CHEYENNE — I have been vaguely following the Democratic presidential candidates debates, partly because of interest in how one particular candidate would fare.

It wasn’t Bernie, Beto or Pete but former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

I say I have been following the debates vaguely because I quit watching the first set when the candidates began talking and shouting over one another.

But I was determined to sit through the second, if only to see if Hickenlooper could do something to gain attention in the verbal brawl.

Like many Cheyenne residents, I get TV coverage from Denver stations which kept me informed on Hickenlooper’s career over the years, including his latest move.

Several pundits said Tuesday’s debate was his last chance to shine.

With such a robust number of candidates — 20 — it is easy to get overlooked, or out-shouted.

And that apparently is what has happened to the affable 67-year-old Denver brewpub owner and geologist.

I do not know Hickenlooper personally but have heard him speak at a couple of conventions in Denver. He came across as a really likable, down to earth guy, a laid-back type.

During his years as Denver mayor and Colorado governor he scored a record of accomplishments by working with the opposing party, an essential element in the diverse, purple state.

Time had named him one of the top five best big city mayors.

He also made really great beer.

So, what happened when, serenely confident, he entered the race for the Democratic nomination for president?

He ran as a political pragmatism, a centrist, like President John F. Kennedy, one his idols.

For one thing, he learned quickly how hard it is to get donors when so many candidates are competing for the same dollar.

His campaign had trouble getting attention, let alone traction, in the volatile climate facing the cluster of Democratic candidates. His polls numbers were down, only 1 percent. His message wasn’t resonating well. Recently, his campaign manager, finance director and communications director left his staff.

The national news media featured stories about his stumbling campaign.

“You Are Who?” is the title of an article in Governing.com (originally from the Washington Post) about Hickenlooper’s “lonely” presidential campaign.

“The Extraordinary Humbling of John Hickenlooper” was published by the New York Times on July 26.

Both mention the smallish crowds in Iowa and New Hampshire for his campaign appearances and the attendees’ lack of enthusiasm.

The Time story mentions the public indignities such as being mistaken for a reporter by a security guard before the first debate in Miami.

During an appearance on the TV show “The View, ” the host confused him with Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.

As the writers pointed out, these incidents must be particularly disappointing to Hickenlooper, given his successful record in office. He may well have succeeded in another less polarized election cycle. As it is, his senior advisers and others have urged him to drop out of the presidential contest and run for the U.S. Senate.

Did he shine last week? Not really. He did score some hits against the two liberals who led the debate ratings, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

His best line was in reference to the federal jobs guarantee proposed in the Green New Deal.

“You might as well FedEx the election to Donald Trump,” he said.

The New York Times assigned 14 opinion column writers to grade the Democrats’ individual performance. Hickenlooper made the average middle ranking.

He was not a compelling figure and cannot perform on stage but really needed to shine, various writers opined. Others questioned why he was still in the race.

“A good governor and lovely man entirely liberated from the burden of captivating personal qualities,” wrote Will Wilkinson, contribution opinion writer and vice president for research at the bipartisan Niskanen Center.

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Joan Barron is a former longtime capitol bureau reporter. Contact her at 307-632-2534 or jmbarron@bresnan.net.


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