Weekend Open Thread

"Do not trust the cheering, for those persons would shout as much if you or I were going to be hanged."

–Oliver Cromwell

Best Local Journalism of the Election Cycle

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Here's my list of top election-season journalism by local reporters:

Fox 31 Denver's Eli Stokols didn't take Cory Gardner's falsehood for an answer on personhood. And, and in the same five-star interview, he tried harder than any other journalist to get a straight answer from Gardner on the details of his health insurance plan.

Only the Colorado Independent's Susan Greene offered a comprehensive look (with Mike Keefe cartoon) at the extreme right-wing comments of gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez. See Bob Beauprez's Last Eight Years: Conservatism at its Extremes.

The Associated Press' Nick Riccardi explains why senatorial candidate Cory Gardner says he favors immigration reform. And he points out that that Gardner's actual support for reform proposals is limited and illusive.

Corey Hutchins, who writes for a variety of outlets, broke the shocking story on Medium about Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) urging a military revolt against Obama. (Reminder: Our country is at war.)

9News' Brandon Rittiman was the first local journalist to press senatorial candidate Cory Gardner on the hypocrisy of his withdrawing support for state personhood measures but remaining a co-sponsor of a federal personhood bill. Other journalists, besides Stokols and Rittiman, deserve credit for challenging Gardner on this: 9News' Kyle ClarkThe Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby, The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels, and The Durango Herald's Peter Marcus.

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Put the Stamps Away and Drop Off Your Ballot

Remember, folks, that ballots must arrive at the county clerk's office prior to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday; the postmarked date is irrelevant in this case.

To find your ballot drop-off location, go to JustVoteColorado.org.

For Denver voters, ProgressNow has developed a cool text message system that allows voters to find the nearest 24-hour ballot drop location. To use this free service, Denver voters can text DROPOFF to 30644.

dropoff

 

Coffman Not a Good Debater in Spanish, Either

Denver Post reporter Jon Murray, top, and Associated Press reporter Nick Riccardi Tweeting during yesterday's debate.

Denver Post reporter Jon Murray, top, and Associated Press reporter Nick Riccardi Tweeting during yesterday’s Spanish-language debate in CD-6.

Yesterday Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff participated in the first Spanish-language debate in Colorado history.

While Coffman seemed to have trouble with the language — his campaign has backpedaled significantly from touting Coffman's Spanish-language prowess — he nevertheless managed to flip-flop on a key issue. In 2011, Coffman proposed amending the Voting Rights Act to eliminate the requirement that ballots be printed in different languages. It was a surprise, then, when Coffman stated his belief that bilingual ballots are important. As Jason Salzman noted, this appears to be the first time Coffman has ever offered a different position on bilingual ballots.

For a good rundown of the entire event, we turn to the Aurora Sentinel:

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman, a recent student of Spanish, did his best to keep up with the language skills of his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff. Due to his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, Romanoff is fluent in Spanish and used his familiarity with the language to go on the offensive at Coffman’s expense, attacking his record of historically voting against policies intended to reform immigration laws. Coffman didn’t offer much defense to Romanoff’s barbs and appeared to stick to a prepared set of talking points, frequently glancing at the podium in front of him. He touted his backing of a military version of the DREAM act, called the ENLIST act, which would allow for children brought to the U.S. illegally to become members of the military and obtain citizenship…

“Does Congressman Coffman really think memorizing a new script is enough to mask the harm he’s done to the Hispanic community throughout his career?” Romanoff said in a statement after the debate. “Mr. Coffman’s record doesn’t sound any better in Spanish.”

At the end of the debate, Romanoff said his comments and philosophies were heartfelt and Coffman was providing nothing more than a “script.” The comment drew audible response from the audience. [Pols emphasis]

If you weren't already aware, both candidates received the questions in advance of the debate at the request of Coffman's campaign — which was obvious throughout the debate as Coffman largely repeated memorized responses. Coffman supporters like to say how nice it is that Coffman is trying to learn Spanish, and while that sentiment carries some truth to it, Coffman is clearly getting more credit than he deserves for his Spanish-language skills. Agreeing to debate in Spanish was a noble effort by Coffman, we suppose, but he's obviously not fluent enough to participate in a forum of this nature.

We've said it before after watching numerous other debates between Coffman and Romanoff, but it bears repeating here as well: If debates decided the outcome of elections, Romanoff would be on his way to a blowout victory on Tuesday. Perhaps there is a third language in which Coffman could win a debate with Romanoff, but you can mark English and Spanish off the list.

A Few Words About “Mark Uterus”

Rep. Amy Stephens (R).

Rep. Amy Stephens (R).

The issue of reproductive choice has undeniably played a large role in the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Colorado. The heavy focus on abortion this year has a couple of origins: first and foremost, the successful prosecution of the issue in 2010 against stridently anti-abortion Republican candidate Ken Buck. Like Cory Gardner, Buck was a longtime supporter of the Personhood abortion ban, and this was used effectively against Buck to run up the score for Democrat Michael Bennet with women voters. In the end, Bennet's 17-point margin with women was the decisive factor in the 2010 Senate race, overcoming public polling that only once out of a dozen or more showed Bennet with a lead in the month of October.

The second reason abortion has loomed large in 2014 is that Republican Cory Gardner made it an issue by affirmatively disavowing the Colorado Personhood amendments just a few weeks after entering the Senate race. Gardner himself focused the race on his decision to disavow Personhood, and all the consequences that spun out of that decision: the contradiction with Gardner's continued support for equivalent federal legislation that would ban abortion and common forms of birth control, and dismay from anti-abortion activists on the right who openly disagree with Gardner's decision and stated reasons for it.

Focusing on Gardner's no-exceptions opposition to abortion has had the desired effect for Democrats of alienating Gardner from women voters, and Gardner's attempts to put the issue to bed early in the campaign failed dramatically as his federal Life at Conception Act became the story. In response, Gardner and Republican surrogates have decried Democrat Mark Udall as a "social issue warrior," and the standard response to this issue became feigned exasperation over the Udall campaign's "obsession" with the issue of abortion. At the Denver Post's U.S. Senate debate early this month, reporter Lynn Bartels invoked the now-famous nickname "Mark Uterus" in a question about his campaign's focus on the issue.

Of course, Bartels didn't come up with that nickname. According to a story published just before that debate, the credit for "Mark Uterus" goes to outgoing state Rep. Amy Stephens. Stephens exited the Senate race early this year to make way for Gardner. But what you might not know, because Bartels never mentioned it, is that Stephens is a former public policy specialist for the nationally known evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family. Stephens also wrote Focus on the Family's abstinence-only sex ed curriculum, No Apologies.

Take a moment and let that sink in, folks. One of the foremost "social issue warriors" in Colorado is responsible for the meme now being used to paint Mark Udall…as a "social issue warrior." If "Mark Uterus" didn't currently have thousands of Google hits, and mentions from the Denver Post to the Washington Post, we'd be inclined to let this go. But like it or not, "Mark Uterus" has seen a great deal of play. And it has its origins with someone who, if the full facts were understood, most voters would laugh at for going there.

All we can say is, the extreme hypocrisy on display here says a lot about this race.

Coffman’s new desire to offer “bilingual ballots” contradicts his proposal to eliminate federal requirement to provide them

(Old Coffman strikes again – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Mike Coffman.

Mike Coffman.

Yesterday, during what was apparently Colorado's first candidate debate in Spanish, Rep. Mike Coffman said:

Coffman: "The federal government has obligated local governments to send bilingual ballots to everyone. I think that bilingual ballots should only go to people who need them. It's a question of saving money. I would hope that every voter will be able to get the information that he needs in a language he can understand."

But back in 2011, when Coffman proposed repealing the section of the Voting Rights Act requiring ballots to be printed in multiple languages, Coffman said nothing about making sure those who needed translated ballots get them.

Coffman: "Since proficiency in English is already a requirement for U.S. citizenship, forcing cash-strapped local governments to provide ballots in a language other than English makes no sense at all," Coffman told the Denver Post at the time.

I went back to the archive, and I couldn't find a single instance in 2011 where Coffman said everyone who needs a bilingual ballot should have one. The best I could find was an acknowledgement that some voters have "legitimate needs," but he suggested second-class solutions, like making a sample ballots available to voters somehow, without any guarantees that they even get this.

His 2011 proposal, by turning ballot-translation decisions over to local authorities and releasing local jurisdictions from the federal requirement, contradicts Coffman's statement yesterday that he wants to provide a "bilingual ballot" to "people who need them." That's not consistent with his actual 2011 proposal.

What if local officials decide that Coffman's dictionary idea is better and cheaper?

So after his debate yesterday, I asked Coffman if he'd offered a new position on English-only ballots.

He said, "No."

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Rep. Kagan Helps Rescue ISIS-Bound Denver Girls

A sidenote to the riveting story this week about Denver teenage girls who were stopped in Germany on their way to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)–Democratic Rep. Daniel Kagan, who represents Cherry Hills Village in the Colorado House, played a role in the recovery of these teenagers before they made it to the Middle East. It's not a political story but it is an interesting segue into a subject we wouldn't normally discuss in this space. The Denver Post's Jesse Paul reported earlier this week, or you can watch the Post's video above:

"I'm very sure if my daughter crossed into Syria, I was never going to see her in my life," he said. "She would be gone."

It wasn't until he saw tweets and Facebook posts that he connected the dots and discovered she was heading to Syria, he said…

During the search for his teen daughter, the father sought help from state Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village. Kagan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, pushed the matter up the chain of command.

"He was worried sick," Kagan said Monday. Kagan said as he listened to the man's story, he became extremely concerned.

"This is a girl in a good family with good strong family roots," Kagan said.

If you haven't had the pleasure of getting to know Rep. Kagan, the son of Holocaust survivors who grew up in England before emigrating to the United States almost forty years ago, you ought to. He's one of the most interesting members of the legislature in either party, with stories you don't normally hear in the Colorado capitol building. He's not the type to make political hay out of helping recover these teenage girls, even with elections right around the corner. That too speaks to good character, and we think this deserves a favorable mention.

Friday Open Thread

Okay, me thinks this stinks trickery
Some weak links in the chain of the mystery
Time for that mist to leave
By way of the breeze, flows formed by my speak

–Del the Funky Homosapien

Did Democrats or Republicans Guess Wrong on Spanish-Language TV?

SEIU Colorado TV ad

Somebody guessed wrong on Spanish-language television buys in Colorado. Was it Democrats…or Republicans?

 

We haven't seen the hard numbers on this yet, but as it has been explained to us, 2014 has seen considerably more money spent on Spanish-language media buys than any other mid-term election (anecdotally, of course, it makes perfect sense). In fact, spending on Spanish-language media is at a level comparable to the 2012 Presidential election. That spending has not been equal among Democrats and Republicans, however, and on Tuesday evening we will have a pretty good idea of which Party made the wrong decision. Democrats have spent much more money on Spanish-language television than Republicans; media buys for Democratic Sen. Mark Udall alone have dominated the airwaves on Univision in Colorado.

Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner launched his first Spanish-language TV ad in Colorado today, the same day in which the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was promoting another new Spanish-language ad in a media campaign that has been underway for months (check out the SEIU press release from Oct. 7 after the jump). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has run a Spanish-language TV ad with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorsing Gardner, but the Gardner campaign itself had not ventured into the medium until today. Coincidentally, NBC News reports on the attraction for politicos of Spanish-language media around the country:

That means in places like Colorado, there are many more Spanish-language ads than in previous elections, the sort of “wall-to-wall coverage” that non-Latino white voters have long been accustomed to seeing in elections, Chambers said. On top of that, Hispanic advocacy and other groups are doing field work, knocking on doors to register and turn out Latino voters and making sure those who can get their ballots mailed in…

…An ad titled “Tu Poder” running in Colorado – paid for by People for the American Way and NexGen Climate and done by Chambers – hits several themes at once to reach Latinos. It shows a mailbox to explain the new Colorado voting law in which every registered voter gets a mail-in ballot that has to be mailed back by Oct. 31 and it also touches on issues of the environment and health.

The ad for Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Mark Udall opens with several official ballot packets landing on a table and a narrator saying “Este es tu poder. (This is your power.)" That line is repeated later and followed by “úselo (use it.)”

The ad is part of a multiyear effort People for the American Way (PFAW) designed to reach Latino voters. Randy Borntrager, political director of the liberal group, said in 2014 Latinos “could be kingmaker” in several of the close 10 Senate races.

What's so fascinating about this disparity with Spanish-language media buys is that it offers a unique opportunity to examine different strategies in play. Just like any other big-money industry, politics is a copycat business. Everybody does TV and mail. Everybody does online advertising. Everybody has some sort of field campaign. But in this particular case, only one Party can be correct about their decision on how to allocate money for Spanish-language media (and TV specifically).

The relative importance of Spanish-language media to each Party is pretty clear in 2014, but by 2016 lessons will have been learned and cats copied.

If the Latino vote in Colorado does prove to be the final arbiter in many of these races, we can guess which side will be doing the copying in two years.

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Citizens United: The Ultimate Colorado Politics Faux Pas

We wrote earlier this week about the new "shockumentary" from national conservative filmmakers Citizens United on the "takeover" of Colorado by Democrats beginning in 2004, Rocky Mountain Heist. As we discussed, the film is mostly a hyped-up version of Adam Schrager's excellent book on the same subject, Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado, with as much bombast as host Michelle Malkin could muster (which is apparently quite a lot). Mostly the film doesn't allege anything more than, well, really effective Democrats–and where it does, it's so inaccurate that it's more or less laughable.

Although Rocky Mountain Heist is now available online to watch for free online, we ordered a DVD copy almost two weeks ago. It finally arrived yesterday, and we were immediately struck by the cover photo:

rockymountainheist

The mountains in the background of the DVD cover for Citizens United's Rocky Mountain Heist are indeed in the Rocky Mountains. The problem is, this is a photo of the Canadian Rockies. The image you see is a very common stock photo of Moraine Lake, located in Banff National Park in Alberta. Here's another photo of this picturesque but foreign location:

winter_moraine_lake_alberta_canada-wallpaper-1152x720

In Colorado politics, one of the worst embarrassments possible is the use of mountains not located in our state in campaign ads and literature. Back in August, National Right To Life pulled down a social media graphic touting their endorsement of Cory Gardner after it was found to feature Wyoming's Mount Moran. Earlier this year, the Colorado GOP's independent expenditure committee used photos of Utah to extol "restoring Republican values to Colorado." Back in 2009, Scott McInnis used a photo from the same Banff National Park in Canada on his website, and in 2008 Bob Schaffer's family jumped out of a photo of Alaska's Denali instead of the intended Pikes Peak in a campaign TV spot. Most of these incidents were followed by lampooning local media coverage.

To some this may seem like small potatoes, but the truth is that proud Coloradans do not appreciate these kinds of mistakes–coming across as pandering by out-of-state interests to whom "all mountains look alike." Colorado has worked hard to overcome our flyover state reputation, and this is the exactly the sort of indifference that rips the scab off that longstanding resentment. It's also an inexcusably-lazy mistake to have made, particularly when so many others have already tripped over this.

Colorado Democrats in particular should find it pretty ironic.

Tea Party Express Endorses Mike Coffman (Shhh, Don’t Tell Anyone)

TeaParty-MikeCoffman

Tea Party Express, which bills itself as the largest Tea Party political action committee in the country, announced yesterday — yes, yesterday — that it is endorsing Republican Congressman Mike Coffman in CD-6. Check out the endorsement press release, however, and note how the language is so plain that it could apply to just about any interest group:

Tea Party Express’ Executive Director Taylor Budowich said, “Representative Mike Coffman is a solutions-driven leader. We need a problem solver like Mike to continue to get to the bottom of serious issues. We are confident he will keep the ball rolling to provide real answers for Americans.

It almost sounds like, We endorse Mike Coffman because we are endorsing Mike Coffman. We'd say that getting this endorsement is akin to the old "kissing your sister" line, but that wouldn't be fair to your sister.

Claims on Seniors and ACA in Senate Race Don’t Mesh With Facts

(Don't believe the hype – promoted by Colorado Pols)

obamascare

Two campaign claims are being made in Colorado’s U.S. senate race about the Affordable Care Act and seniors. Political ads are often designed to scare or anger people rather than inform them, and that sure seems to be the case here.  

Claim No. 1
The Affordable Care Act “cleared the way for cuts to Medicare Advantage,” and “didn’t protect Colorado seniors” but instead puts “them in harm’s way.”

Medicare Advantage (MA) is the private insurance version of traditional Medicare. MA plans must cover all of the traditional Medicare benefits, but they have additional benefits, for which policyholders pay extra. More than 256,000 Coloradans are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, and they represent about 36 percent of the state’s total Medicare population.

The federal Medicare program reimburses Medicare Advantage insurance companies for the cost of traditional Medicare coverage. Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), MA plans were paid 14 percent more on average per enrollee than for enrollees in traditional Medicare. That translated into an additional $1,280 per MA enrollee, or about $14 billion in higher payments to insurance companies. Those excess payments contributed significantly to concerns about Medicare’s long-term financial solvency. In 2009, it also meant an additional $40 per year in Part B premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries. The excess payments were also ironic, since one of the big selling points for Medicare Advantage legislation in the late 1990s was that its reliance on private-market insurance would reduce long-term Medicare spending.

In response, the ACA included provisions to reduce MA overpayments while at the same time providing incentives for improvements in quality. The transition to lower rates began in 2012 and is scheduled to end in 2017. Between 2009 and 2014, those reimbursements were reduced by an average of 8 percent.  Even so, in 2014, MA plan reimbursement rates are still about 6 percent higher than traditional Medicare.

Additionally, while cuts were implemented over the last two years, because of reductions in overall Medicare spending, reimbursement payments to MA carriers will actually increase rather than decrease in 2014 and 2015.

It’s also illegal under the ACA for Medicare Advantage plans to reduce or eliminate traditional Medicare benefits.  

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Andrew Romanoff and Mike Coffman are the Hardest-Working House Candidates in the Country

Coffman and Romanoff in CD-6

Rep. Mike Coffman, left, and Democrat Andrew Romanoff are probably pretty sick of each other at this point.

Partisan bickering is at its highest point as we approach Election Day, so it's refreshing to take a little break and recognize the hard work being done by candidates across Colorado.

As National Journal reports, our own CD-6 is home to the two hardest-working U.S. House candidates in the entire country:

Romanoff has arguably been the most impressive and hard-working Democratic candidate in America in 2014—and Coffman has met the challenge. Together, the two campaigners have been running a grueling two-year marathon in a district like no other in the country, leaving their young staffers equal parts impressed and sprinting to keep up…

…Both candidates have excelled in another, quantifiable area of political preparedness. Romanoff raised more money (around $5 million) than any other House challenger in the country in 2013 and 2014, a particularly impressive feat considering that he didn't accept funds from political action committees. And Coffman, who was not a particularly good fundraiser in his first few years in Congress, kept close behind his opponent. Given how gobs of outside money flock to the few competitive House races these days, that cash has proven necessary for both candidates to get their own messages out this fall.

On the ground, Democrats have been executing a massive field program in Colorado to try to get unlikely voters to cast ballots this fall, and Romanoff has been personally knocking on doors for months as part of that effort. But the GOP has a smaller cohort of "drop-off" voters too, and Coffman has executed a labor-intensive strategy to get their help in a district President Obama carried twice.