HENNIKER, N.H. (AP) — John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado who is considering a run for president in 2020, said Thursday he supports universal health care and thinks the U.S. eventually should provide it.
But as other Democrats already in the race endorse "Medicare-for-all," Hickenlooper told a crowd at a New Hampshire college that it was more important now to get behind the general idea rather than argue over a specific approach.
"I reject the notion that it should become a litmus test of what it takes to be a good Democrat," said Hickenlooper, who expanded Medicaid while governor and has teamed with former Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, on a health care overhaul.
The onetime Denver mayor, who's considered a centrist politician, said after holding a town hall that he will not decide for several more weeks whether to join the crowded 2020 contest. He took questions mostly from students and faculty on everything from student debt and the ballooning national debt to relations with American allies around the world.
Hickenlooper said he was concerned that the push for Medicare-for-all calls for dismantling the current system when less disruptive measures may achieve universal health care.
"There are so many different ways to cut the pie and work on the issue that we too often are trying to say, 'You're wrong, I'm right,' and this is even within the Democrat Party," he said. "It's more important to be unified and say we want universal coverage. We are not going to stop until we get universal coverage."
With Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts already running, the challenge for Hickenlooper is showing he is progressive enough to compete. He cited progressive policies he enacted as governor dealing with methane emissions and teenage pregnancies and abortion.
"In many ways, I'm a lot more progressive than a lot of these other folks," he asserted.
Hickenlooper also insisted he would have no problem going up against President Donald Trump.
"I grew up the skinny kid with thick glasses and a funny last name. I've dealt with bullies my whole life," he said. "The way to deal with a bully is you don't punch back and take them head on. You take what they say to you and ... you reframe it in a way that reveals the foolishness of what they're saying and the weakness and insecurity that they're demonstrating."