Not even through his first year as Governor yet and already John Hickenlooper is chatting with Politico reporters about a potential Presidential run in 2016. In the fawning write-up Hickenlooper brags about his ability to poke a key liberal constituency in the eyes — enviros. While it's a fun parlor game to speculate on a future run (& we love watching enviros get hit by Democrats), the more timely question is will Hickenlooper jab the entire left side of the spectrum by opposing Rollie Heath's tax hike Prop 103?
As potentially the only statewide ballot initiative in 2011, Governor Hickenlooper's position matters just a wee bit. The problem is no one in the press has been able to extract a definite position from him on the issue.
They've let him, or his spokesman, get away with saying that voters have "no appetite" for a tax increase now, that he promised not to campaign for a tax hike in his first year, and a bevy of other roundabout, but not entirely clear statements, generally opposing the idea of a tax hike.
But Prop 103 is no longer just an idea. It's a ballot initiative, that if passed would kill nearly 120,000 jobs in Colorado.
Hickenlooper, with the aid of an obsequious press corps and a divided Legislature, has so far successfully avoided becoming muddied by the connection to any legislation even remotely controversial. Instead he's focused on photo ops from statewide listening tours and statements about wanting to improve the employment climate through smarter regulation, though he avoided actually offering any substantive reform this past legislative session.
With such a political environment, and a keen instinct for what the political middle thinks, it's no surprise that he has sky high approval ratings, skewed samples notwithstanding.
But political capital is for spending and it's time to see what constituency Hickenlooper wants to expend some angering. If he opposes Prop 103 it will further damage the initiative's already dismal prospects, thus annoying the left. If he supports it, something polling has shown is not likely to pass, he'll be tying himself to a failure his first year out. Politico reporters would probably start calling less.
When the RGA dropped this ad into Colorado in 2010 Hick's numbers went into free fall:
The RGA ad contains the most dangerous narrative for Hickenlooper, as his precipitous fall in the polls demonstrated when it aired. He has worked hard to portray himself as a quirky liberal, but the tag of tax hiker renders the quirkiness far less effective.
So what's it gonna be, Governor? Annoy the left or damage your reputation for understanding the political middle?
Where in the world is John Hickenlooper on Prop 103?