Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has been a political success in Colorado, and over the past few years, his name has repeatedly popped up in talks about a Hillary Clinton vice-presidential running mate, most recently on MSNBC's Morning Joe and inVanity Fair — where he ranks in the top seven possibilities as "a reasonably popular governor of an important swing state." And Hickenlooper just told the Denver Post that he talked about the possibility with Hillary Clinton for "a minute or two" when she was in town last week.
If you read his book, Hickenlooper has said, you'll know he's not in the running...and his selection would definitely be something of a curve ball. But in The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics, Hick says the curve was his “signature pitch” when he was playing baseball — so anything's possible.
In the spirit of possibility, here are five reasons why Hick would make a great VP in the Clinton administration...and five reasons why he won't be chosen. (For the record, eight years ago I incorrectly predicted that Sarah Palin would definitely not be John McCain’s running mate for the GOP — so live and learn.)
5. Not Afraid to Take on the Donald
One of the jobs of the Vice President, historically speaking, is to be the Presidential spokesperson for potentially sensitive situations — to speak the truth, express what a lot of Americans might already be thinking — when the President has to defer to diplomacy. In this, our governor has already proven that he has the chops. In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s response was…well, according to Hick, “mean spirited” and “trying to seize the political opportunity.” But that wasn’t where the commentary stopped. “He [Trump] cared nothing for compassion, there was no sense of dignity,” the governor said. Speaking of dignity, Hickenlooper in that moment proved that he could deliver an appropriately dignified smackdown from the U.S. second-in-command.
4. Cool Under Pressure
Gotta hand it to Hickenlooper — the governor knows how to keep his wits about him. Maybe it’s something innate to his personality, or maybe it’s the result of being a restaurateur for so many years — used to thinking fast and not panicking in the face of an unexpected issue. Whatever the reason, Hick’s placidity was on full display at his book talk in Boulder last month, when the proceedings were disrupted by anti-fracking activists. Prevented from speaking, Hickenlooper sat at the piano and just started playing. No matter where you might land on the fracking debate, that showed some class.
3. Delivering a Purple State
Colorado has for the past few national election cycles enjoyed a lot of attention because of our presumed hue — in this case, deep purple, a conflicted combination of GOP red and Democrat blue. But perhaps to our credit as Americans, rooting for the hometown team often (not always — yes, we’re talking about you Al Gore, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio) overcomes our perceived allegiance to a national party. Moving Colorado into the presumptive “win” column for the Democratic ticket is a strong draw.
2. Eccentricity Works
Hick has, from the get-go, made a name for himself through memorable means. This is the guy who publicly offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who could find him a wife, back in the day. This was the guy who appeared on Phil Donahue's show to explain such a thing. And this was the guy who parlayed all that into a winning mayoral race with an ad that predated the Obama “change” message by a good five years. (Of course, the change Hick was referring to was for Denver's meters — or so went the pun.) From that campaign to his later ones, Hickenlooper's willingness to be goofy (wearing a suit in the shower is memorable, at least) has worked well for him over the years.
1. Being Underestimated
In an Esquire interview, Hickenlooper talked about the way people tend to underestimate him, and how he’s “made several careers out of people underestimating [him].” It works: being the surprise in the room, the guy who’s oddly capable when you might have at first thought him easily dismissed. So even when Hickenlooper himself downplays his own chances for the VP nod, it’s tough to dismiss the possibility altogether. After all, this is a guy who’s beaten the odds on a regular basis.
…Keep reading for five reasons why it’s a terrible idea...
5. Colorado Isn’t the Rest of the U.S.
Heck, not even the state of Colorado is representative of the core support for John Hickenlooper, who's a favorite in Denver and Boulder but doesn't play as well in rural counties in Colorado and even the Springs. These are places in Colorado that have a lot more in common with much of the Midwest than does the metro area.
4. His Personal Past
Yes, Hickenlooper is happily remarried, but family values still play strong in the flyover states, and divorce is still a tough sell in some parts of the country. Then there’s the whole Deep Throat thing. No, Hick didn’t star in it or anything, and there are no reports of a strange and damning internet history. But taking your Mom to see a porno flick — even a classic one from the '70s, when the era sort of embraced it for a while —is just a negative political ad waiting to happen.
3. His Age
Sure, 64 years old isn’t what it used to be, and no one is claiming that Hick would be abnormally old in any sense for national office. (By comparison, Hillary Clinton is 68, Donald Trump is 70 and Bernie Sanders is 74.) But given that Hillary is in her late sixties, it’s probably going to be smarter for her to run with someone who’s going to attract the youth vote, and younger running mates tend to do that more naturally. Of course, Elizabeth Warren is 67, but the kids love her. Maybe if Hick ran as the brewmaster candidate, he could overcome the age thing?
2. The Last Colorado Election
Hickenlooper was once mentioned as a potential candidate for America’s top office, not just the second. But he was de-listed by US News and World Report back in 2014, after his reelection to the Colorado governor’s seat proved to be closer than pundits had assumed it would be. Hickenlooper won the race, but not by the margin of his first gubernatorial election, when he slam-dunked his closest rival, Tom Tancredo, by fifteen points. In his reelection bid, he beat GOP challenger Bob Beauprez by a razor-thin margin that took a while to figure out, casting doubt on Hickenlooper’s electability on a national scale. Not exactly the best recommendation for VP, either.
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1. Being Underestimated
Yes, the best reason for his VP candidacy may also be his worst: Hickenlooper is unassuming and humble and consistently underestimated. It works in a lot of situations, especially in business, and apparently in city and state politics. Where it might not work as well is on the national and international stage, where your job is often to represent the nation and the president in a remarkable and confident way, to make everyone feel like someone capable and sure is not only at the helm, but in the second-highest office in the land. It’s a different sort of presence than the one Hickenlooper’s cultivated. Aw-shucks charm can only take a guy so far — and probably not all the way to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just a short walk from the West Wing itself.