Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper spent Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa, kissing babies, serving up brews and generally testing the waters for a potential 2020 presidential run.
Mere weeks removed from his term-limited governorship, the geologist and former brewpub owner met with more than 100 voters at the West Des Moines home of Neil and Debra Salowitz before showing off his bartending skills and chatting up patrons at a nearby brewpub.
"Before I was a mayor and a governor, I was a brewer," Hickenlooper tweeted. "I love the energy, passion, and creativity that goes into the craft, and visiting brewpubs is one of my favorite ways to get to know a place. Thanks for having me, @CourtAveBrew, and for letting me pour a pint!"
Before I was a mayor and a governor, I was a brewer. I love the energy, passion, and creativity that goes into the craft, and visiting brewpubs is one of my favorite ways to get to know a place. Thanks for having me, @CourtAveBrew, and for letting me pour a pint! pic.twitter.com/RKWcGifwEy— John Hickenlooper (@hickforco) January 28, 2019
“Perfectly balanced — hops, malt — and the smoothness is divine!” Hickenlooper said after sipping a local brew, the Des Moines Register newspaper reported.
As one of the nation's early caucus and primary states, Iowa is a favorite stop for presidential hopefuls.
The visit was a preview of what a Hickenlooper campaign might look like, the newspaper noted — "one heavy on retail charm and centered on a promise to bring together a divided electorate."
Hickenlooper spent his time in Iowa bragging up his home state's accomplishments — citing Medicaid expansion and "common sense" universal background checks on gun owners — and touting his ability to unify.
"I'm not screaming and yelling," Hickenlooper said, according to local TV station KCCI. "I'm trying to get people together. I'm trying to find solutions to the problems that are facing everybody."
But he also took jabs at President Donald Trump, saying, at one point, “I was out of work for a couple years, and I can tell you, all those people that got left behind, that voted for Trump who were so pissed off when they lost their job as an auto worker or a steel worker. … I remember what that felt like,” according to the Register.
The Republican National Committee wasn't impressed by Hickenlooper's visit to Iowa -- and, in a statement Sunday, brought up a pending state ethics investigation over travel while he was governor.
The RNC called Hickenlooper an "out-of-touch Democrat mulling a presidential bid. ... Since he's currently under investigation for private flights and gifts, the real question Iowans should ask Hickenlooper while he's out of town is, did he fly commercial or private, and who paid for the ticket?"
Hickenlooper has been to Iowa before while still governor — he gave a speech in Des Moines in October — as well as to other states for speeches, political events and other appearances. And he plans to visit more early primary and caucus states soon, but hasn't locked in travel dates, the spokeswoman said.
He appears to have a way to go in introducing himself to Iowa voters.
A December poll commissioned by the Register, the state's largest newspaper, shows 67 percent of the likely Democratic caucus-goers surveyed don't know enough about Hickenlooper to have an opinion about him.
In terms of familiarity to Iowa Democrats, Hickenlooper finished 13th among the 19 potential candidates that the newspaper poll ranked. (The Register poll did not rank another Colorado presidential maybe, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.)
On the other hand, Hickenlooper did well in the survey among the one-third who do know something about him, with 24 percent holding a favorable impression and 9 percent unfavorable.
The poll of 455 people who said they would likely go to the 2020 party caucus was conducted Dec. 10-13 for the Register by Selzer & Co. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.
Hickenlooper has been saying that although he'd like to have until April or May to make up his mind about a 2020 run, he expects to announce a decision by March.
"You can't drag it out," he said, ".... but you can't go faster than what gets you the right outcomes."
Just ahead of his stop in Iowa, Hickenlooper sat for an interview with CNN and said that "I probably would take the bet that I would run for president."
He added: "I play to win. I don't do something for symbolic benefit and I think a lot of what we have done in Colorado is useful for the conversation. If I run, I am going to run to win. It is not just going to be about making a statement."
He also met recently with potential donors in Los Angeles. And CNN, citing a source close to Hillary Clinton, said that Hickenlooper was among a handful of potential 2020 candidates the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate has met with to discuss the upcoming race.
Mark Harden and Ernest Luning of Colorado Politics contributed to this report.