Colorado Polsters Pick New Hampshire

UPDATE: After winning the Iowa prediction contest, “flatiron” damn-near did it again in New Hampshire. We agree with “Phoenix Rising” on this one, however, and declare “vanbarbee” to be the champeen of our New Hampshire contest.

Congratulations, “vanbarbee.” Email us with your mailing address (alva@coloradopols.com), and the Jim Gilmore button will soon be yours to cherish.

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Ken Buck Replaces Brophy with Former AFP Lobbyist

Hide your watermelons, kids: Brophy is back in Colorado.

Hide your watermelons, kids: Greg Brophy is back in Colorado.

Yesterday we came across a short entry from Legistorm.com that caught our attention because of the name that was not included in the story. Take a look:

A longtime staff member for retired Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Col.) has returned — again — to the Hill from a prolonged hiatus.

MacArthur “Mac” Zimmerman is the new chief of staff for Rep. Ken Buck (R-Col.) following a seven-year absence from Congress…

…Zimmerman waited until 2014 to return to politics, this time as a lobbyist for Americans for Prosperity.

The story includes an interesting summation of Zimmerman’s strange political ride since his former boss, Rep. Tom Tancredo, retired from CD-6 in 2007. Not mentioned in the Legistorm article, however, is why Rep. Ken Buck was looking for a new Chief of Staff in the first place.

Former State Sen. Greg Brophy had an unsuccessful run for Governor in 2014, but he ended the year on a high note when the newly-elected Buck chose him to run his congressional office in Washington D.C. Brophy had served as Buck’s Chief of Staff ever since…until a few weeks ago when Buck let him know that he would be resigning. There was no press release from Buck’s office, and we apparently missed this late Friday Denver Post blog entry from Mark Matthews in which Brophy declines to talk about his next professional role (if one exists).

We don’t know why Buck made a change at the top of his staff, though it is certainly noteworthy that his new COS, Mac Zimmerman, had been working for the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity. Buck has risen quickly in the Koch world, as we noted late last year when he was a featured speaker at a big Koch fundraising event in New York.

As for Brophy, we don’t know what he’s doing now…other than auditioning to be a “silencer lobbyist”:

Once Again, Mike Coffman a Top Democratic Target

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

A press release from Morgan Carroll’s campaign announced her not-surprising-but-still-noteworthy selection for help as part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s coveted Red to Blue campaign:

“Morgan Carroll is a third generation Coloradan, a fighter, and a proven advocate for hardworking families,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan. “From lowering healthcare costs, to supporting small businesses, to securing affordable housing for Service members and their families, Morgan takes on the tough fights and delivers. We’re confident in the campaign she has built and look forward to her leadership in Congress on building an economy that works for everyone and keeping Americans safe.”

“This is a truly grassroots campaign and I’m humbled by the widespread support that we’ve received,” said Morgan Carroll. “I am running to ensure that hardworking families have the freedom to succeed, find good paying jobs, have access to affordable child care, feel secure about their retirement savings and find relief from overwhelming college debt.”

The DCCC’s Red to Blue program highlights top Democratic campaigns across the country, and offers them financial, communications, grassroots, and strategic support. The program will introduce Democratic supporters to new, competitive candidates in order to help expand the fundraising base for these campaigns.

Politico’s Lauren French has more on the DCCC’s Red to Blue program for this year:

It includes districts represented by some of the most vulnerable House GOP lawmakers, including Reps. Daniel Webster of Florida, Bruce Poliquin of Maine and Mia Love of Utah. Democrats are hoping to elect former Orlando police chief Val Demings, Maine politician Emily Cain and attorney Doug Owens in those seats, respectively…

“House Democrats are on offense and will pick up seats in 2016, and these effective, hardworking and diverse candidates are the foundation of our success this year,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján, a New Mexico Democrat…

Being added to the Red to Blue program can be a financial boon to candidates in tight races. National donors traditionally use to the list to decide how to direct funding to lesser known candidates. It also helps solidify which seats Democrats think they’ll have the best chance of capturing during elections, establishing an early benchmark for the cycle. [Pols emphasis]

The DCCC rates the Colorado CD-6 race at #2 on their list of their top pickup opportunities, just behind California’s CD-24 race to replace an outgoing Democratic representative in a competitive district. It’s not the first time a challenger to Rep. Mike Coffman has made the Red to Blue list, but for a range of reasons this year is widely expected to be the toughest fight of Coffman’s long political career.

