When Sen. Michael Bennet threw his name in the 10-gallon hat to be the next President of the United States, it was met with mixed reviews.
On a national scale reactions meandered between “who?” and “why?” due to the senator’s lack of name recognition and the expansive 21-person field vying for the democratic nominee.
Locally, the reactions didn’t waver much.
“I just feel he can do a lot more for this country right now in the Senate than he can in the Executive Branch,” said Martha Cunningham, 59, a registered Democrat in Arapahoe County. “I really do think he speaks to a lot of moderate dDemocrats, but I don’t think he has a great shot at landing the party’s nomination in such an overcrowded field.”
According to experts, Bennet’s timing is less than impeccable as he comes in late to a foray that includes a diverse field of candidates among them six women, six candidates of color and an openly gay mayor. On top of that, Bennet is already far behind his colleagues and competitors in terms of campaign finance and has just over a month before the first democratic primary debates take place on June 26 and 27.
“To say it’s a long shot may be a disservice to long shots,” said Jameson Davis, 74, registered Democrat in Douglas County. “I hold both Senator Bennet and Governor Hickenlooper in high regard, I do. But I don’t think either is going to make much of a dent on a national scale. At least, not in the 2020 primary.”
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper is another Colorado-based candidate vying for the Democratic nominee. Hickenlooper made his announcement at the beginning of March and raised $1 million in less than 48 hours after his announcement, a sign that there is interest in his candidacy.
“Hickenlooper is not a bad candidate, neither of them are,” Davis said. “They just may not be running at the right time. In hindsight, it would have been nice to see a few more names in 2015 and 2016 instead of this gluttony in 2019.”
Though party activism appears to be high among both Democrats and Republicans, Davis, a former associate professor of political science who continues to follow political trends “closely,” cautions that voter turnout speaks much louder than social media.
“You certainly see a lot of people are passionate about their underlying political beliefs,” he said. “And that is a wonderful thing, as long as the manifestation of those beliefs remains civil and is done at the polls. But it isn’t done at the polls and, sadly, it often isn’t civil.”
He cited that the highly-talked-about election of 2016 only saw a 58 percent turnout among the voting-eligible population and “less than half of the voting-eligible population turns out during the  mid-terms and it’s a record. That’s not a sign of an urgent democracy. That’s a sign of complacency.”
Complacent voter turnout will definitely not help moderate democrats like Hickenlooper and Bennet who both will face the challenge of wooing independent voters and progressive democrats.
“I think more than anything what this overstuffed primary shows is how this is no longer a two-party system, it is a four-party system,” Davis said. “On the right you have moderate Republicans and tea-party Republicans and on the left you have moderate Democrats and progressive Democrats. The picture will continue to get more and more muddled as the dissonance within the parties grows.”
How much that dissonance will affect the campaigns of Hickenlooper and Bennet remains to be seen.