John Hickenlooper is out of the 2020 presidential race. That’s good news for these 3 Democratic candidates

Ben Smith (L) and John Hickenlooper speak onstage at Conversations About America's Future: Former Governor John Hickenlooper during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater on March 10, 2019 in Austin, Texas.

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Ben Smith (L) and John Hickenlooper speak onstage at Conversations About America’s Future: Former Governor John Hickenlooper during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater on March 10, 2019 in Austin, Texas.
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Danny Matson/Getty Images for SXSW

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary on Thursday. Though he never exactly soared in the polls, he resonated well enough among some constituencies that at the very least, his exit from the race presents an opportunity for other candidates to muscle in and secure support from his now abandoned fans.

Since December 2018, INSIDER has been conducting a series of national polls asking respondents who they would be satisfied with in the event they secured the Democratic nomination. This allows us to determine the degree of overlap of between those who’d like a President Hickenlooper, few as they may be, and the remaining contenders in the race.

Among the frontrunners, Biden and Warren are obvious possible beneficiaries

Generally speaking, if someone indicated they liked John Hickenlooper, they were the kind of respondent who was fairly amenable to a wide swath of the field.

The most recent polls show that Hickenlooper’s support base also have strong affinity for frontrunners Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, with more than 75% saying they also like Biden and 71% saying they also like Warren. For context, overall 58% of Democratic respondents would be satisfied with Biden and 56% would be satisfied with Warren, so they enjoy a considerable bump among those Hickenlooper aficionados.

John Hickenlooper_8.16.19

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Business Insider

Cory Booker actually could capitalize on this

Realistically, Hickenlooper was seeing support from a pretty slight fraction of the electorate, and while that might not mean a whole lot to one of the top-flight contenders, a dedicated attempt to reach out could have great advantages for contenders angling to make the jump from the second tier to the big leagues. Essentially, the candidates who stand to gain the most from Hickenlooper’s exit are not the top contenders for the Democratic nomination, but those angling to be.

INSIDER’s eight most recent polls, surveyed from June 1 to August 11, suggest that a strong contingent of Hickenlooper’s supporters are disproportionately open to throwing their weight behind Sens. Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, or Kirsten Gillibrand.

Those polls found that respondents who liked Hickenlooper were 23 percentage points more likely to support Booker than the overall set, and 26 percentage points more likely to support Klobuchar or Gillibrand, compared to Democratic voters overall.

Booker had the strongest advantage in the most recent August poll, which found that Hickenlooper supporters liked him 41 percentage points more than the typical Democrat did – a far stronger preference than any other rivals had.

Both Booker and Hickenlooper have executive experience, are generally moderate given the range of opinions represented in the primary, and are unquestionably members of the Democratic establishment. On paper, there’s something there, though whether Booker capitalizes on it is yet to be seen.

Those who have nothing to gain: outsiders and liberals

Meanwhile, the candidates who won’t gain anything from Hickenlooper’s exit are Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang. Just 7.5% of Hickenlooper’s supporters said they also liked Steyer – 7.3 percentage points lower than Steyer’s support from the average Democrat – and only 26.3% those who liked Hickenlooper also like Yang.

Unlike other candidates with high name recognition, INSIDER’s polls indicate that Sen. Bernie Sanders probably won’t benefit either: Hickenlooper supporters don’t like him any more than Democratic voters overall do.

The longshot with the most to gain: Rep. Tim Ryan

In recent polls, Rep. Tim Ryan has enjoyed increased satisfaction from the same people who were satisfied with Hickenlooper. They had a bit of a tag-team moderate-who’s-not-from-the-coasts thing going on in the second debate, which is probably where that connection emerged from. It’s not entirely obvious how Ryan will be able to win over former Hickenlooper backers, but that’s mainly because it’s not entirely obvious how Ryan will be able to win over literally any voter.

Based on INSIDER’s polls, Hickenlooper’s exit from the race was a wise move. Over the course of 20 polls conducted since December 2018, results show that awareness of Hickenlooper doubled. But the recognition came with a catch: Respondents who said they were satisfied with Hickenlooper decreased from an average of close to 25% from the first five polls of the year, to under 15% over the last five polls, while dissatisfaction increased in step. He quit just in time to develop a national name recognition while also guaranteeing that he didn’t overstay his welcome.

It was time for him to move on – and an opportunity for his Democratic primary rivals to move up.