Beto O’Rourke has been struggling in the polls.
Steve Bullock isn’t registering at all in some voter surveys, and John Hickenlooper hasn’t even qualified yet for the next Democratic debate.
Maybe some of the lowest performers in the Democratic presidential primary should compete closer to home.
All three candidates hail from states where competitive 2020 Senate races beckon. And all three have the name recognition to give them a significant head start.
In Montana, Sen. Jon Tester, elected in 2006, has already proven a Democrat can handily win a U.S. Senate seat, and Bullock defied Montana’s red political roots by winning the 2012 and 2016 governor’s races.
Bullock’s got the name recognition and popularity that would help him clear a primary field.
He would face off against Sen. Steve Daines, who is now listed as the clear favorite to win reelection to a second term.
The nonpartisan campaign analysis website Inside Elections lists Daines’ seat as “solid Republican.”
But the seat would become competitive if Bullock entered the race, Inside Elections editor and publisher Nathan Gonzales told the Washington Examiner.
“If Bullock runs for the Senate, it would change the Senate battleground because Montana is not currently considered a competitive race,” he said.
Hickenlooper, Colorado’s former governor, would, like Bullock, enjoy statewide recognition. Assuming Hickenlooper won the primary, he would face off against a very vulnerable incumbent, Republican Cory Gardner.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report lists Gardner’s seat as a toss-up. It’s considered one of the two most competitive of any Senate race, alongside the Arizona seat occupied by Republican Martha McSally.
“Hickenlooper’s decision is less critical for the party because Colorado is already in play,” Gonzales said.
Hickenlooper, in an interview Sunday with Chris Frates on Sirius XM Radio, left his future up in the air.
“I’ve never ruled out anything,” Hickenlooper said when Frates inquired about a Senate run.
Hickenlooper said he’d “be a fool” to stay in the presidential primary race if his low poll numbers stay stagnant.
Gardner faces a tough battle to win a second term. The Colorado electorate is increasingly voting for Democrats. The state picked Hillary Clinton over President Trump by a five-point margin in 2016.
So far, 11 candidates are fighting to become Gardner’s Democratic challenger in 2020, but Hickenlooper, who served as governor for two terms, ending in early January, would be the favorite to win a primary if he jumped into the race, some analysts predict.
A mid-July Public Policy Polling survey found Hickenlooper leading the state’s Democratic primary field by double digits, with 44% of support in a hypothetical matchup.
O’Rourke has already proven himself as a tough competitor for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas. He nearly defeated incumbent Ted Cruz last year in what was once considered among the most Republican states in the nation.
A June 6 Quinnipiac poll found 60% of Democrats wanted O’Rourke to run for Senate, not president.
Texas-based Democratic strategist Colin Strother said O’Rourke has plenty of time to decide and could even run for both the Senate and White House.
The filing deadline in Texas is Dec. 9, and Texas law would permit him to stay in both races simultaneously if he wanted to pick that option.
But Strother warned that despite O’Rourke’s strong but failed bid in 2018 against Cruz, when he came within 2.5 percentage points of winning, challenging Republican incumbent John Cornyn, who has served in the Senate since 2002, could be far more difficult.
“In Texas, we say, ‘Everybody hates Ted Cruz,' but not everyone hates John Cornyn,” Strother told the Washington Examiner. “Elections are about timing and matchups and there is nothing that indicates his odds of winning the Senate are any better than his odds of winning the presidency, or ultimately ending up as a vice presidential nominee, cabinet member, or ambassador.”