CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In a primetime speech at the Democratic National Convention, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper offered a strong endorsement of President Barack Obama in his own signature quirky, apolitical and understated voice.
Unlike many other speeches here so far, Hickenlooper didn’t look to draw thunderous applause; and the governor known back home for ad libbing his way into corners stuck almost exactly to his script.
The former brewpub owner-turned-politician, now an oft-mentioned presidential candidate for 2016, told his personal story and spoke about his recent experiences with Obama in the immediate aftermath of Colorado’s devastating summer wildfires and the Aurora movie theater shooting — experiences that have hardened his support for Obama and his resolve to campaign harder on his behalf.
“These tragedies remind us not to waste time bickering,” Hickenlooper said. “We have the power to come together. We need to do this as a nation. It will take a spirit of generosity and collaboration to meet the difficult challenges we face.
“We recognize this in Colorado, where we’ve been able to pass vital legislation with strong bipartisan majorities. I’m luckier than President Obama. After my inauguration, Colorado’s Republican legislators didn’t immediately start planning my defeat. We worked together. Some even complimented me for releasing my tax returns in the campaign, 22 years of them,” said Hickenlooper, offering a not so subtle dig at Republican Mitt Romney.
“We don’t always agree, but when push comes to shove, Colorado’s elected leaders cooperate for the good of our state. Consequently, we are moving forward.”
Hickenlooper argued that the country is moving forward on Obama’s watch, citing upticks in agricultural exports, tourism, energy production and one other area of personal importance.
“As the first governor since Sam Adams to get his start brewing beer, I’m happy to announce that even craft beer production is up 35 percent,” Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper also used his personal story to try to connect with Americans who are frustrated with the slow economic recovery and framed his success as a restaurant owner in collective terms, a subtle rebuke to the GOP’s individualist “We Built It” mantra.
“Like too many Americans today, I was laid off and out of work for two years during the last really bad recession in 1986,” he said. “So we started a brewpub. We were turned down by 32 banks and scores of investors. My own mother wouldn’t invest. But we got there, because like so many other things in life, our business was not just me. It was we.
“We worked 70 hours per week. We drafted the business plan with a librarian from the Denver Public Library. We secured a development loan from the city. My landlord invested. My Little League baseball coach invested. We worked long hours. It was ‘we,’ not just ‘me.’
“In Colorado, we know that western history is not just about rugged individuals; it’s also about communities coming together to raise barns, build schools and, yes, to help one another.
“Colorado and the United States are places that will be defined more by their future than by their past. The president knows this. He knows that to move our country forward, it takes “we” and not just “me.”
“My mother, the lone Democrat in a family of Republicans, was widowed twice and raised four kids on her own. She used to say, ‘You can’t always control what life gives you, but you can control how you respond. President Obama inherited many crises, among the worst any President has faced, and in every case he’s responded with optimism, compassion and courage. He provided hope when there was none. And he has transformed that hope into a plan rooted in reality.”
Hickenlooper closed the six minute speech with this.
“It’s hard work, and it takes time. But it’s working. He understands that America is indeed a collection of talented, self-motivated individuals competing in a marketplace. But it’s more than that; it’s also a community that believes in the common good. As another skinny Democrat with a funny last name, I was proud to host the convention in Denver that nominated President Obama four years ago. I am proud to support his re-election and ask that you join me—well, we—in moving Colorado and America forward. We need to finish what we started.”