In short, this race is on the radar every year, but especially this year.

BREAKING: Personhood activists launch municipal abortion-ban initiative in CO Springs

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Abortion-RightsIn a move that could make the complex life of being a Republican even more complicated, Personhood USA has announced plans to place an abortion-ban measure on the ballot in Colorado Springs, where a domestic terrorist killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic at the end of last year.

“The people who reached out to us in Colorado Springs don’t want any violence, including abortion, there,” Personhood USA spokeswoman Jennifer Mason told me, adding, as I wrote in an RH Reality Check post this morning, that the campaign was planned before the shooting occurred.

Planned Parenthood’s announcement that it will re-open the clinic next week “confirmed” the decision to undertake the initiative, which will mirror (at the municipal level) one of Colorado’s three failed state-wide measures that would have banned all abotion, even for rape, Mason said.

Personhood organizers are just beginning the legal process and paperwork required to place the initiative on the ballot, but they expect to have it completed within the next two months, Mason said.

So it’s not clear when the measure will appear on the ballot, if at all, but the signature-gathering effort alone will likely further push choice issues into election campaigns–sparking competition among Republicans competing for anti-choice primary voters and helping to define Republican and Democratic candidates up and down the ballot in November.

Could the measure push GOP turnout in Colorado Springs, a hotbed of evangelical churches? I have no idea, to be honest, but you have to think the electoral downsides of the latest personhood campaign, taking place in the wake of a massacre that taints the anti-choice cause, will hurt Republicans in the end on Election Day.

Mike Coffman Loves Him Some Testicles

Rep. Mike Coffman

Rep. Mike Coffman

Say what you will, but the headline above is 100% accurate.

Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) was recently interviewed by Alex Gangitano for Roll Call as part of a feature the newspaper calls “Take Five” — a quick Q&A with a Member of Congress featuring questions that aren’t intended to be hard hitting journalism. This actually happened:

QWhat is your favorite local Colorado food?

A: Rocky Mountain oysters, usually at a bar. It’s something we do back home; it’s kind of hard to explain. [Editor’s note: Rocky Mountain oysters are fried bull, pig or sheep testicles.]

Coffman isn’t really known for his sense of humor — in fact, it’s not clear that he actually has a sense of humor — and that’s what makes this answer even weirder. Coffman is the cliche robotic politician who is trying way too hard to pretend that he has a personality of his own.

Rocky Mountain Oysters are accurately called a “novelty dish” by Wikipedia, and while you can find them occasionally at restaurants in Colorado, they’re not really a Colorado food item (fried testicles are more commonly called “prairie oysters” in Canada or “prairie fries” in Texas).

More importantly, nobody actually eats Rocky Mountain Oysters on a regular basis. If you ever catch someone saying, “Boy, I could really go for a plate of fried testicles,” you can reasonably assume that you are the first person to have heard this sentence spoken out loud.

Which brings us to this clip from the 1988 movie Funny Farm, in which the character played by Chevy Chase unwittingly scarfs down plate after plate of “lamb fries.” Mike Coffman would have you believe that he does this on the regular:

Fact Check: Medicaid expansion under Obamacare is not responsible for Colorado budget woes

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Bill Cadman.

Sen. Bill Cadman.

A key component of Obamacare is to reduce the number of uninsured  by allowing more people to qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for low-income people. In Colorado, some 300,000 people enrolled in Medicaid as part of Obamcare–and the federal government picked up the tab.

But that fact didn’t stop Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) from joining conservative Jon Caldara Monday in blaming Colorado’s Medicaid expansion under Obamacare for Colorado’s budget woes.

Caldara (at 2 min 30 seconds): In the last few years…Medicaid enrollment has gone up 350 percent. Do I have that right?

Cadman: Absolutely.

Caldara: And because of that, it’s squeezing out other things. [Emphasis added]

Cadman: Yes, Yes… we do have one program that has grown 350 percent in that same amount of time, and if you look back just one year ago, the growth was only 280 percent. So think of the growth in just the last year. And at the peak, about a year and a half ago, we were adding about 14,000 people per month to this program. And you can call this an offshoot of Obamacare, because that’s really what it is.

Why Cadman gave the eager “yes, yes” to Caldara is a mystery because Obamacare isn’t “squeezing out other things.”

While it’s true that Colorado’s Medicaid costs are increasing, though by less than in previous years, the reason, as I expalin here, is mostly due to the costs of caring for the growing numbers of elderly and disabled people.

