John Wright Hickenlooper Junior. It doesn't melt on your tongue as much as it gets lodged like a wishbone in the windpipe. (Twenty-eight letters!) It sounds made up – a character from one of Kurt Vonnegut's lesser books, which it sort of is. But we'll get to that. Presently, Hickenlooper is skating toward reelection as governor of Colorado, just as he skated to his previous three electoral victories, the first two as mayor of Denver. In November, he will face Bob Beauprez, a product of a political collective that displayed its wisdom recently by playing the Dating Game theme song at a gubernatorial debate on women's issues. A loss seems unlikely. There are some who wish the governor would do more – like maybe exploring a 2016 presidential wild-card bid or, more likely, floating his name as vice presidential material. Hickenlooper has his doubts.
Since the rise of the caveman, the common wisdom has been that Americans crave politicians we can relate to, people we want to buy a beer. If that's true, then Hick – that's what everyone calls him – is your man: He made his fortune in actual beer! He's not cut from the high-achiever cloth of Clinton and Obama, mini-presidents since their tweens. He was bullied, diagnosed with dyslexia, repeated the seventh grade, shot himself in the foot with a .22, took a decade to get two degrees, started writing a coming-of-age novel that blew, and completed a never-produced script for Moonlighting. As a grown-up, Hick got fired from his job as a geologist, sought a bride on The Phil Donahue Show, and ran pigs through the streets of Denver.
The governor hosts a game of pool at Wynkoop during the president's July trip to Colorado. (RJ Sangost / The Denver Post / Getty Images)
You say this Hick dude sounds like a clown? What if I told you he filmed one political commercial asking to raise your taxes while jumping out of an airplane and shot another in a shower, fully clothed, to wash the muck from dirty campaign ads? What if he truly believes Dr Pepper is better in a glass, which releases its glorious bouquet?
Now you're thinking Hick sounds like Jesse Ventura, last seen doing an online conspiracy show that may or may not be filmed in a cave. But what if the clown is the man who piloted Colorado from a $1 billion deficit to a $720 million surplus? What if he's pro-fracking in a state where eco-types roam the land like unculled deer? What if he was a Democrat who has passed bipartisan legislation in a purple state equally divided between Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me! enthusiasts and gun-rack families who see the Bible not as the good book but as the only book? What if he shepherded Colorado through the Aurora theater shooting, floods, wildfires, locust infestation, and more shootings? What if he misses his dad more than he can say while raising his own boy with an ex-wife down the road who he is still in love with? And what if he has 1,657 friends but is still alone, puttering around his sprawling house late at night, staring at the yellowing grass as the floodlights flick on and off?
Is that someone you'd want to buy a beer? Someone who has lived an actual life rather than constructed a résumé of shimmying up the greasy political pole? Is that a man you can trust with our truly fucked-up country?
Or does that sound too much like you?