Colorado Senator Michael Bennet picked up an endorsement from a prior winner of the New Hampshire primary, former presidential candidate and Colorado Senator Gary Hart, at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention Saturday. Hart addressed the convention and opened by joking that most of the press corps was not alive when he won the New Hampshire primary in 1984.
"Every four years voters are looking for new leadership" said Hart. "I was the beneficiary of that process."
Hart's stunning upset victory in New Hampshire in 1984 came as a blow to Vice President Walter Mondale, who was the party's front-runner and who had easily won the Iowa caucuses with the help of the large contingent of independent voters who are allowed to vote in either party's primary in New Hampshire.
The former Colorado senator's relationship with Bennet goes back decades. Hart and Bennet's late father, Douglas Bennet, also knew each other and worked together on Senator George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign.
Hart said of the younger Bennet that he "has the intellectual capacity at all levels" to be president. Bennet, a moderate who was one of the last candidates to join the race, has struggled to stand out in the large Democratic field. Hart, asked if he's concerned that the Democratic Party is moving too far to the left, said he didn't think it had.
"I don't think the Democratic party at its core has changed all that much," he said, adding that the party has always been home to a wide variety of "philosophies".
Hart feels that the media and campaigns focus too much on polling and that Bennet should not be discouraged by his flagging poll numbers. However, Bennet and Hart both mentioned second-choice polling as a factor that could help his chances. Bennet's pitch to voters is that he's a "serious" candidate, and his hope is that his candidacy will pick up as other drop out.
The former Colorado senator served with Joe Biden in the Senate and also ran against him for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988. He said while he has "extraordinary respect" for Biden, who is leading in national polls, voters are turning to new leadership. Hart reminded reporters that his own 1984 campaign was one of an underdog running against a former vice president, too.