CHICAGO - Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday questioned whether a backwards-looking message of returning America to a time before President Trump was in the White House is a winning message for Democrats trying to succeed in 2020.
The comments by Hickenlooper, who is running for the White House, come as Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden has focused his candidacy on a promise to "restore the soul of the nation" and "rebuild the backbone of the nation" in the wake of Trump's presidency.
"When you are rebuilding, never say you are going to rebuild what was there before," Hickenlooper told USA TODAY. "It won't satisfy. When people feel they've lost a great deal, they need to believe that the future is going to be better than what was destroyed. Whether it's a flood or a renegade president trampling on people's rights (and) encouraging white supremacists. They are going to want to believe that future is going to be better than what was even before."
Hickenlooper made the comments in an interview following a campaign stop at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs where he made an address on his foreign policy vision. Polls show Hickenlooper is in the bottom half of the more than 20 major Democratic candidates vying for the 2020 nomination before next February's first-in-the nation Iowa caucuses.
The former governor also cautioned that we "cannot hope to go back to the way the world was before Trump; too much has changed."
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So far, it seems Biden's turn-back-the-clock message is resonating as most polls showing the former vice president with a sizeable lead over other Democratic contenders nationally and in states with the earliest primaries and caucuses. Hickenlooper, however, noted that it is still early in the 2020 campaign and few early frontrunners over the last 50 years have gone on to win their party's nomination.
"I think for Americans to want to believe in tomorrow, they got to believe that we're not just going to go back to the way we were," Hickenlooper said in the interview. "We got to go (forward) to something that is better than what we had."
During his speech, Hickenlooper criticized Trump for "obsessing" over building a border wall along the southern border with Mexico, when cyber attacks on U.S. infrastructure and voting from adversaries like North Korea and Russia remains a more important concern.
He also slammed Trump for treating Vladimir Putin as "his puppet-master," and abandoning America's position as a global leader on security by threatening to pull out of NATO and announcing early in his presidency that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Climate Accords.
Hickenlooper also assailed "some Democrats" who he said are "recoiling from past American foreign policy mistakes by looking to withdraw from American global leadership role."
"I refuse to join their retreat," Hickenlooper said in the speech. "I will modernize our military, not slash it. I will be an activist, not a pacifist. I will rely heavily on our most experienced intelligence, military, and diplomatic advisers. I will work to expand trade, not restrict it."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How do Democrats beat Trump? Hickenlooper says Biden's backward-looking message isn't the way