DENVER (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bennet picked up the endorsement Friday of onetime White House hopeful Gary Hart, a party elder statesman hoping to boost Bennet’s longshot candidacy.
Hart, now 82, was a Colorado senator and well-regarded underdog when he won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire in 1984. Former Vice President Walter Mondale eventually won the nomination before losing to President Ronald Reagan.
Bennet, also a Colorado senator, hopes to emulate Hart’s New Hampshire performance as he tries to emerge in a crowded presidential field where he has hovered around 1% in polling. Hart planned to introduce and formally endorse Bennet at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s convention on Saturday.
“A number of years ago, the voters of New Hampshire provided an opportunity for a young Colorado senator to build a strong national candidacy,” Hart said in a statement. “They have the chance now to do it again. Michael Bennet has the intelligence, experience, and judgment to put our nation back on track at home and abroad.”
Hart was considered the Democratic front-runner in the 1988 cycle until an extramarital affair ended his campaign.
Bennet, 54, began his campaign in May hoping to be an alternative to the current front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden. But Biden, 76, has continued to sit at the top of the polls as Bennet struggles to sell himself as a sensible, electable alternative to members of the party’s liberal wing such as Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
“A lesson from Hart is not to count people out and not to presume how New Hampshire will judge candidates,” said Bennet spokeswoman Shannon Beckham. “They like underdogs and reward candidates with new ideas who are focused on the next generation.”