By Paul Steinhauser
Published February 14, 2019
HENNIKER, N.H. – Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper touted his progressive credentials during a trip to the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House. But the likely Democratic presidential contender pointedly said that support for "Medicare-for-all" and the Green New Deal shouldn’t be any sort of “a litmus test of what it takes to be a good Democrat.”
Hickenlooper made his comments Thursday during a town hall meeting at New England College, his last stop during a two-day swing to New Hampshire.
While many of his potential rivals for the 2020 Democratic nomination have wholeheartedly supported both the Green New Deal and "Medicare-for-all," two top wish-list items for the progressive base of the party, Hickenlooper expressed some reservations.
“We will get to some version of single payer, but single payer doesn’t include getting rid of insurance companies,” he told reporters after speaking and taking questions from students and local voters.
“We too often are trying to say ‘well you’re wrong and I’m right’ and this is even within the Democratic Party. I think it’s more important to be unified and say ‘we want universal coverage,’” he stressed.
Asked about the Green New Deal, the sweeping proposal that aims to transform the country’s economy to fight climate change while enacting a host of new health care and welfare programs, Hickenlooper told the audience that he hadn’t seen all of the details of the plan, but “I’m going to guess that 99 percent of what’s in the Green New Deal I will be happy to embrace.”
But he said support for the Green New Deal shouldn’t be “a litmus test that you’re either with us or wrong.”
He later told Fox News that “I haven’t read it yet,” but also complimented the proposals for shining a spotlight on global warming. And he emphasized that “we do need to take a much more aggressive approach to dealing with climate change.”
The Green New Deal, which was announced last week by freshman progressive rising star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and veteran Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, has been savaged by many Republicans as a socialist dream that will bankrupt the country.
Hickenlooper, a geologist turned brewery owner, was elected Denver mayor as a first-time candidate. He served two terms before winning election as the state’s governor. Last month he finished serving his second term as Colorado governor.
He told reporters “we’re getting close” to deciding on a White House run, adding “four weeks or six weeks. Sooner than later. We feel some sense of urgency.”
And he explained that “I’d say we’re leaning yes.”
Asked by Fox News if his potential rivals for the nomination are too far to the left, Hickenlooper answered that “the Democratic Party is a big tent. I’ve always said that. I don’t always agree with everything that every elected Democrat says or does.”
But he took umbrage with being labeled a moderate. He spotlighted his achievements in Colorado – from close to 100 percent health care coverage to major cuts in auto emissions to fight climate change. “I think in many ways I’m more progressive than a lot of these other folks. We’re actually getting it done,” he touted.
And he explained, “to beat Donald Trump, we’re going to need someone who’s done stuff.”
Hickenlooper also described the Republican president as a bully.
“I grew up the skinny kid with glasses and a funny last name. I’ve dealt with bullies my whole life,” he said. “The way to deal with a bully is you don’t punch back and take them head on. You take what they say to you. You don’t necessarily ridicule them but you reframe it in a way that reveals the foolishness of what they’re saying and the weakness and insecurity that they’re demonstrating.”
Ahead of his New Hampshire visit, the Republican National Committee took aim at the former governor.
“John Hickenlooper is just another out-of-touch Democrat jetting into New Hampshire to mull a Presidential bid,” RNC Spokesperson Mandi Merritt said.