Cadman’s baseless scapegoating of Obamacare is echoed in the official Twitter feed of the Colorado State Republicans.

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Christie, Fiorina Both Drop Presidential Bids

Carly Fiorina (right), with Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt.

Carly Fiorina (right), with Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had been banking on a strong performance in New Hampshire to jump-start his sinking Presidential hopes; instead, he finished with 7.4% of the vote and announced this morning that he was dropping out of the GOP race for President.

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina performed even worse than Christie in New Hampshire, netting a meager 4.1% of the vote, and this afternoon she also announced her withdrawal from the Presidential race.

Fun fact: If you combine their vote totals, Christie and Fiorina finished with 11.5% of the total vote in New Hampshire. That’s not good, but it’s still better than the 10.6% that fifth-place finisher Marco “Roboto” Rubio received.

Repeal Obamacare! Oh, Wait a Minute…

obamacaresThe AP has a great story up today via the Fort Collins Coloradoan on the dramatic drop in the number of uninsured Americans following passage of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Much to the chagrin of local Republicans bent on repealing President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishment, Colorado is at the top of the list of success stories:

GOP presidential candidates are vowing to repeal “Obamacare,” while offering hardly any detail on how they’d replace it without millions losing coverage.

Politically, the eight states with statistically significant coverage gains in the National Health Interview Survey are a mix of red, blue and purple. They are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and New York. Five have GOP governors.

As a whole, the nation had an uninsured rate of 9.1 percent during the first nine months of 2015, according to the survey, an ongoing research project by a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The uninsured rate was 14.4 percent in 2013, before the law’s big coverage expansion…

That poses a dilemma for Republican presidential candidates. Indeed, a recent blueprint from a group of conservative policy experts for replacing the health law said Republicans will need some kind of “grandfathering exemption” to avoid disrupting the lives of people who have gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act. [Pols emphasis]

What we’re seeing here is exactly what Republicans who opposed the passage of Obamacare in 2009-10 were most afraid of–not that they could admit being afraid of it, but was always the bottom line lurking beneath their shrill and desperate arguments against passage. After passage, the fear of what’s happening today drove the GOP campaign to repeal the law before it could take full effect, instilling Republican opponents of the law with a profound sense of urgency to stop it, and rationalizing all of the outlandish claims of harm the law was inflicting on Americans.

They were afraid because they knew that Obamacare would work. That it would make health coverage affordable for millions of Americans, absorb those millions into a less selective risk pool, and put in place a system that will hurt millions of people to take away. The fact is, Obamacare is not a “government takeover of health care”–the plan has its origins largely in conservative designs for health care reform, a mandate to obtain coverage and assistance for those who can’t afford it.

It hasn’t happened yet, but there remains a strong possibility that the success of Obamacare will do lasting political damage to Republicans who so bitterly opposed it. What’s missing right now, frankly, may be a successful repeal effort, or at least one with an appreciable chance of success. Up until now, Republican threats against Obamacare have been threats against an abstraction, a monster they could define for the public. But increasingly, the public can see with their own eyes that Obamacare is helping people. They know someone who is getting coverage cheaper, or for the first time. Or, like millions of Americans, they are themselves directly benefiting.

And folks, there is no going back. Too many would suffer, for no other reason than to help the GOP win a six-year-old political struggle that has lost its ability to frighten–except maybe to frighten those who could now lose what they have gained.

The war on Obamacare is over. It’s time for the politicians to catch up with that reality.

Are CO Republicans Really Proposing to Cut Health Care to Old, Disabled, and Other Poor People?

(Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) told 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman last month that Medicaid spending is siphoning money from “every other program,” including schools and roads.

As he told 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman:

Cadman: “[Democrats] have ignored the needs and demands of about five million people to specifically support one program, and it cannibalizes every other program. They’ve ignored the Constitution and put K-12 money into this program. I mean, they’ve ignored the roads, and put money into this program.

Cadman and other Republicans have made similar statements in multiple interviews.

The missing follow-up question in all these interviews is, does he propose to cut Medicaid? It sounds a lot like he is, but he doesn’t say so directly.

Cadman: “What I am suggesting is, when you have something that is supposed to be the safety net, you should protect it for those who need it the most,” Cadman told Rittiman, when asked if he wanted to eliminate Medicaid. “And if you grow it beyond that, and you are creating a program that is, one, cannibalizing the other programs and, two, has no funding source, you are creating a conflict.”

