Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper suspended his presidential campaign Thursday but said he will take a serious look at running for Senate.
“I ran for president because this country is being ripped apart by politics and partisan games while our biggest problems go unsolved,” he said in a video statement. “Today, I’m ending my campaign for president. But I will never stop believing that America can only move forward when we work together.”
Hickenlooper, a two-term governor, failed to gain ground amid a sprawling field of Democrats. In July, POLITICO reported that Hickenlooper’s campaign was in shambles and that his own senior team urged him to bow out then. At the time, the ex-governor told advisers he wanted to give it another month on the presidential campaign trail.
While Hickenlooper landed twice on the debate stage, he failed to emerge from polling in the single digits. His decision to drop out came after careful thought over the last month and amid lagging fundraising. He was not expected to qualify for the September debates, which the campaign expected would only further hinder his polling and fundraising, a campaign staffer said.
The decision to terminate his campaign also came as Hickenlooper contemplates a Senate run. In his video statement, Hickenlooper said he’s heard from many Coloradans who want him to jump into the race against vulnerable Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.
“They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state,” Hickenlooper said. “I intend to give that some serious thought.”
While Hickenlooper appeared at a major Democratic Party event in Iowa over the weekend, he broke away to take a private drive with Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a meeting first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by the campaign source, further fueling speculation about his future plans. Gardner is a top target for Senate Democrats in 2020.
Hickenlooper and his team have not reached out directly to potential rival Democratic candidates currently running for Senate, according to several Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Several of the candidates signaled last week that they would be unlikely to drop out of the race if Hickenlooper ran. They reiterated that position Thursday.
Former state Sen. Mike Johnston, whose Senate campaign outraised Hickenlooper’s presidential bid last quarter, said in a statement that the former governor had a “distinguished career of service” and faced an “enormous choice” in the coming weeks about joining the Senate race but that he is running because he is best positioned to defeat Gardner.
“I am so grateful for the support we have received from people in places across the state, am energized by the campaign that lies ahead, and excited to win back control of the Senate and get to work for the people of Colorado,” Johnston said.
Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, another candidate already in the race, said in a local radio interview Thursday that Hickenlooper’s decision would have no effect on his own candidacy.
“What I heard Gov. Hickenlooper tell everybody who asked is that he wasn’t cut out to be a senator and didn’t want the job. I respect that,” Romanoff said. “I’m trying to focus on the things I can control and John’s decision isn’t one of them."
And Angela Williams, a state senator among the Democrats already running for Senate, said of a potential Hickenlooper bid: “This won’t be a coronation.”
“He spent his time in Iowa running for president and as governor working and campaigning against bold, progressive solutions that will move Colorado and the country forward,” Williams said in a statement. “If he’s going to switch gears and run for the Senate, he has a lot to explain to Colorado voters.”