washington are talking about.”  

Colorado is one of the top targets in Democrats’ efforts to flip the Senate in this next election. The party needs to pick up three seats if President  Trump loses reelection and four if he wins. Republicans are defending 22 out of the 34 seats on the map for the cycle. Only two of the 22 seats are in states Hillary Clinton won in 2016: Colorado and Maine. 

Hickenlooper launched his presidential campaign about five months ago, hoping to ride the wave of success he’s had during his eight years as Colorado’s governor. His presidential policy proposals included plans to expand women’s reproductive care and enact gun control – measures largely based on progressive policies he oversaw in the Rocky Mountain State.  

But Hickenlooper has struggled to have a breakout moment on the campaign trail and has instead been focused on challening Sen. Bernie Sanders on Medicare for all, the Green New Deal and Sanders’ support for “democratic socialism.”

In July, Hickenlooper finally got headlines but those headlines came when six senior staffers left the campaign. A source cited poor fundraising as an indicator of trouble in the water. The former governor raised at least $1.1 million in the second fundraising quarter, a little over half of what the governor raised in the first quarter of his presidential race. 

Some of his senior staff had hoped he would explore a Senate run but the six individuals left when Hickenlooper confirmed he would not fold, according to the source familiar with the campaign.

I don’t think that’s my calling card,” said Hickenlooper, who answered reporters’ questions on running for Senate during an Iowa campaign stop just a few days later.

The campaign continued to insist Hickenlooper was staying in the race. He launched a second Winnebago tour through Iowa and just this past weekend, addressed voters at the Iowa State Fair Political Soapbox. Afterwards, Hickenlooper again answered questions of a Senate-run, telling reporters if he was going run for president, he and his staff had to stay “laser-focused.”

But just four days before then, The Gazette reported Hickenlooper as having said, “I’ve never ruled anything out,” in a satellite radio interview.

Eleven Democrats are already running in the Colorado primary to unseat Gardner and a few of them are raking in cash.  Former state Sen. Michael Johnston raised $1.6 million and former Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Dan Baer raised $1.1 million in the second quarter. Hickenlooper in his presidential bid only raised around $1.2 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings.   

Stephanie Raimrez, Eleanor Watson and Ed O’Keefe contributed reporting. 

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