By Nicholas Riccardi, The Associated Press
John Hickenlooper is expected to drop out of the Democratic presidential primary on Thursday.
The two-term former Colorado governor, who ran as a moderate warning of the perils of extreme partisanship, struggled with fundraising and low polling numbers. His planned departure from the 2020 race was confirmed Wednesday night by a Democrat who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly before the announcement and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Hickenlooper, 67, became a political giant in Colorado for his quirky, consensus-driven and unscripted approach to politics. He once jumped out of a plane to sell a ballot measure to increase state spending and won two statewide elections in a purple state during Republican wave years. He was previously the mayor of Denver.
He launched his longshot White House bid in March, promising to unite the country. Instead, he quickly became a political punch line.
Shortly before taking his first trip to Iowa as a candidate, Hickenlooper, who became a multimillionaire founding a series of brewpubs, balked at calling himself a capitalist on national television.
Then, at a CNN town hall, he recounted how he once took his mother to see a pornographic movie. With the campaign struggling to raise money, his staff urged Hickenlooper to instead challenge Colorado’s Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. But Hickenlooper stayed in and hired another group of staffers in a last-ditch effort to turn around his campaign.
Positioning himself as a common-sense candidate who couldn’t be labeled a socialist by Republicans, Hickenlooper couldn’t make his voice heard in the crowded Democratic presidential field. It didn’t help that, by Hickenlooper’s own admission, he’s a mediocre debater and erratic public speaker.
In the end, he couldn’t even scrape together enough money for many of his trademark quirky ads, only launching one in which avid beer drinkers toast Hickenlooper by comparing him to favorite brews.
MORE: John Hickenlooper’s record is more nuanced than he suggests in presidential campaign launch
It’s unclear whether Hickenlooper plans to run against Gardner, whom national Democrats have urged him to take on since last year. He’s repeatedly said he’s not interested in the Senate and prefers an executive position.
Gardner, 44, is widely considered one of the most vulnerable Republican senators in the country because of Colorado’s shift to the left. If Hickenlooper wanted to run against him, he’d first have to get through another crowded Democratic primary field.
Numerous Colorado Democrats have launched races against Gardner and many have indicated they’d stay in, even if Hickenlooper enters the contest.
MORE: Here’s who’s running to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020 — and who’s thinking about it
Hickenlooper isn’t the first Democratic hopeful to end his 2020 presidential bid. U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California announced his departure in July.
Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet remains in the crowded Democratic presidential primary. If he drops out of the race or loses, he still has until 2024 before his term expires.