Recognizing his dire circumstance, Hickenlooper shook up his staff after the last debate when he emerged with weak reviews and still at “one” percent or less in follow-up polls. The next round of debates, starting in September, have a “two” percent polling threshold, which Hickenlooper and most of his 12 fellow “one” percent candidates wouldn’t hit.
One, Eric Swalwell, a little known California congressman who tried to emerge at the last debate taking on Joe Biden as the “too old generation,” quit. Calls are growing for more “one” percent candidates to exit the stage. Hickenlooper is repeatedly being asked to shift to the Colorado Senate race against vulnerable Republican incumbent, Cory Gardner.
In recent interviews, Hickenlooper is beginning to recognize the difficulty of his position.
- Not a staff issue. He corrected the impression his lack of momentum was staff related. In fact, the problem is that neither Hickenlooper’s quirky personality nor his moderate, progressive message has found a constituency in the Democratic electorate in Iowa or nationally. And, as opposed to Michael Bennet, he’s been campaigning for more than nine months, hard at it since March.
- It’s not the lack of exposure. He’s had numerous interviews on cable and network news shows, including Morning Joe, the Sunday public affairs panels and a CNN town hall.
- It’s not money. At least initially, his announcement was accompanied by a $2 million haul, but it has run dry as Hickenlooper has failed to spark much interest from his media exposure or appearances.
- Next debate will be tough. Hickenlooper has said he’s not a great debater. It may not matter at the July event. There will be an air of desperation on the stage as at least half the candidates realize time is running out.
Hickenlooper is being promoted as a top senate candidate, but he’s made it very clear he’s not interested. Beyond that, the politics of the race is well underway, with a host of candidates already raising more than $3 million. A messy primary is not a political legacy Hickenlooper wants to leave.
Interestingly, as some of the first round of candidates leaves the field, there are more lining up to enter the race. Billionaire Tom Steyer, claiming he will spend $100 million, has just announced, and Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, continues to be encouraged to enter the race.