PERRY, Iowa (AP) — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Sunday "the vast majority of the problem with the campaign was me," but promised to stay in the Democratic presidential race and become a better candidate. That is despite calls from his own staff for him to exit the presidential race and run for Senate instead.
"Certainly the vast majority of the problem with the campaign was me not being as good of a messenger as I need to be, but you can't switch or trade in a new candidate," he said in an interview with a local reporter after a town hall in Perry, Iowa.
Hickenlooper acknowledged that "there's just a bunch of skills that don't come naturally to me" that are essential to campaigning — "like being a really good debater, being real smooth with wealthy donors."
But "I'm committed to growing and working and getting better," he added.
The frank assessment of his challenges come after a number of top staffers on Hickenlooper's presidential campaign left the team, after Hickenlooper failed to gain traction in early polls and has struggled to raise money in the first few months of his campaign. But he told the Perry voters that, despite pushback from his staff, he plans to stay in the race and sees Iowa as his opportunity to break out.
"I realize I'm at 1% in the polls, and you know some of my own staff said, 'Run for Senate'! I think Iowa is where that can be changed," he said, citing the "pragmatism" of Iowa voters. He joked that "I'm unemployed, so I'm gonna spend a lot of time in Iowa."
Still, Hickenlooper faced that same skepticism from some members of the audience, with one voter asking the former governor why he's opting not to challenge Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. Hickenlooper replied that "you've gotta love it to give your life to public service," and suggested he'd prefer the work of being president to that of being a senator.
But speaking after the event, Hickenlooper expressed optimism in the face of what he acknowledged were tough odds.
"Sometimes, the longshot becomes the legend," he said.