Around the same time last night, August 14, as reports surfaced that former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper would be confirming today that he's ending his misbegotten bid for the presidency while he considers a possible run against vulnerable U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, the two biggest comics in late night were roasting him for thinking he had a chance to earn the nation's highest office in the first place.
Essentially, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon and Late Night main man Stephen Colbert kicked Hick when he was down. But he may not stay there for long, particularly in Colorado.
In a video statement released at 11 a.m., Hickenlooper says in part, "Today, I’m ending my campaign for President. But I will never stop believing that America can only move forward when we work together. Don’t tell me that we can’t figure out how to lower prescription drug costs or tackle climate change. Don’t tell me we have to accept the number of gun deaths or the reduced job prospects of too many Americans."
He adds: "People want to know what comes next for me. I’ve heard from so many Coloradans who want me to run for the United States Senate. They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state. I intend to give that some serious thought. I’ve been a geologist, a small businessman, a Mayor, a Governor and a candidate for President of the United States. At each step, I’ve always looked forward with hope. And I always will."
Here's the clip, entitled "Thank You."
In March, shortly after Hickenlooper made his presidential-race announcement, we published a list of the five challenges he needed to overcome in order to have a chance. Let's see how he did.
1. Hardly Anyone Outside Colorado Knows Who the Hell He Is
At first blush, getting a name like Hickenlooper to stick in the heads of potential voters seems easy. But Hick struggled to stand out among the many other Oval Office applicants. Practically his only success in this respect was the moment during a CNN debate last month when he waved his hands to mimic Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, which worked better as a GIF than as the foundation of a national movement.
Meanwhile, Hickenlooper tried to connect with voters by way of his personal journey, including his past as a brewpub owner — which explains the beer koozie his minions were passing out at the Iowa State Fair this past weekend, during what essentially became his final chance to climb onto a presidential soapbox. One side of the koozie reads, "Brewing for Change" printed inside an outline of the state, while the other asks supporters to text the word "HICKIA," which presumably stands for "Hick Iowa" but sounds like a medical condition produced by too many hickeys.
2. The Brand Marketing That Worked in Colorado Will Be a Tougher Sell on a National Level
In Colorado, Hickenlooper used wacky campaign commercials to establish himself as a likable, accessible pol. In contrast, his first video as a presidential candidate portrayed him as a grim, steadfast defender of American values, as epitomized by the screen capture seen at the top of this post. Much of his other messaging followed suit.
The change in tactics was understandable: He wouldn't have been taken seriously if he'd deployed humor as he has here, in spots that found him skydiving or taking a shower while wearing a suit. But the image that emerged wasn't nearly memorable enough to help him break out of the Democratic presidential pack.
3. The Democratic Presidential Field Is Almost as Big as the Duggar Family
In March, we noted that "we're not quite at the 19 Kids and Counting point for Dems seeking to be commander-in-chief, but close." Back then, the candidate count stood at twelve: Hickenlooper plus New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, ex-Maryland representative John Delaney, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, California Senator Kamala Harris, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Texas author Marianne Williamson and New York businessman Andrew Yang.
And now? Ballotpedia cites 24 Democrats, including the likes of Tom Steyer, Joe Sestak and Wayne Messam. Take that, Duggars. The departure of Hickenlooper will lower this number by one, but the gaggle remains enormous. And even though Hick made the stage for the first two major debates, he continued to be ranked in what was humiliatingly described as the "lower tier."
4. Moderation May Not Be a Virtue
The anger felt by the Democratic electorate over the reign of President Donald Trump appears to be pushing the party in a progressive direction. Hickenlooper swam against the tide by trying to come across as the adult in the room and regularly belittling socialism. It didn't work.
5. The Money Problem
Candidates need to rack up an enormous number of contributors in order to qualify for the next big debate, scheduled for September 12 — and as our Chase Woodruff has revealed, Hickenlooper had fallen short in this respect. The 14,000 individual donors he'd racked up as of last week put him in eighteenth place out of 21 so-called major candidates. And without debate exposure, his presidential efforts were doomed.
Enter Jimmy Fallon, whose Hickenlooper bit can be seen below at about the twenty-second mark.
"Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper is thinking of dropping out of the presidential race," Jimmy Fallon began. "'Don't do it!' said absolutely no one."
Fallon then asked the audience, "Do you guys know about John Hickenlooper?" After a moment of crowd silence, he interjected: "Yeah, that's part of the problem. He's leaving the race. When he broke the news to all his supporters, they were like, 'Cool, Dad, thanks for telling us.' It makes sense. Right now he's polling at zero percent."
Shortly thereafter, Fallon introduced what he characterized as a collage of moments from Hickenlooper's campaign — but the first images that came up didn't depict Hick, but ex-Maryland congressman John Delaney, another presidential no-hoper. A beat later, Fallon asked for the Hick tribute again, but this time, the person spotlighted was Ohio Representative Tim Ryan. And the third figure to be showcased? The animated General from a series of ubiquitous insurance ads.
Stephen Colbert took a similarly dismissive tack in this clip, which starts with Hick.
"Hickenlooper has struggled to gain traction and is considering ending his presidential bid and entering the race for Colorado's Republican-held Senate seat," Colbert told his crowd, adding. "Bra-vo! Good for you! I like that. You see, finally a man willing to step up, put aside his ego, and do what is good for the country! That guy should run for president."
Next, Colbert referenced a recent Denver Post poll showing that should he jump into the Colorado senatorial fire, he'd lead the other declared candidates by 51 percent — "which shocked Hickenlooper; he did not know poll numbers could have two digits."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Colbert pointed out that Hickenlooper was "taking the idea of dropping out seriously. In fact, last weekend, Hickenlooper hopped into Senator Michael Bennet's car to discuss his impending decision. Bennet listened to Hickenlooper carefully, then thoughtfully replied, 'Who are you?'"
Actually, fellow presidential aspirant Bennet was live on MSNBC last night when host Lawrence O'Donnell shared the news about Hickenlooper's impending withdrawal. Bennet was careful not to confirm the information, but he did say that if Hick decided to run for Senate, "he would win."
Which is more than he could say if he continued running for president.
This post has been updated to include John Hickenlooper's video and statement about ending his presidential campaign.