Michael Bennet’s next move? Coloradan has options after failed presidential bid

No sooner were the words out of his mouth Tuesday night that he was abandoning his run for the White House than U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet muddied the political waters by telling a small crowd of supporters in Concord, N.H., that “you may see me once again.”

Did Colorado’s senior senator mean he had begun plotting a 2024 or 2028 presidential run? Did he mean he wants to broaden his national profile within the Democratic Party? Or does Bennet, 55, simply want another chance to try the Coffee BBQ Bacon Bison Burger in New Hampshire’s capital city?

“He’s in a position now in which he can say, ‘I’m only going to take a job to work on things I’m interested in,’ ” said Laura Chapin, a Democratic political strategist based in Denver. “He’s been a very good, very solid senator, but I also think Sen. Bennet has the luxury to do what he wants.”

Chapin was one of half a dozen politics watchers and analysts The Denver Post interviewed — and asked to divine Bennet’s future — in the days after his exit from the presidential race. Few see him as a likely vice presidential pick, though a Cabinet post under a Democratic president is a distinct possibility.

“He’s an operative — he could do a lot of things,” said Josh Penry, a Republican strategist who served in the statehouse for six years. “He could run a big agency.”

But others think Bennet should stay right where he is — in the U.S. Senate, where he first took office in 2009. He could embark on a third term as senator should he win re-election in 2022.

“I think he would be a much more effective political actor if he stayed in the Senate,” said Mindi Haddad, a Denver-based political strategist, who calls Bennet a collaborator. “I think it would be putting his talents to best use.”

That seems to be Bennet’s immediate plan, telling a Denver Post reporter in New Hampshire this week that he’s “looking forward to going back to Colorado and running for re-election there.” But beyond that, it’s not clear what the long-term picture is for Bennet, who got his start in state politics 17 years ago working as chief of staff to then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

As for a future presidential bid, the senator was certain about his uncertainty: “I don’t have any idea.”