CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — John Hickenlooper traveled more than 500 miles in his second day of campaigning in Iowa Saturday, bouncing from a small business to a college bar to several house parties and ending the day, somewhat hoarse, at a brewpub in Cedar Rapids.
Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucus — on Feb. 3, 2020 — is a long ways away, but the former brewpub owner, Colorado governor and now presidential candidate told Iowa voters that he's willing to give a year of his life "to make it happen."
Here's a look at some of his stops:
10:30 a.m. -- Charles City
The first campaign visit of the day was to this northern Iowa town of 7,400 and to the Iowa Title & Realty Co. office owned by Jim Davis. "I'm the small-business wing of the party," Davis told Colorado Politics.
About 50 people crammed into the back room, which quickly became standing room only. Even a torrential rain/snow mix, cold and wind couldn't dampen the interest of local voters who plan to participate in next year's caucus.
Davis said he likes that Hickenlooper is pragmatic -- a description that surfaced several times throughout the two days of campaigning -- and that he talks about what he's for, including the major theme of his campaign: the collaborative approach.
As opposed to Friday night's event at the Confluence Brewing Co. in Des Moines, which drew a crowd of mostly young people, the Charles City crowd was older and most knew each other.
But Hickenlooper has a ways to go before voters stop asking who he is and instead focus on what he would do as president.
Once he entered the room, Diane Melrose, who was sitting in the back, asked, "Who is that guy?" Said her friend, Carole Frye, "That's him," meaning Hickenlooper.
Hickenlooper, in a peacoat, began with his standard stump speech: How he came to Colorado and that his career as a geologist went by the wayside, that he decided to start up a brewpub "before anyone knew what that was," and his decision to run for mayor, and later, governor. Those paths provided the "appetite for that vision of working together," he said.
In Charles City, Hickenlooper was more focused on a rural message, drawing on his efforts to see that high-speed internet reaches every corner of Colorado and how that will help make Colorado's rural economy the strongest in the nation.
Defeating President Donald Trump is essential, but it isn't enough, Hickenlooper said. Health care costs are out of control, climate change is reaching a critical tipping point, and automation and artificial intelligence means kids "of all ages" need new skill sets, he said.
One Charles City resident asked the governor about how Colorado is spending its tax revenue from marijuana. Hickenlooper was quick to point out that he was not in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, but that was the voters' decision.
"It's no fun to be in conflict" with federal law, which still classifies marijuana as illegal, he said. And Hickenlooper also said he's told governors that they should not legalize marijuana for the revenue.
Eventually, the entire nation will legalize marijuana, he said. "I don't think we're going back."
One Colorado resident -- Chris Smith of Arvada -- turned up in the Charles City event on his way back from a job in northern Wisconsin. "This man made Colorado better," Smith told the audience. "I'm an independent and I will vote for him."
Hickenlooper also took aim at Trump over the 2017 tax law, stating that $250 billion of the tax breaks went to foreign companies and individuals.
"It will take some level of new taxes" to address the nation's exploding debt," he said. That might mean increasing taxes on the wealthy back to the 39 percent that existed prior to the law's passage, and "rebalancing" corporate tax cuts.
Asked one voter, how do you stand out among a "ragingly" progressive field? "I look at the challenge" of working together, Hickenlooper replied. "Iowa is key to this election, and I'm running to repair the crisis of division."
"Iowa and Colorado are sister states," he said, adding that he has farmers and ranchers who are ready to campaign for him in Iowa. "You will be sick of me," he said.
12:30 p.m. -- Cedar Falls
The campaign made a last-minute stop in Cedar Falls, population 41,600, where college students at the University of Northern Iowa were getting ready to canvas for a state Senate candidate in a special election to be held on March 19. Hickenlooper spoke briefly to the students, and then moved on to...
2:30 p.m. -- Dubuque
Hickenlooper stopped at the 1916 Craftsman home of attorney Jack Wertzberger in this city of 58,300 on the border of Iowa and Wisconsin. The walls on the first floor are covered with art and photographs, several featuring Wertzberger with former Vice President Joe Biden, who is exploring his own run for the White House.
At this event, attended by at least 60, Steve Drahozal, the Democratic party chair for Dubuque County, said he's looking for someone who can speak to rural Iowa and rural Americans. And he wants a Democratic candidate who can carry Iowa in the general election, not just win the Democratic caucus.
The gathering drew people from across the state line, in Wisconsin. Roy Waldren of Madison said he's a left-of-center guy and likes candidates with practice, hands-on experience. He wants someone who is "genuine, that you could sit down in a living room and have a conversation with," he said.
Hickenlooper made an impressive entrance, making a beeline for an upright piano in the living room and sitting down for a few moments of boogie woogie, to the delight of the audience.
"Feel free to make yourself at home," quipped Wertzberger. "I just did!" Hickenlooper laughed.
Down to the serious business of campaigning, Hickenlooper said he's running for president because "I love this country. I can beat Donald Trump," which earned him the biggest applause of the afternoon.
He also briefly touched on immigration, in response to a question. He said he supports the Dreamers, young people brought to this country by their parents illegally who hope to obtain legal residence.
Hickenlooper noted 70 percent of the country supports a pathway to citizenship for these young people. That's the easy part, he said. The bigger challenge, he said, is the 9 to 10 million people without legal documents, who work on farms, small businesses or own homes.
"It's crazy" to try to expel them, he added, "and while borders matter, we don't need a wall" intended for the political vanity of the president.
Hickenlooper also said that Trump sold farmers "a bill of goods" on tariffs, which he said have ripped out the soul of the economy.
7:30 p.m. -- Cedar Rapids
The last meet and greet of the day was held in the backroom of a noisy brewpub/arcade in this city of 132,200. While pinball machines dinged away, Hickenlooper, who by then was growing hoarse, spoke with the help of a microphone to about 100 gathered to hear his story, from geologist to brewpub owner to mayor to governor.
How does a candidate tell the same story multiple times and still keep it fresh? Hickenlooper told Colorado Politics he keeps in mind that he's telling those stories for the first time to a new audience. "It helps me grow," he added.
And lest you think he spent the day only within the friendly confines of the Democratic Party, it took just one person to remind him that Republicans are listening.
During a moment when he said he could beat Trump, a patron in the front room of the pub yelled: "Make America great again!"
"That's why I love brewpubs," Hickenlooper joked.