Hickenlooper steps onto national stage at DNC
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Four years ago when Denver played host to the Democrat National Convention, John Hickenlooper was a mayor playing host.
Now, two years after being elected Colorado’s governor, Hickenlooper is here at another DNC as a real political player on the national stage.
“It’s so much better to be a participant than a host,” Hickenlooper told FOX31 Denver Wednesday afternoon. “I got a good night’s sleep last night, I’m relaxed, it’s a very different experience.”
One of the country’s most popular governors, and a key asset to President Obama’s campaign in a critical swing state, Hickenlooper will speak for six minutes Wednesday night in primetime, around 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
“I’m going to make an argument for the person, and I think he does deserve a second term,” Hickenlooper told FOX31 Denver Wednesday on the convention.
His time on the national stage will offer those watching around the country, and the bevy of Beltway pundits and politicos inside the arena, another chance to take stock of the former brewpub owner and a political brand that’s rock solid in Colorado but still untested nationally.
Immediately following his speech, Hickenlooper is scheduled to sit down for live interviews on the convention floor with CNN and ABC News.
Already over his first two years in office, several national news organizations have written on Hickenlooper as a potential presidential candidate in four years.
Hickenlooper’s 2016 ambitions are far less clear than other Democrats, especially Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose speech here Tuesday night was well-received but not electrifying.
Wednesday morning, as political bloggers offered assessments of Tuesday night’s winners and losers, O’Malley found himself in the latter category, overshadowed by the likes of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and, most of all, First Lady Michelle Obama.
“O’Malley came into his speech tonight with high expectations,” wrote the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza Wednesday. “He has made little secret of his interest in higher office and that he was given a 10 pm speaking slot suggests that the convention planners thought he would deliver. Those expectations turned out to be too high. O’Malley’s enthusiasm and passion came across as manufactured not organic and the crowd seemed ready to love him but wound up just sort of liking him.”
Already Wednesday, Politico’s Charles Mahtesian was playing up the stakes of Hickenlooper’s speech, and the dilemma therein — play to the room, or stick to the brand?
“As both conventions have shown, there’s no appetite in either party for compromise or anything resembling a centrist approach,” Mahtesian writes. “So the very traits that make Hickenlooper one of the nation’s most popular governors won’t serve him well either in Charlotte, or in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2016.”
Denver political analyst Eric Sondermann, who’s witnessed Hickenlooper’s meteoric rise, believes Hickenlooper will attempt, as he often does, to do two things at once.
“First, he needs to build and honor his well-cultivated brand as someone far apart from the typical, bombastic, hyper-partisan politician,” Sondermann told FOX31 Denver. “But second, he needs to be sufficiently partisan to occupy the stage and the moment, and to generate buzz among the Democratic muckety-mucks and media insiders who are keeping score among those regarded as up-and-comers with national political potential.”
That so many of Hickenlooper’s top advisers — Chief of Staff Roxane White, chief policy director R.D. Sewald, senior policy adviser Jamie Van Leeuwen and Ben Davis, who oversaw the governor’s 2010 campaign — are in Charlotte affirms the political importance of this week.
Hickenlooper, who spent Wednesday morning running to various fundraisers and roundtable events, is now working on his speech and then meeting with reporters on the convention floor before his close-up in primetime.
No doubt, his performance will be watched, and reviewed, by those in the hall and the countless journalists and bloggers who are writing about it.
And, undoubtedly, Hickenlooper will read those clips.
But, as he always does, his public comments aim to deflect attention away from himself.
When FOX31 Denver caught him after a brief lunchtime appearance at the CNN Grill Wednesday, he said his appearances here are aimed at selling Colorado, not himself.
“In interviews, I talk about Colorado, how great we are, how we do things differently, we work together, we collaborate; and then [spend] a fair amount of time just meeting people, building relationships with people that have businesses that might come to Colorado,” Hickenlooper told FOX31 Denver.
“Everybody is in one place, so you can get a lot done.”