John Hickenlooper
Credit: Photograph by Edward Keating
Later in the week, Hick piles into a tiny plane and flies through the Rockies for a commencement speech at Western State Colorado University, in Gunnison. He glances at his speech until his phone buzzes.

"It's Helen. Teddy just made an unassisted double play," reports Hick. "Doesn't mean there isn't doom around the corner!" He looks up from his notes. "You know, we named him after Ted Williams, who died the day Teddy was born. The Buddhists believe when you die your body circles the earth seven times, and that takes three to five hours, and that was about the time it took before Teddy was born."

Hick touches down in Gunnison and within 15 minutes is in a cap and gown. He speaks for just 12 minutes. He talks about hanging out at Wesleyan so long he thought he was going to get tenure, his botched novel, his failed geology career, and Shrimpie's refusal to invest in his brewery. But he brings it around to resilience and his refusal to quit until the Wynkoop was a success. He ends with: "Be nice, never give up, good luck, and giddyap."

There is a stop at a ranch to sign a bill bringing WiFi to the rural parts of the state, and then he is gone, back home by 3 pm He slips into a fleece jacket and watches Teddy shoot some baskets in the driveway near an old Checker cab Hick bought on a lark.

The one thing Hick has tried to dodge all week is talk of a 2016 run as either a presidential candidate or a folksy VP, maybe playing the Biden role for Hillary. Part of his reluctance is the fact that he is up for reelection, part of it is dread at leaving Teddy for Iowa and New Hampshire, and part of it is a frank admission that the kind of guy who names a beer after a sexual position wouldn't fly outside Colorado.

But maybe it could. Hick talks for a couple of hours about the middle ground and the art of compromise. I ask him if he might run not so much to win, but to get the old-fashioned idea that the center is where America stands, not left or right. He looks at me as if I'm presenting him with a new concept.

"I don't know. That's a legitimate question that I haven't thought about – I think that's been valuable to Colorado, right? That even with things like the death penalty, there's a value to having someone look at it with an out-of-the-box kind of approach."

We wander inside, and Teddy joins us. In some ways, his son has been his best adviser, agreeing with Dad's political detractors that slow political decision-making is his father's greatest vice. He told his pop he couldn't live that way at school. So Teddy gave him some advice: "Get the facts; make the decision; move on."

It could come in handy in 2016. Presidential politics have a long tradition of crushing optimists, so we'll see. Hick could end up pulling a New Hampshire upset or becoming a Saturday Night Live punch line. Either way, Hick would leave a mark. It might be on him; it might be on our country.

Hick wraps a long arm around his son, reveling in being the father he himself never had. He points to a chin-up bar hanging above the doorway into the kitchen.

"Why don't you stay for a beer? I think Teddy's record is nine. Right, Teddy?"


I make my excuses and head out toward my car. Hick shouts from the top of the steps.

"I may call you later."

There are so many more things to talk about.