Column: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Grand County visit
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper visited longtime friend and fellow entrepreneur Bob Scott in Grand Lake on Thursday, July 31, during a campaign swing that later included a half-hour visit to the Sky-Hi News office in Granby.
Expecting a shorter visit and being in the midst of a deadline, I thought perhaps we might have to cut our time short. Not to worry.
It quickly became clear that the governor, who made a point of noting he’s “not a good politician,” really isn’t too shabby, which means he can talk … at length … engagingly. Of course, one might expect that from a governor. Or from someone who navigated the rocky terrain from petroleum geologist to microbrewer/LoDo pioneer to Denver mayor. Or from someone who is occasionally mentioned in the same breath as sharing a ticket with presidential hopefuls (a prospect he assured us he is not actively seeking).
He sure didn’t have any trouble demonstrating his alacrity for reciting names and numbers in support of his re-election. And he didn’t hesitate when asked what issues he thinks will determine the outcome in Novemeber.
Hickenlooper is riding a wave of buoyant economic news, from strong tourism numbers despite national coverage of devastating forest fires and flooding along the Front Range, to 32 consecutive months of job creation in Colorado (one of his numbers), to Colorado ranking in the top 10 of just about every national economic survey out there.
Adept politician or not, he knows a favorable topic when he sees one. And no one seeking statewide office in Colorado has suffered as a result of being branded a bad politician, which he said is what his Republican opponent, Bob Beauprez, has been trying to do to him.
Be that as it may, recent polls indicate the incumbent governor is in a close race with Beauprez. That’s interesting news given the state’s robust economy and that Beauprez’ last campaign for the governorship eight years ago resulted in a 15-point drubbing at the hands of Bill Ritter.
My take: Hickenlooper’s biggest impediment to re-election may be his party’s excesses, including Ritter’s legacy of saddling Colorado with stratospheric vehicle-registration fees (which had not been fully implemented four years ago).
More recently, Hickenlooper joined Democratic legislators and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg et.al. in ramrodding gun-control legislation through the Colorado Legislature last year, an effort that did not ingratiate his party to a goodly number of the unaffiliated Colorado voters Hickenlooper will need to win.
Back at the Sky-Hi News office, he wasn’t bashful about it, saying the expanded background checks are working and defending the limitations on high-capacity magazines, all the while rattling off an impressive litany of supporting statistics. He said he expects gun control to be an election issue.
He also noted how many of Colorado’s economic heavy hitters — quite a few of them Republicans — recently lined up publicly behind his campaign. His largely middle of the road economic policies, wealth of knowledge, high energy and quick wit — combined with a likable “aw shucks” demeanor — is reminiscent of former Gov. Roy Romer, another largely moderate Democrat. The combination served Romer well, as he occupied the office for 12 years from 1987 to 1999.
We’ll see this time around. These are different times.
And we’ll also see about Hickenlooper’s national political prospects. His recent selection as chair the National Governor’s Association puts him in company with the likes of Howard Dean, who used the post as a stepping stone to a presidential candidacy.
If nothing else, it has already earned Hickenlooper an ostensibly impromptu meeting with President Obama, who summoned him during the president’s Denver trip in mid-July to the Wynkoop Brewing Company in LoDo and promptly challenged the governor to a game of pool.
“When the president of the United States calls and says he wants to talk to you, you don’t say ‘no’,” he said.
Despite being on his home turf — Hickenlooper founded the brew house and allowed that he is a reasonably good pool player— the governor lost twice to Obama, who he said ran the table from behind both times.
“I was surprised,” he said, confirming that just before Obama’s first come-from-behind victory, he had been considering letting the president win.
So what did the president want to talk about? Hickenlooper said it was about trying to make the National Governor’s Association less partisan.
Hmm. In any event, the governor indicated he intends to be no stranger to Grand County between now and November. And when asked if he had a Grand County-specific message, without skipping a beat he said Grand County’s economic resurgence “is a pretty good example of what’s going right in Colorado.”
Just like a skilled politician might.
Drew can be reached at email@example.com or 970-887-3334.
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