Both The Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post had coverage today of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s expected speech tomorrow in which he will lay out his ambitions for his second term. But for political watchers around the state, what they would really like to hear is if Hickenlooper will run for governor. That won’t come tomorrow, of course, but The News has the details on what he will address:

Denver’s mayor is expected to lay out his ambitious vision for the remaining two years of his term — including fostering development coinciding with the FasTracks transit project and new justice center — during a State of the City address in Civic Center at 11 a.m. Thursday…

…Hickenlooper also is expected to recount the high points and accomplishments of the first half of his four-year term. He likely will praise Denver voters for backing the city’s proposal to build a $378 million justice center on the edge of Civic Center, capping a year of highs for the administration.

In addition to touting economic development, his speech will touch on the continued streamlining of city government, balancing a projected budget shortfall next year of between $26 million and $33 million, and expediting police reform with the much- anticipated opening of the police monitor’s office this month. His address also will promote educational initiatives and partnerships with Denver Public Schools as his former chief of staff Michael Bennet takes over as superintendent.

Homelessness will be on the menu as the mayor pushes an ambitious plan unveiled this spring to end homelessness over the next 10 years. Hickenlooper is expected to promote key November ballot measures, too, including DPS’s ProComp pay plan, which seeks a mill levy increase to fund pay raises for teachers based on their performance.

That’s a lot to discuss, but will Hickenlooper still be the mayor in another two years? While he has publicly said that he has no intentions to run for governor in 2006, grumblings among some Democrats indicate that he is still being prodded into considering it.

If Hickenlooper did run for governor, an announcement likely wouldn’t come until early 2006, but the coverage of tomorrow’s speech is one reason why he would be such a tough candidate if he did run. There are few people in the state who can get the kind of free media coverage that Hickenlooper got today, and will get on Friday, and that gives him a huge advantage in the all-important battle over “name recognition.”

If you were going to do a statewide poll today purely on name recognition, Hickenlooper would almost certainly come out on top ahead of the other candidates for governor – Rutt Bridges, Bill Ritter, Bob Beauprez and Marc Holtzman. That’s not enough to win an election, of course, but it’s a big reason why he can afford to wait a while to make that final decision.