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Hickenlooper says ‘I’m going to run for president,’ then waffles

Author: Marianne Goodland - October 31, 2018 - Updated: November 1, 2018

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks during the panel Economic Development at the National Governor Association winter meeting Feb. 25 in Washington, D.C.. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Gov. John Hickenlooper took another step forward in ending the “will-he-or-won’t-he-run-for-president” question this morning.

At a diner in Hooksett, New Hampshire, Hickenlooper told a woman: “I’m the governor of Colorado and I’m going to run for president.”

Adam Sexton — political director for WMUR, the ABC affiliate TV station in Manchester, N.H. — posted a video clip of Hickenlooper saying that on Twitter.

The Colorado governor’s statement drew congratulations from those around him. But then Hickenlooper hesitated, just a bit. “To be honest,” he told the woman behind the counter, “I haven’t made a final decision, and if I say I’m absolutely going to, then there are all kinds of legal ramifications. … I’m leaning strongly.”

On Sept. 17, Hickenlooper formed a so-called leadership political action committee, seen as an important preliminary step in moving toward a presidential run. The Giddyup PAC reported at the end of September that it had raised $280,075 just in that two-week period. According to FEC records, the PAC does not qualify for more than one candidate.

The PAC is allowed under election laws to raise money and other campaign resources to help Hickenlooper travel to raise his profile.

Brad Komar, executive director of Hickenlooper’s Giddyup PAC, told Colorado Politics that “the governor makes clear in the video that he’s joking and in his next sentence, [says] that he’s not made a decision yet. If he had, his wife would have been the first to know.”

Hickenlooper is in New Hampshire to support 2018 candidates, Komar added.

Later in the morning, Hickenlooper told New Hampshire reporter Paul Steinhauser that “I think we’re going to wait until February or March to really make a final decision..we’ve certainly been spending a lot more time thinking about it and I think getting more excited.”

Hickenlooper’s trip to New Hampshire is not a part of his official schedule for the week. His last official event was on Tuesday and he has no public events listed until Friday.

It’s the second time in the last 11 days that he referred to his presidential ambitions. The Des Moines (Iowa) Register reported on Oct. 19 that Hickenlooper seemed to be moving closer to a decision to run. Hickenlooper visited Iowa that week.

According to the Register story, Hickenlooper met with 25 Democratic activists in Iowa. “I think there’s a pretty high probability that we’re going to go ahead and do it,” he said, adding that he is continuing to talk about it with his wife, Robin, the newspaper reported.

Hickenlooper is among at least six prominent Democrats visiting Iowa in October who may be toying with a 2020 run. They include California Sen. Kamala Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Hickenlooper has been mentioned as a presidential candidate going back at least two years. Often named alongside him is Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The two teamed up on on a bipartisan plea to Congress in 2017 on national health care and again earlier this year.

Kasich, however, may have his own aspirations for higher office. In this Twitter exchange earlier this year, Kasich needled Hickenlooper about an April trip to Iowa, stating “no one goes there by accident.”

Hickenlooper shot back, “Hey friend. That’s rich! We were invited by the IA Republican Gov to talk apprenticeship renaissance & STEM . What are you up to in New Hampshire???”

Hickenlooper has frequently said that he was making up his mind about whether to seek the White House. He said Aug. 24 at an event in Denver staged by news outlet Axios that he was talking with friends about the possibility.

In an interview Sept. 17 with Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner, he said he probably would not make up his mind until two or three months after leaving office in January 2019.

“Once you do it, it’s full-time, seven days a week, 70-80 hours a week for, quite possibly, two years,” Hickenlooper told CPR. “I think when you make that kind of commitment, you had better have thought of all the ramifications, not just for myself, but for my family — for my wife, for my son.”

Several recent assessments by national media of top Democratic contenders for president in 2020 have paid scant attention to Hickenlooper if they mentioned him at all, suggesting he may have significant work to do to raise his national profile should he want to become a serious contender.

Colorado Politics was the first to report that Hickenlooper has retained some of his existing staff beyond January. Term limits prevented Hickenlooper for running for re-election this year.

Even if he were to fall short in a race for the White House, there could be other rewards for Hickenlooper.

Over the years, unsuccessful candidates for president often have wound up with consolation prizes. Joe Biden became vice president after losing in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary race. Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton and Rick Perry are among recent examples of presidential contenders who later landed Cabinet posts.

There has also been talk of Hickenlooper challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020 rather than seek national office.

This story has been updated with a more complete quotation of what Gov. John Hickenlooper said in the video clip, plus more detail.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.