And then there were 23: John Hickenlooper to end 2020 campaign

Outspoken moderate and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will announce the end of his 2020 presidential campaign, AP sources say.

John Locher/AP
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper plans to walk away from his 2020 campaign for president, sources close to the candidate say, Aug. 9, 2019. Mr. Hickenlooper may instead run for a seat in the Senate, challenging a vulnerable Colorado Republican.

John Hickenlooper will drop out of the Democratic presidential primary on Thursday, according to a Democrat close to him.

The former two-term Colorado governor, who ran as a moderate warning of the perils of extreme partisanship, struggled with fundraising and low polling numbers. His planned departure from the 2020 race was confirmed Wednesday night by a Democrat who wasn't authorized to speak publicly before the announcement and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

Pressure to end his campaign increased as it appeared increasingly unlikely Mr. Hickenlooper would meet the required thresholds for the next round of TV debates. So far, just nine candidates have qualified for the next debate – which requires at least 130,000 donors and 2% support in four qualifying polls to make the cut. More may soon drop out, the Monitor's Liz Marlantes writes.

Campaigning in Iowa ahead of next February's caucuses has also brought new scrutiny on Democrats unlikely to break out of the bottom tier. Placing lower than third in the state's caucuses has proved fatal to nearly every campaign in modern history. And on the Democratic side, seven of the past nine winners in Iowa have gone on to secure their party’s nomination.

Mr. Hickenlooper is not expected to announce a decision Thursday on whether he will run for Senate in Colorado, though he has been discussing the possibility with advisers. Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, up for reelection in 2020, is considered one of the most vulnerable senators in the country because of Colorado's shift to the left.

Mr. Hickenlooper became a political giant in Colorado for his quirky, consensus-driven, and unscripted approach to politics. He once jumped out of a plane to sell a ballot measure to increase state spending and won two statewide elections in a purple state during Republican wave years. He was previously the mayor of Denver.

He launched his longshot White House bid in March, promising to unite the country. Instead, he quickly became a political punch line.

Shortly before taking his first trip to Iowa as a candidate, Mr. Hickenlooper, who became a multimillionaire by founding a series of brewpubs, balked at calling himself a capitalist on national television. Then, at a CNN town hall, he recounted how he once took his mother to see a pornographic movie. With the campaign struggling to raise money, his staff urged Mr. Hickenlooper to instead challenge Senator Gardner. But Mr. Hickenlooper stayed in and hired another group of staffers in a last-ditch effort to turn around his presidential campaign.

Positioning himself as a common-sense candidate who couldn't be labeled a socialist by Republicans, Mr. Hickenlooper failed to make his voice heard in the crowded Democratic presidential field of about two dozen candidates. It didn't help that, by Mr. Hickenlooper's own admission, he's a mediocre debater and erratic public speaker. In the end, he couldn't even scrape together enough money for many of his trademark quirky ads, only launching one in which avid beer drinkers toast Mr. Hickenlooper by comparing him to favorite brews.

Mr. Hickenlooper softened his denials of interest in the Senate in recent weeks as his campaign finances dwindled and pressure increased from other Democrats. He started telling people he'd make a decision by the end of this week.

It's unclear whether Mr. Hickenlooper plans to run against Sen. Gardner, whom national Democrats have urged him to take on since last year. He's repeatedly said he's not interested in the Senate and prefers an executive position.

But if Mr. Hickenlooper did run against Sen. Gardner, he'd first have to get through another crowded Democratic primary field. Numerous Colorado Democrats have launched primary bids for Sen. Gardner's seat, and many have indicated they'd stay in the race, even if Mr. Hickenlooper enters the contest.

Mr. Hickenlooper isn't the first Democratic hopeful to end his 2020 presidential bid. U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California announced his departure in July.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. AP Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace contributed to this report from Washington.

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