John Hickenlooper's 2020 presidential campaign underwent a major staffing shakeup Monday as the former Colorado governor attempts to break from the back of the pack in a crowded Democratic primary field.
Multiple Democratic sources tell Colorado Politics that none of the Hickenlooper staffers was fired, stressing that the shuffle amounts to a campaign reset as Hickenlooper takes stock following his failure to get a bump out of the June 27 debate and a day after the most recent fundraising quarter ended.
Just hours after news broke that Hickenlooper's finance director was jumping to a primary rival's campaign, Hickenlooper announced that he had named a new campaign manager, and his campaign spokeswoman said she is moving on.
M.E. Smith, deputy campaign manager for Hickenlooper's successful 2014 re-election as governor, will replace Brad Komar, who managed the 2014 campaign, at the head of his presidential campaign, Hickenlooper said.
"M.E. has shown again and again that she knows how to lead successful campaigns in politically-difficult terrain," Hickenlooper said in a statement late Monday. "With her extensive experience in political strategy, campaign management, and policy, I could not be more excited to have her leading the team."
Also, Hickenlooper's finance director, Dan Sorenson, has left to work for former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke's campaign, Politico was first to report.
"We're thrilled to have Dan join our team to bring more supporters into this campaign and ensure Beto's message of building a new kind of politics where no American is left behind can reach voters across the country," O'Rourke campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said in a statement on behalf of the Texan, who has been having his own difficulties lately keeping pace with the campaign's front runners.
In addition, Lauren Hitt, the campaign's communications director, said she "will also be transitioning out over the next few weeks."
Later, ABC News reported that John Schueler, Hickenlooper's digital director, and Nolan Varee, the campaign's political director for New Hampshire, would be exiting.
The departures come after the close of the second quarter of campaign fundraising. Hickenlooper is expected to lag well behind the Democratic National Committee's benchmark of 130,000 donors needed to qualify for the debate stage in September — one of several candidates who could fail to meet that threshold.
The former geologist-turned-brewpub owner's poll numbers have remained stuck at zero or 1% in the handful of surveys conducted in the wake of last week's initial round of Democratic presidential primary debates in Miami, where his criticism of the party's leftward drift failed to spark the kind of enthusiasm that propelled several candidates out of the debates.
Hickenlooper, who served two terms as governor of a Western swing state, has struggled to gain attention in the crowded Democratic field. He has touted moderate positions and repeatedly warned Democrats the party risks being labelled socialists — a sure-fire way to hand the 2020 election to President Donald Trump, he says.
But with several candidates, and many Democratic voters, embracing more liberal positions, Hickenlooper's message — or at least the messenger — has failed to resonate.
He was roundly booed last month at the California Democratic Party convention when he condemned socialism.
And some pundits gave Hickenlooper lukewarm reviews for his performance during a June 27 Miami debate seen as crucial for back-of-the-pack candidates like him.
Politico's Steven Shepard declared Hickenlooper had "few ... memorable moments" and "made less of an impression than his fellow Coloradan, Sen. Michael Bennet," and New York Times opinion columnist Bret Stephens said Hickenlooper -- along with former Maryland congressman John Delaney -- "came across as square dancers at a rave" with their moderate messages.
Smith, Hickenlooper's new campaign chief, most recently managed U.S. Sen. Bob Casey to a 13-point win in Pennsylvania last year and served as deputy campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet's successful 2016 re-election in Colorado.
Komar and Sorenson signed on with Hickenlooper's political action committee months before he made his White House bid official in March, while Hitt joined the campaign just ahead of its formal launch.
The Hickenlooper campaign didn't say who will be replacing Sorenson or Hitt in their positions.
Nicholas Riccardi of the Associated Press contributed.