What do John Hickenlooper, Steve Bullock, and Beto O’Rourke have in common? They have long-shot odds of winning the presidency, but could all help flip control of the Senate.

Currently, there are 53 Republicans and 45 Democrats in the U.S. Senate, along with two Independent members who caucus with Democrats. And with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) vowing to be the “grim reaper” of progressive legislation as long as he remains in charge of the chamber, there is no hope of Democrats actualizing any pro-worker policy visions like healthcare affordability, the student debt crises, and a living wage — even if a Democrat defeats President Trump in 2020.

This is why control of the Senate is arguably just as, if not even more important, than the presidency in 2020. For Republicans, it will be their last bulwark if the House and the White House are in Democratic control after the 2020 elections. For Democrats, it’s the final obstacle in the way of passing legislation addressing the aforementioned issues, as well as the looming threat of mass extinction.

Even though there are 33 Senate seats up for grabs in 2020, many of those are considered safe for Republicans. Among those that election data website 270toWin rates as competitive, the most high-profile, would-be Democratic challengers are instead running doomed campaigns for the presidency. Incumbents like Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Montana), and Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) could all very well be defeated by Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D-Montana), Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado), and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). This would put the Senate at a 50-50 tie assuming all other incumbents got re-elected, which a Democratic vice president could break if necessary.

Gov. Hickenlooper has the best chances of flipping a Senate seat. As the two-term governor of a state that’s been reliably blue in the last three consecutive presidential elections and given 2014 polling data showing Hickenlooper trouncing Gardner by 11 points in a gubernatorial matchup, Colorado’s governor is a shoo-in for Senate. Instead, he’s running a long-shot presidential campaign, currently polling at just 1% in a recent Monmouth University poll of likely New Hampshire voters.

Beto O’Rourke raised a record-breaking $78.9 million in the 2018 race he narrowly lost by just two points to Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and could very well beat Sen. Cornyn if he challenged the Texas Republican in 2020. Particularly since he now has the name recognition that he lacked in 2018 as a Congressman from El Paso, and a long list of donors ready to write campaign checks. Instead, O’Rourke is wasting away in a crowded presidential field, polling at just 3% in that same Monmouth poll, and is even reportedly planning to “relaunch” his faltering presidential campaign.

And although Bullock hasn’t yet declared a presidential run, the two-term Montana Governor has visited the early caucus and primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and hinted at a run in a recent HuffPost interview. He touted his success as a progressive Democrat winning two consecutive statewide elections in a deep-red state as reason for his nationwide “electability,” although that’s arguably all the more reason he would likely be successful if he ran for U.S. Senate in 2020. According to Monmouth’s May 2-7 poll of likely New Hampshire voters, despite visiting New Hampshire Bullock would have a long-shot bid in which he garnered less than 1% support.

O’Rourke has said he believes he was “born” to run for president and became known for standing on countertops as a way to “hog as much attention as possible,” according to Vox’s Matthew Yglesias. Hickenlooper — a self-described “extreme moderate” — believes he’s the one person who can solve America’s “crisis of division.” Bullock justified his potential run to HuffPost saying that despite having more than 20 opponents, he’d be the only candidate who won a statewide election in a state that went for Trump in 2016.

These men still haven’t seemed to figure out that the future of America and the livelihoods of working people and families should take precedent over their own personal dreams and ambitions of one day occupying the White House. Even if one of these long-shot candidates did end up somehow winning the Democratic nomination and the presidency, they would be unable to pass any meaningful legislation with a Republican-controlled Senate. It isn’t too late — all three could get over their egos, drop out of the presidential race, and announce runs for Senate.


Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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