‘You Are Who?’ John Hickenlooper's Lonely Presidential Campaign

July 9, 2019 AT 7:50 AM

John Hickenlooper was in the midst of explaining why he’s not worried about his standing in the 2020 presidential polls when something caught his eye outside the driver’s side window of his black SUV as it sped through the rolling countryside of central Iowa.

“There’s a little tractor out in the yard there,” the former Colorado governor said almost wistfully from the back seat, motioning across the highway toward an old piece of machinery parked in a clump of high grass, seemingly forgotten. “Just out there. By itself.”

This is how Hickenlooper has spent much of his time lately: long days in a car, staring out the window into the wide rural expanse of this first-in-the-nation caucus state, admiring old tractors and other roadside oddities as he goes from town to town trying to sell himself to Democratic voters as a “pragmatic progressive” with the best chance of beating President Trump.

As one of two dozen Democrats vying for the party nomination, Hickenlooper’s struggle to make a dent is emblematic of how difficult it is for a candidate — even a well-regarded former governor of a pivotal state — to break through in a historically large field in which being a mild-mannered 67-year-old white man hasn’t been the best selling point.

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