Hickenlooper expected to quit Democratic presidential race as soon as Thursday

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is preparing to withdraw from the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination and could announce a decision as early as Thursday, according to three knowledgeable Democrats.

Hickenlooper has been under pressure from national and state Democrats to abandon his presidential ambitions and to instead challenge Sen. Cory Gardner (R), who is regarded as one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans in the country in 2020.

Hickenlooper reportedly has not made a final decision about the Senate, according to two knowledgable people. A third Democrat following the movements in Colorado said he believed that Hickenlooper will join the Senate race soon, although did not predict the exact timing.

Hickenlooper has held conversations recently with national and state Democrats about the possibility, and a recent poll showed that he would be the strong favorite to win the Democratic Senate primary.

The former two-term governor began to inform people in Colorado on Wednesday of his likely decision to quit the presidential race, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The Associated Press reported that he would end his bid Thursday.

Hickenlooper, who finished his tenure as governor at the beginning of the year, has struggled to translate his popularity in Colorado to the national campaign. In a field of more than 20 candidates, Hickenlooper has remained mired near the bottom of the pack, scratching to top 1 percent in most national polls.

He participated in the first two debates, in Miami and Detroit, but has not met the qualifications established by the Democratic National Committee for the third debate, which will be held in Houston in mid-September.

Hickenlooper governed as a business-friendly Democrat in Colorado while advocating some progressive policies. He positioned himself in the nomination contest as a pragmatic moderate.

In the first two debates he challenged progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for their advocacy of Medicare-for-all and other programs that come with sizeable price tags. Hickenlooper said he preferred a more incremental approach, including adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act. He described this as an “evolution, not a revolution.”

“If we turn towards socialism, we run the risk of helping to reelect the worst president in American history,” he said in Miami. In Detroit, he warned that some elements in the Green New Deal, a proposal to deal with climate change, are so controversial that, by advocating them, Democrats “might as well FedEx the election to Donald Trump.”

Those warnings, however, failed to find an audience among Democratic voters, with former vice president Joe Biden occupying the space Hickenlooper sought to fill and other candidates also seeking to emerge as an alternative to Biden and in contrast to candidates like Warren and Sanders.

The Senate campaign would offer Hickenlooper a fresh opportunity to take his political career to the national level. A poll conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group for an unnamed national organization showed Hickenlooper with a massive lead in a potential Democratic Senate primary, favored by 61 percent of Democrats. The nearest rival came in at 10 percent.

Hickenlooper has indicated to people that he knows he would start a campaign for the Senate as the strongest Democratic in the field and has hinted that he will make a decision about a possible Senate bid in the very near future.

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