After struggling to gain traction in a crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls, former Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Thursday morning that he is dropping out of the race. The decision comes after he failed to make a serious mark in either of the first two debates, plus his polling numbers—hanging at or below one percent throughout his campaign—and his modest donor base would almost certainly have prevented him from making the debate stage next month in Houston.

“Today, I’m ending my campaign for president. But I will never stop believing that America can only move forward when we work together,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “Don’t tell me that we can’t figure out how to lower prescription drug costs or tackle climate change. Don’t tell me we have to accept the number of gun deaths or the reduced job prospects of too many Americans.”

His departure from the presidential race only heightens speculation that he will join the crowded field of candidates vying to unseat Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in the 2020 Senate race. Though Hickenlooper has made no announcement regarding a potential Senate bid, a poll released earlier this week indicated that he would have an overwhelming advantage over his opponents if he were to enter the race.

Hickenlooper’s announcement leaves 23 remaining candidates seeking the Democratic nomination—including Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, whose poll numbers have been only slightly higher than Hickenlooper’s.

“John Hickenlooper was an exceptional mayor. He was an exceptional governor,” Bennet said Wednesday night on MSNBC as news broke that his fellow Coloradan was about to drop out of the race. “If he chose to run [for Senate], he would be an exceptional Senator….He would win. He’s right where the state is on a whole range of issues and he left office as popular as he came into office as governor.”

As Hickenlooper announced the end of his presidential bid, he acknowledged the pressure he’s facing to run for Senate.

“People want to know what comes next for me. I’ve heard from so many Coloradans who want me to run for the United States Senate,” he wrote in his statement. “They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state. I intend to give that some serious thought. I’ve been a geologist, a small businessman, a mayor, a governor, and a candidate for president of the United States. At each step, I’ve always looked forward with hope. And I always will. Thank you.”

Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.