With just a little more than 400 days until the Iowa caucuses and 2018’s Thanksgiving now comfortably behind us, it’s never too soon to turn our eyes towards the 2020 presidential campaign. To soften this suggestion, I will confine my punditry to the potential Colorado candidates. Yes, there is more than one.
It doesn’t hurt to begin with our departing governor, who is making no secret of his covetous glances at the White House. He’s already confronting the adage, however, that when it comes to politics “…your friends tend to come and go, while your enemies accumulate.” John Hickenlooper has to be disappointed that former Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty, his Republican buddy for two years, has rustled up a laundry list of travel complaints and trundled them over to the Ethics Commission. His lawyers have discounted the charges as frivolous, which they are.
But there is some karmic justice in the fact that Democrats hounded former Secretary of State Scott Gessler over his travel expenses to a Republican Attorney Generals conclave. If ever there were a case to be made for scuttling the so-called Ethics Commission, now would be the time. No thieves are being pursued here, just politicians being politicians. Gessler, alas, didn’t enjoy personal friends with private planes willing to gift him with free flights, so his hand was duly slapped. Hick, likely not so much. It would be nice if our Ethics Commission spent more time examining ethics rather than politics.
Colorado’s Governor will be competing in the former Mayor/former Governor’s lane in 2020’s Democratic primaries. It’s likely to be crowded. Three term Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a genuine New York City billionaire, has the same advantage as his crosstown rival and incumbent president — his own plane, probably several. No ethics complaints about that so long as he avoids Colorado. Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles arrives with a bulging bag of Hollywood donations and voter approval of $128 billion in transportation infrastructure. They will make the same, “I got things done!’” argument. Most Americans think of Colorado as one big National Park, which makes Hick’s appeal a little trickier. How hard is it to don a Smokey the Bear hat and collect entrance fees?
We were all caught off guard earlier this week when reports surfaced that Senator Michael Bennet was making phone calls into Iowa. Since it never hurts to be mentioned it doesn’t hurt to recruit a 23-year-old field director fresh from a successful Iowa Senate race looking for off year work. When the Denver School Board was interviewing Bennet for Superintendent I ran into Lucia Guzman, who was then serving on the Board, and asked her why they were going to lobotomize the Mayor’s office where Bennet was serving as chief-of-staff? She replied that Bennet enjoyed the whole-hearted support of Mayor Hickenlooper and the Board found him to be “…really smart”.
He was so then and remains so today. It’s not every Democrat who gets invited to deliver the keynote address at the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s annual meeting. Michael has worked closely with ranchers to craft provisions in Washington’s “Ag bill”. Now that’s smart. Bennet doesn’t have to run in 2020, so he may emerge as an attractive pick for Vice-president, particularly if the presidential candidate turns out to be a coastal Democrat. All the more reason to keep those cell towers humming in Iowa.
And Colorado’s third prospect is none other than Cory Gardner. No one is talking in more than a whisper about this possibility right now, but what happens if the Trump balloon to which Gardner is currently tethered suddenly loses air? As an experienced Republican friend said to me recently, “We all know in our hearts that this isn’t going to end well.” Not to mention that our president is almost certainly lying about his health, just as he lies about pretty much everything else. So, whom might Republicans turn to if he drops dead approaching the thirteenth hole at Mar A Lago? Gardner has a youthful energy that escaped most of his colleagues sometime during the last century.
He just ran the 2018 Republican Senate campaigns with modest success and now knows where all the money is hidden. And, he avoided having the stuffing kicked out of him during the 2016 presidential primaries. Arguably, his chances for election on a national ticket might be better than seeking re-election in periwinkle-blue Colorado. He has to get ready. Moving up from triple AAA ball to the “bigs” requires both guts and brains. The same goes for Hick.
Or, then again, both men could wind up on our 2020 ballot, running for Senate. It would be fun to see them in some presidential debates before then. Remember one-note Tom Tancredo? This year’s crop may not be vintage, but it isn’t likely to embarrass Colorado, either.
Miller Hudson is a public affairs consultant and a former state legislator. He can be reached at email@example.com.