Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

John Hickenlooper for president? First, he has to get to the State Capitol

John Hickenlooper has not yet been inaugurated as Colorado's next governor, and the city of which he is still mayor -- for another 26 hours or so -- is buried in the sort of snowstorm that shows how much Mother Nature loves mocking Denver's politicians. Remember Bill McNichols?

But already, yesterday's New York Times Magazine has him aiming much higher than the State Capitol.

"The John Hickenlooper Exception," by Frank Bruni (the NYT's former restaurant reviewer -- but then, Hick is a former restaurateur), is lengthy, and includes most of Hickenlooper's greatest hits -- his mother washing and reusing wax paper, the bride bounty when Hick was looking for a wife, how the Wynkoop's Running of the Pigs turned to the Pleasuring of the Pigs, the campaign to keep the Mile High Stadium name, his dark-horse run for mayor and his incredible popularity over the past seven years in that office. And then it ends with this:

Hickenlooper, who is 58, says he has no ambitions for higher office. To be more accurate, he says there's no point in having them, because he's too unorthodox a Democrat to be recruited for, and supported in, a national race. Still, assuming his first term as governor goes well and he's re-elected in 2014, it's hard not to believe that there will be at least a few murmurs from Democratic operatives, and a few stirrings within Hickenlooper himself, about the presidential race of 2016. And it's just as hard not to wonder if, at some point, an unorthodox, boundary-blurring candidate will be what both parties decide to trot out for a change.

For now his first-term game plan is not known: he was vague with me and also with dozens of reporters and editors at an annual meeting of the Colorado Press Association in Denver. He told the journalists that he was still making key hires and had not yet even read the recommendations of the many transition task forces he created.

He seemed interested mostly in showing his audience a friendly face. When one reporter addressed him as "Governor-elect," he said, "Governor-elect Hickenlooper -- what is that, nine syllables?" His count, maybe not so off-the-cuff, was dead-on. He insisted that reporters take a shortcut. His first name, John, would do.

You can read those reports (it takes as long as a plane ride to Colorado -- if you're not using them to decide your cabinet) and get the latest on the thirty gubernatorial appointments Hickenlooper can make at

Just don't pay close attention to the time that site gives for the inauguration: As of 6 a.m. today, it showed Hick getting sworn in 21 hours hence -- at a very chilly 3 a.m. January 11. The ceremony -- which is outdoors -- is actually set for 10 a.m. tomorrow; ninety minutes after Hickenlooper resigns as mayor of Denver and walks across a very snowy Civic Center towards the Capitol. But by then, deputy mayor Bill Vidal will have been sworn in as Denver's official mayor -- his ceremony will be the next day, and indoors -- and the plows will be his problem.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "John Hickenlooper making appointments fast -- but only half as many as when he was mayor."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun