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

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.  

With one exception, the impact of these provisions on Medicare Advantage coverage has been pretty minimal. Nationally, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Nearly all beneficiaries (99 percent) continue to have access to an MA plan in their area in 2014.
  • MA enrollment has increased by more than 30 percent since the enactment of the ACA.
  • Average MA beneficiary premiums have decreased by 10 percent since the ACA was passed.
  • Total revenues for MA insurers have increased by 29 percent.
  • Plan quality has improved, with more than half of all MA policyholders enrolled in plans with four or more “quality stars.” More than one-third of all MA contracts have four or more quality stars in 2014, compared to only 14 percent in 2011.

If there is a downside for MA policyholders, it may be the potential impact on provider networks. The biggest overhead cost for insurance companies is the direct cost of health care, and they frequently adjust or reduce their provider networks to better manage costs and profits.  UnitedHeathcare, one of the two leading MA plan providers, has reduced its national provider networks by some 30,000 physicians over the last two years. The company’s stated goal is to reduce its networks by 10 to 15 percent over last year.

So, in general, enrollment in MA plans has increased, costs are being controlled, no benefits are being cut and most plans get high marks for quality.

Claim No. 2
The Affordable Care Act “raided $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.”

This claim implies that Medicare spending was cut simply to pay for other provisions in the Affordable Care Act. The ACA does, indeed, reduce the growth in Medicare spending, but those reductions are based on efforts to improve efficiencies and reduce waste and fraud, all of which are designed to extend the solvency of the program.

It’s important to remember that before the ACA was passed, the Medicare Part A Trustees Board projected that Medicare would become insolvent in the year 2016. Insolvency means that Medicare would be spending more money than it would be receiving in funding. Since Medicare has almost 50 million enrollees, insolvency would have had serious consequences for the long-term sustainability of Medicare, as well as other federal programs that aren’t even related to seniors or health care. In short, spending reductions were necessary.  

It is also important to understand the goal of these spending reductions. In 2012, hospital and Medicare Advantage costs represented about 55 percent of all Medicare spending. As a result, almost 70 percent of all of the ACA’s spending reductions focus on payments to hospitals and Medicare Advantage plans, not individual physicians, beneficiaries or benefits.    

And since the passage of the ACA, the solvency picture for Medicare looks a lot better.  The latest projection from the Medicare Trustees Board has extended the solvency of Medicare through 2030. A major reason for that 14-year extension is the ACA’s spending reductions.  

Perhaps the best evidence for the likelihood of Medicare spending cuts is the budget proposal passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in every session since 2011. That party-line proposal does nothing to reinstate the ACA’s Medicare spending reductions. In fact, it proposes sweeping reforms that would reduce overall spending by turning Medicare into a premium-support program. Under this plan, American seniors would be provided with a predetermined stipend that could be used to purchase private insurance or traditional Medicare coverage.  While this would not affect current seniors it would apply to future Medicare beneficiaries over a targeted age. In addition, the budget plan would also reduce Medicaid spending (which is the only public safety-net program that funds long-term care for low-income seniors) by appropriating funding through block grants to the states.

Regardless of the merits or disadvantages of those proposals, both reforms significantly reduce federal Medicare and Medicaid spending. To imply that one approach will cut senior programs while the other will not is simply untrue.

– Bob Semro

 

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.

PPP: Udall, Gardner Tied at 48%, Hickenlooper, Beauprez at 47%

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

The latest survey from Public Policy Polling for the League of Conservation Voters finds both the Colorado U.S. Senate race and gubernatorial races at a perfect deadlock:  48% each for Sen. Mark Udall and Republican Cory Gardner, and a 47% tie between Gov. John Hickenlooper and his Republican opponent Bob Beauprez. From PPP's memo this morning:

-Mark Udall and Cory Gardner are both getting 48% of the vote, with just 4% of voters remaining undecided. Gardner had led by small margins on each of PPP’s previous two polls of the race.

* Udall has notably improved his standing with independents and now leads 59/38 with them. He is also tied based on his strength with the core Democratic constituencies that have helped the party be so successful in Colorado in recent years- he’s up 53/42 with women, 63/27 with Hispanics, and 53/40 with voters under 45.

-John Hickenlooper and Bob Beauprez are each getting 47% in the race for Governor. Hickenlooper has a 55/38 advantage with independents, and similarly to Udall is doing very well with women (51/42), Hispanics (55/27), and younger voters (50/39).

Here's the full memo and crosstabs.

The trajectory between polls from PPP in the Senate race is good news for Udall–their last survey in mid-October showed Gardner leading by three points, and another poll by PPP for Americans for Tax Fairness had Gardner up by two. In the mid-October poll, Hickenlooper led Beauprez by one statistically insignificant point, and the lack of movement there makes a hell of a lot more sense than Quinnipiac's wild swings over the course of too few days.

These numbers say what you already know: this election is going down to the wire.

Judge, No “Persuasive Reason” Given that Colorado PERA COLA Benefit is Not a State Contract.

"Joshua Sharf is a fiscal policy analyst for the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver."

From the Greeley Tribune article, October 29, 2014: "Sharf: Good and bad news for PERA in Colorado Supreme Court’s decision:

"The Colorado Supreme Court granted some good news to the state’s troubled public pensions last week by upholding a key part of an important 2010 reform law. In the process, though, the court may have made it more difficult to enact more meaningful reform down the road."

(See: http://coloradopols.com/diary/64487/the-colorado-supreme-court-politicians-in-black-robes-as-it-turns-out)

"Four years ago the Colorado Legislature adopted Senate Bill 1 to reform the state’s Public Employees Retirement Association. Among other changes, the bill lowered the cap on retirees’ annual cost-of-living adjustments from 3.5 percent to 2 percent. The court upheld this particular provision, which was designed to help reduce PERA’s future financial shortfall."

(Joshua, for the record the current long-term inflation assumption of the Colorado PERA pension system is 3.5%. Also, why is it surprising that when states break governmental contracts, this breach of contract improves a state's financial condition?)

"SB 1’s changes applied to current as well as future retirees. A group of current retirees, unhappy with having their cost of living capped, sued."

(Joshua, the Colorado PERA COLA benefit of the retiree plaintiffs in this case, Justus v. State, was already "capped" prior to the litigation of the case, Justus v. State. The COLA was "capped" in Colorado law at 3.5%. In this case, the Colorado Supreme Court ignored the existing evidence, ignored the findings of the Colorado Court of Appeals, and rendered judgment in the case without trial or discovery. This, in spite of an obligation of US courts to give "heightened scrutiny" to state attempts to escape their own financial obligations under the US Supreme Court case, US Trust.

Joshua, just as your mortgage rate might be "capped" at a fixed rate, perhaps 4%, the PERA COLA is a provision in a contract, here a Colorado statutory contract. As an organization that supports the US Constitution, I find it odd that the Independence Institute is so eager to see Colorado state contracts abrogated. The State of Colorado also contracts with corporations.)

"The plaintiffs had some reason for optimism. While it has long been held that states cannot create contractual obligations through Legislation, the Colorado Supreme Court had carved out an exception for public pensions in two decisions: McPhail (1959) and Bills (1961)."

(Joshua, I am happy that the Independence Institute acknowledges Colorado's long-standing on-point public pension case law. This reveals a level of sophistication that exceeds that of the Denver District Court's Judge Hyatt [recently retired] who conveniently failed to even mention Colorado's on-point public pension case law [Bills and McPhail] in the Denver District Court Decision in this case. For the record, this Denver District Court Decision was embraced by the Colorado Supreme Court in its political decision to take the contracted PERA COLA benefit.)

"The Justices drew a distinction between those cases and the current one, known by its lead plaintiff, Justus. The court decided that cost-of-living adjustments were not part of the core formula for determining benefits. They also recognized that the Legislature had changed the adjustments formula a number of times in the past. As a result, the majority ruled that the retirees had no reasonable expectation that a contract had been created."

(Joshua, you don't seem to be bothered by the fact that, in this Colorado Supreme Court Decision, one branch of Colorado state government has excused the debt of another branch of state government. As was noted in the Colorado Court of Appeals Decision in this case, the plaintiffs contested the diminishment of the value of their contracts, rather than a "change" in the contractual terms. "Changes" to the COLA that improve the benefit do not impair the contract. If your mortgage company unilaterally lowered your mortgage rate, you would suffer no harm.

Did the Colorado Supreme Court justices even bother to read the Decision of the Colorado Court of Appeals? The Colorado Court of Appeals noted in its Decision that “plaintiffs contend that they have a reasonable expectation of an IRREDUCIBLE [not, as defendants asserted, an UNCHANGEABLE] COLA benefit.  Colorado Court of Appeals: “Therefore, we direct the district court to consider whether there has been a substantial impairment with that in mind.”

Instead of acknowledging up front that the plaintiffs in the case Justus v. State were contesting the provisions of SB10-001 that REDUCED the PERA retiree COLA benefit, the defendants in the case, Colorado PERA and the State of Colorado, employed a “red herring,” claiming that the plaintiffs were arguing that the COLA benefit could not be legally “adjusted,” that it was UNCHANGEABLE. Colorado PERA’s deception worked on the lower court, the District Court, but the Colorado Court of Appeals, in their Decision saw through this red herring. Perhaps the Colorado Supreme Court would have also seen through the red herring if the court had carefully read the Court of Appeals Decision, or actually sought the truth in this case.

Does the Independence Institute support the Colorado Judicial Branch's use of a red herring in escaping state contractual obligations?

Joshua, are you aware that even Colorado PERA's lawyers have the "reasonable expectation" that the Colorado PERA COLA benefit is contractual? If Colorado PERA's lawyers have this expectation, why should Colorado PERA retirees not also have this expectation?

December 16, 2009

Colorado PERA officials in written testimony to the Joint Budget Committee: “The General Assembly cannot decrease the COLA (absent actuarial necessity) because it is part of the contractual obligations that accrue under a pension plan protected under the Colorado Constitution Article II, Section 11 and the United States Constitution Article 1, Section 10 for vested contractual rights.”

http://www.kentlambert.com/Files/PERA_JBC_Hearing_Responses-12-16-2009_Final.pdf)

"Coates noted that by framing the decision the way it did, the majority bought into the plaintiffs’ logic, and that there were elements of the plan that the Legislature would not be able to change without violating the Contracts Clause."

"Coates also believes the court failed to give a persuasive reason why the adjustments were exempt from the legislative contracting exception. Taken together, these two elements effectively leave areas of the plan concerning current retirees off-limits to the Legislature. Further, the court offers no guidance as to what those areas might be."

(Joshua, thank you for juxtaposing the opinion of Colorado Supreme Court Justice Coats with the opinion of politicians sitting on the Colorado Supreme Court.)

"Without such guidance, future legislatures will be less informed about what reforms will pass constitutional muster. They will be less likely to take on broad reforms unless and until drastic action is needed, and there is little margin for error."

(Joshua, if the Colorado Legislature actually desired information regarding Colorado PERA pension reforms that would pass constitutional muster, the Colorado Legislature would have sent an interrogatory to the Colorado Supreme Court with such queries in 2009. The Colorado PERA Board of Trustees, to their credit, took the position that such an interrogatory should be sent. The Leadership of the Colorado Legislature, inexplicably, opted against sending this interrogatory to the Supreme Court. This decision was, of course, made prior to the defendant's shift in their legal strategy from seeking a one-time breach of the COLA contract through "actuarial necessity," to pursuing elimination of this Colorado PERA contractual obligation in its entirety. The Colorado Legislature did not want guidance from the court in 2009.)

"By failing to lay out clear rules for what is permissible and what isn’t with respect to existing benefits, the Court’s ruling in Justus, celebrated for helping PERA’s finances right now, may end up making such a bleak scenario more likely in the future."

(Joshua, you do not seem so concerned with the "bleak scenario" of Colorado taxpayers paying billions of dollars in corporate welfare each year.  This corporate welfare is provided by the Colorado Legislature. Google "Colorado Tax Expenditure Report." The Colorado Legislature has directed these billions of dollars to corporate welfare in lieu of paying its public pension bills. This has gone on for more than a decade.)

http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/13574970-113/court-legislature-adjustments-pera

At Least He’s Not Your Presidential Candidate…Yet

Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Sen. Lindsey Graham.

CNN reports on South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham's all too candid remarks at a private club in Charleston this month, recorded without his knowledge:

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is toying with the idea of a presidential bid, joked in a private gathering this month that "white men who are in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency," according to an audio recording of his comments provided to CNN…

In the recordings, Graham, who is favored in his race for re-election next Tuesday against Democrat Brad Hutto, appears to joke about the possible 2016 presidential bid he recently floated in an interview with the Weekly Standard.

"I'm trying to help you with your tax status," Graham says in the recording. "I'm sorry the government's so f—ed up. If I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency." [Pols emphasis] The crowd is then heard laughing.

We don't doubt it for a minute, but you're not supposed to say so. Not even in South Carolina.

Does bishops’ “neutral” stance on Amendment 67 shed light on Gardner’s preferred path to personhood

Colorado’s Catholic Bishops, speaking through the Colorado Catholic Conference, announced their “neutral stance” last week on Colorado’s latest personhood measure, Amendment 67.

The Bishops’ announcement came in a news release denouncing an anti-personhood media campaign by Catholics for Choice, a national organization that challenges the “Vatican on matters related to sex, marriage, family life and motherhood.”

A spokeswoman for Catholics for Choice points to tacit support by Colorado Bishops for Amendment 67, despite their professed neutrality on the measure, by allowing congregations to organize in support of it. You can find more details on a post of mine today on RH Reality Check.

You wonder what the bishops are thinking and how they justify it. And a trip back four years sheds some light on the matter.

The bishops’ statement of neutrality this year doesn’t get into the details, but back in 2008, when the personhood initiative first appeared in Colorado, they articulated their belief that a personhood amendment, if successful, could undermine the church’s goal of bestowing legal rights on zygotes or fertilized eggs.

The 2008 statement by Colorado Bishops Charles J. Chaput, Arthur N. Tafoya, Michael J. Sheridan, argues that a state personhood amendment is the wrong tactic to achieve personhood, because the federal courts could use it to affirm Roe v. Wade:

We admire the goals of this year’s effort to end abortion, and we remain committed to defending all human life from conception to natural death. As we have said from the start, however, we do not believe that this year’s Colorado Personhood Amendment is the best means to pursue an end to abortion in 2008…

Constructive alternatives to reduce abortions and advance the ultimate objective of ending abortion, however, do exist at the state level.

In the last two years, state level legislative strategies to protect life have included: increased penalties for attacks on pregnant women which result in the death of the unborn child; informed consent and ultrasound legislation which would have required a woman to be notified of her right to receive an ultrasound before an abortion was performed; and a complete abortion ban.

The Catholic Church in Colorado has a long and active history of working, through state legislative efforts and other community initiatives, to protect life from conception to natural death. We will continue through every realistic means to work toward this end. [BigMedia emphasis]

Maybe that’s why Gardner opposes personhood at the state level but supports in in Washington. He thinks it’s a more realistic way to ban abortion and common forms of birth control. That’s speculation, but with Gardner apparently lying about personhood, what else can you do.

After all, like Beauprez, Gardner has said his position is the “same” as Archbishop Chaput.

Um, You’re Breaking the Law, Don Suppes

THURSDAY UPDATE: The Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby:

Suppes said the town long has had a policy of allowing town trustees to use town hall for personal reasons as long as no taxpayer dollars are spent.

“Under town policy, board members can use town hall free of charge,” he said. “We all have a key to town hall, and as long as we don’t have to have somebody open or close, there is no policy against it.”

But Donovan said this is about state law, not local policies.

“The rules that I operate under are not to use any of my professional assets to run for a public office,” Donovan said. “I don’t know what the letter of the law says, but my interpretation of the color of the law is, if you’re a public official, you don’t use any of those assets to run for another office. You can’t use the power of an office to influence voters. It’s not just about tax dollars.”

—–

Donald Suppes

Republican Don Suppes

When we last left Republican Don Suppes, the Orchard City mayor running for the open seat in SD-5, he and his campaign were still trying to add to their list of reasons why his Twitter account would be linking to a white supremacist website (It was hacked! It was identity theft! It was a rogue staffer!) 

We already know that Suppes isn't very good at 1) the Internet, and 2) messaging. Now we can add 3) posing for pictures, and 4) following the law.

According to a complaint submitted to the Trustees of the Town of Orchard City (Suppes-Complaint PDF), Suppes has been using the Orchard City Town Hall as a campaign office. That's right, the Mayor of Orchard City is using the Town Hall as part of his campaign for a State Senate seat.

It doesn't appear as though Suppes' campaign finance records include reimbursements to Orchard City for using its Town Hall, which is such an obvious violation of the law that Suppes should be disqualified from the SD-5 race just for being so inexcusably stupid. But if you think that's dumb, wait 'til you see how the violation was uncovered…

…Hey, there's Don Suppes himself, grinning away in a photo taken in front of a table full of campaign literature and next to a giant poster that proclaims "Town of Orchard City!" What could go wrong? And what are the odds that Suppes' campaign has been using other town property for his campaign (quick, somebody destroy the photocopier!)

Don Suppes campaign office

1) Town of Orchard City poster. 2) Mayor and candidate Don Suppes. 3) Table full of Suppes campaign literature.

 

 

 

 

Hilarious New NARAL Ads Slam Gardner

A press release from NARAL Pro-Choice America announces a $450,000 ad buy for the above ad targeting young voters–attacking Republican Cory Gardner on issues he's been hit with before, except a lot funnier:

“Cory Gardner tries to deceive Colorado voters on his opposition to birth control and his belief that politicians have a right to interfere in our personal, private medical decisions,” said Karen Middleton, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “These ads highlight how Cory Gardner is on the wrong side of Colorado values and voters, especially young voters.”

“Having access to birth control and being able to decide if, when and how to start a family is not just a women’s issue,” said Erika West, Political Director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “It is an issue that affects men and women. Even though he’s been called out repeatedly by fact checkers, Cory Gardner keeps trying to hide his real record as an anti-birth control extremist. And we’re going to remind all voters of that every day between now and Election Day.”

You're right, the ad is funnier than the press release. That's to be expected.

The Hill's Alexandra Jaffe:

The television and Web ads close with a shot of a couple in bed looking frustrated after they realize they've run out of the prophylactic.

And the radio ad features a conversation between a couple after the man has returned empty-handed from a condom run that took him to every store in the neighborhood…

The attack is based in Gardner's previous support for a state measure that would've given legal rights to a fertilized human egg and in effect banned some forms of contraception. Gardner has since disavowed his support for the measure, but he remains a co-sponsor of a federal version of the bill.

We really like this campaign, and that's no small statement: six days from the election it's tough to like any political ad. That said, why must everything with a fresh format, breaking out of the jaded attack ad formula that voters are sick to death of seeing over and over, be "targeted at young people?" Last time we checked, voters of all ages are tired of the usual political ads. Maybe they could use an intro other than "guys guys guys," but livening up the format of campaign ads beyond a spec that seemingly hasn't changed since the early 1990s could make them more interesting to all demographics.

For all the millions shoveled into political ads, you'd think it would happen more. Why not entertain a little?

People might not hate them as much.

In familiar form, Gardner delivers his apparent personhood lie to third TV station, completing a trifecta

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels wrote yesterday:

“Almost everyone but Congressman Gardner agrees that the federal bill is similar to state ‘personhood’ measures that Coloradans overwhelmingly defeated and Gardner supported until just weeks after entering the Senate race in February.”

More proof came the night before, when Gardner’s told 7News’ Marc Stewart  (at the 50-second mark here) that the federal personhood bill is an empty symbol, instead of the extreme anti-abortion bill that it is.

Stewart: But your name is still, though, on the personhood legislation, correct?

Gardner: Well, that’s just a statement that I support life.

Gardner’s apparent lie here completes a trifecta of false statements to Denver TV stations, including Fox 31, Channel 9, and now, Channel 7–in addition to all the other news outlets that have endured this falsehood and objected to it, rightfully, sometimes in about the strongest possible terms you could expect from journalists.

S360: Udall 45% Gardner 44%, Hickenlooper 46% Beauprez 43%

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

A new poll from local consultant outfit Strategies 360 offers a different look at the Colorado U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, with a polling sample they consider to be more representative of the 2014 electorate in Colorado than most public polling we've seen–in particular, a more accurate sample of Latino voters. From their memo today:

Strategies 360 conducted a telephone survey of Colorado voters who are likely to vote in the 2014 General Election. Respondents were randomly chosen from a list of registered voters and interviews were conducted by trained interviewers in both English and Spanish. Interviews were conducted October 20-25, 2014. A combination of landline and mobile phones were called to ensure greater coverage of the population sampled.

A total of 760 interviews were completed. 604 interviews were conducted among a representative sample of likely voters statewide. An additional 156 oversample interviews were conducted among Hispanic likely voters. The sample was weighted to ensure a proportional demographic representation of the likely 2014 electorate. The topline margin of error is ±4.0 and the margin of error for Hispanic voters is ±6.7%.

Currently, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall (45%) and Republican Rep. Cory Gardner (44%) are locked in a statistical tie, with another 8% undecided and 4% supporting a third-party candidate. Several factors contribute to the stalemate:

A massive gender gap. Udall currently holds the same 17-point lead among women that exit polls showed Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet holding in 2010. Meanwhile, Gardner leads among men by a similar 17-point margin. Additionally, Udall leadsamong white women by an 11-point margin and Hispanic women by a 37-point margin. In contrast, Gardner leads among white men by a huge 23-point margin but is currently losing Hispanic men by 29% to 57%. 

Unaffiliated voters. While partisans on both sides are similarly united around their party’s nominee (83% of Democrats back Udall, while 80% of Republicans support Gardner), Udall has more effectively consolidated Unaffiliated voters, which helps negate an expected GOP turnout advantage this year. Today, Unaffiliated Coloradans prefer Udall to Gardner 48% to 37%. 

Hispanics. Much of the media coverage of the U.S. Senate race has centered on Colorado’s Hispanic vote, and for good reason. This race may very well hinge on Hispanic turnout. Currently, Gardner edges Udall among white voters 47% to 43%. In most of the other key U.S. Senate races in 2014, that might be enough for the Republican to secure a win. However, Colorado features the highest proportion of Hispanic voters of any targeted U.S. Senate race this year, and Udall holds a commanding lead among this critical voting bloc: 58% of Hispanic likely voters favor Udall while just 26% favor Gardner. 

Young voters. This race remains close in part because older and middle-aged voters have yet to offer a real edge to either candidate (voters 55 and older split 46% to 46%; voters 35 to 54 lean toward Gardner 42% to 44%). Meanwhile, Udall has built a 10-point lead among voters under 35 (46% to 36%). Furthermore, young voters are disproportionately undecided compared to the older age cohorts. Turnout among this group will be key to any Democratic chances of holding Colorado.

Here's the full memo from Strategies 360. In the gubernatorial race, Gov. John Hickenlooper's somewhat larger lead is attributable to both a large gender gap and a sizable lead among unaffiliated voters–52-35%.

If this poll more accurate than others we're seeing? We do think that Strategies 360's attempt to factor Latino voters gives them a qualitative edge over a lot of the public pollsters–some of whom admit candidly that they have no idea how to account for this pivotal bloc of voters in their surveys. Also, back in 2010, Kevin Ingham, longtime Colorado pollster now with Strategies 360, released a poll on that year's U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races that turned out to be dead-on. So yes, we're inclined to trust these numbers a little more.

At the very least, throw this poll into your averages, and note the conscientious attempt to get it right.

Go Home Quinnipiac, You’re Drunk

beer-drinker

Polling from Quinnipiac University this election season has easily been the most erratic of any public pollster. One week ago, Quinnipiac claimed that Gov. John Hickenlooper had erased a 10-point deficit from their early September polling. In fact, the September poll showing Hickenlooper down by 10 points was widely panned as inaccurate even by supporters of Hickenlooper's Republican opponent Bob Beauprez. The result one week ago seemed to us like Quinnipiac walking back their previously outlier results to something closer to polling-consensus reality.

Well folks, if we're to believe Quinnipiac is in any way polling Colorado accurately, the race has flipped completely back around in only a week:

Men are going Republican in a big way in the Colorado governor's race, giving former U. S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, the Republican challenger a 45 – 40 percent likely voter lead over Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Democratic incumbent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Libertarian candidate Matthew Hess has 4 percent, with 2 percent for Green Party candidate Harry Hempy. Another 9 percent are undecided. 

This compares to an October 23 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University showing 45 percent for Gov. Hickenlooper and 44 percent for Beauprez…

"Five points down, six days to go. The numbers are tight and the ticking clock is the enemy. Is the wolf at the door for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper? " asked Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.

Compare that quote with the same Quinnipiac polling director Tim Malloy a week ago:

"Off the mat and clearly building momentum, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper fights off a ten count and enters the final round of the gubernatorial slugfest looking stronger by the day," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Okie dokie then! One of those must be right.

Bottom line: no other polling has shown the kinds of wild swings that Quinnipiac has shown in the Colorado gubernatorial race, or the large leads they have indicated on either side. The fact is, for a host of reasons, we believe the polling this year is less reliable than perhaps any we've seen since we've been covering politics. Quinnipiac's consistently outlier, otherwise entirely inconsistent results could make them the "worst of the worst" in an already bad pack–polling so bad, you'd do better to throw darts at the proverbial map.

Voter Turnout Comparisons: 2010, 2012, and 2014

Today the Secretary of State's office released another update of voter turnout figures for 2014. To put those numbers in perspective, we broke down the final numbers from 2010 and 2012 in the most populous Colorado counties.

If you're looking for a one-sentence takeaway, it's that we're still a long way from the finish line.

Colorado voter turnout

The Year of the Lie

CoryGardner-Teeth

Republican Cory Gardner’s campaign for Senate often refers to 2014 as an “historic” election year, for reasons that are as vague as Gardner’s policy positions. Normally I might scoff at the very idea of ascribing such a lofty adjective to this election cycle – after all, 2014 will not be the first year that the United States re-arranges its makeup of white dudes in Congress – but the more I consider the label, the more considerable I find the history. I believe Gardner is correct when he says this is an historic election, but not for reasons that have anything to do with Senate majorities and minorities.

Anyone who engages in politics as career or hobby is destined to feel cynical about the whole process at some point; I recognize this, but it's not cynicism that has skewed my perception of this election. No, this is about deception. This is dishonesty, fraud, and sham on a level I have personally never encountered before – and from what I read and hear, I am not alone.

I cannot recall another time when candidates so brazenly dismissed their own past and bulldozed their own words with such disregard. I hate to use the word, “lie,” because it has become so cliché to declare that our politicians are a bunch of fibbers, but there’s no other word that is more appropriate here. The lies have been suffocating in their consistency, from candidates who will lie about anything, to anyone, at any time.
 

GEORGE WASHINGTON HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, saying stuff.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, saying stuff.

The United States Congress is already the most disliked and distrusted organization that has ever been measured by public surveys. The current Congress has worked less and achieved less than any prior body before. The 2014 election has helped illustrate the problem: How could anyone expect to negotiate with the likes of Gardner when you quite literally have no idea in what he actually believes? You can only guess at the real answer on any subject other than the career ascendency of Cory Gardner. Yet now, here we are, potentially sending a man to the U.S. Senate to represent Colorado even though we really haven’t a clue what he’ll do.  

I like to think of myself as a generally optimistic person, yet I am confronted with a magnitude of lies that I hadn’t though possible outside of novels and North Korea. I take some relief, I suppose, in knowing that I’m not alone. Kansas City Star columnist Barbara Shelly recently wrote a blistering rebuke of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who is seeking re-election by any means necessary. Here's the lede to that column:

All politicians spin. They exaggerate and make selective use of facts and data. These are the tricks of the trade.

But I have never seen a public official lie as easily and as relentlessly as Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. [emphasis mine] 

That sounds harsh, and it is possible that Brownback actually believes his own mythology. But much of what he has told the citizens of Kansas is flat out wrong.

Shelly continues by listing a page of whoppers that Brownback repeats as gospel. It doesn’t matter that most of Brownback’s lies have been debunked a dozen times over—he keeps repeating them, because he knows that there are still plenty of people who want to believe that their elected officials are guided by an actual belief in something.

It’s important to remember that these aren’t opinions we’re discussing. Gardner and Brownback lie confidently about established facts – the kind that Siri or Google could answer in about 20 seconds. Brownback likes to say that there was just $876 in the state treasury when he took over as Governor in 2011. In fact, he has repeated this line in three different state-of-the-state addresses. Shelly says that the story is “complete hokum,” and that Kansas had $251 million in its bank account when Brownback took charge. This information is public record – anybody can look it up. 

This is not to discredit politicians in general. I know many elected officials, on both sides of the aisle, who are genuine people with examined positions on important issues. But increasingly we are seeing elected officials the likes of Brownback and Gardner, for whom words are merely a vessel to deliver them to their chosen destinations. These are men who solve a Rubik’s Cube by removing the stickers. They don’t seek the satisfaction of solving a difficult puzzle; their just want you to believe that they solved it.
 

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In Which Wayne Williams Makes a Complete Fool of Himself

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Broadcasting last night from Denver, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow featured GOP Secretary of State candidate Wayne Williams' interview on the FOX News Channel–hilariously, devastatingly. This is a must-watch clip of video:

We could not do a better job summing up the absurdity.

The only thing we have to add is this: Wayne Williams leads in most polls in the race to be Colorado's next Secretary of State. For Democrats, that is where the joke stops being funny. With less than a week remaining until the election, how would you capitalize on this nationally televised disaster if you were Williams' opponent? Original post follows.

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