So, clearly, reporters should ask Cadman, whose spokesman did not provide a comment to me, if he thinks Medicaid, has grown beyond the “safety net” it’s “supposed to be.”

If he thinks so, he could, for example, advocate changing the formula for qualifying for the Medicaid. Currently, to be eligible for Colorado’s Medicaid program, families of four must make less than about $32,000 a year and individuals less than $16,000. Over a million people are enrolled state-wide. Keep in mind that about 75 percent of people who receive Medicaid are working already.

But before anyone starts throwing poor people off Medicaid, as Cadman seems to be proposing, or charging them more, he should be clear that the driving force behind the growing state costs of Medicaid aren’t coming from adding new people to the program.

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Get More Smarter on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 10)

Get More SmarterSlowly but surely, the Presidential race is moving toward states where people actually live. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The New Hampshire Primaries concluded last night, but not before making a significant impact on the Presidential race. As expected, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were victorious in their respective Primaries, but it was the rest of the ballot that really made New Hampshire interesting. Here’s how Politico and the Washington Post viewed the fallout from New Hampshire. If you missed any of the coverage, we’ll catch you up with a couple of bullet points:

♦ Hillary Clinton lost by 22 points to Bernie Sanders, and the Clinton campaign is now bracing for a long, protracted Primary fight.

♦ Tuesday was a terrible night for the Republican “establishment.” Trump easily won New Hampshire by nearly 20 points, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich pulling a surprise second-place finish. Ted Cruz finished in third place, followed by Jeb! Bush and Marco “Roboto” Rubio in a distant fifth place. Conservative commentators, including National Review, had been saying that Rubio needed to make sure he finished ahead of Jeb!, which didn’t happen.

♦ Rubio’s fifth place finish also means he left New Hampshire without a single delegate pledged to his campaign. If Rubio can’t recover in time to perform well in South Carolina on Feb. 20th, it could be the end of the line for the Florida Senator’s Presidential hopes.

♦ Here’s a fun fact: In modern history, Republicans have not elected a nominee as President who didn’t win either Iowa or New Hampshire. If history holds, the GOP is looking at Cruz, Trump, or bust.

♦ With a sixth place finish, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has reached the end of his Presidential rope; Christie announced today that he would “suspend” his campaign.

 

 

► Republican Ben Carson said on Tuesday that he “would consider” an offer to be Donald Trump’s running mate if His Hairness wins the GOP nomination. Of course, Trump didn’t actually suggest that he might tap Carson for that role.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

New Hampshire Primary Open Thread

UPDATE #3: With 46% reporting, Kasich looks to have second place sewn up. Christie appears to have hit a wall. Jeb! maintains about a thousand-point lead over Rubio for fourth place; at this rate, it appears that Rubio is just waiting to find out whether Jeb! or Cruz will finish ahead of him in the fourth spot.

As the National Review wrote earlier today, Rubio absolutely cannot afford to finish behind Jeb! in New Hampshire.

—–

UPDATE #2: With 37% of the polls reporting, Rubio trails Jeb! by nearly a thousand votes in the battle for fourth place. Chris Christie is still climbing slowly, and is now about 2 thousand votes behind Rubio and fifth place.

—–

UPDATE: As expected, the drama in New Hampshire is the race for second place; Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been declared the winners in their respective parties.

The early surprise is the freefall of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is struggling to keep it together for a fifth place finish. As of 7:00 pm (Mountain), Ohio Gov. John Kasich has a pretty good hold on second place, followed by Jeb! Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Roboto. After last week’s surprising third place finish in Iowa, Rubio might be looking at a scenario whereby his entire campaign rests on the results from South Carolina on Feb. 20.

—–

nhprimary

Polls in New Hampshire close at 6PM Mountain time. Use this thread to live and die by the results.

Or not, depending on your level of excitability.

Stay Classy, Cory Gardner (Hillary In Supermax Edition)

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins, Colorado’s freshman Sen. Cory Gardner goes unscripted on the stump in New Hampshire for Marco Rubio:

As a fresh-faced conservative on the rise in his party, Gardner has been introducing himself to audiences in early primary states where attendees might not know much about the young pol from Yuma, Colorado.

So he has an ice breaker.

“I introduce myself most of the time by saying, ‘Hi, I’m Cory Gardner from the great state of Colorado, home of the Rocky Mountains — and Hillary Clinton’s private email server,” he told an audience at a restaurant in South Carolina recently, adding that perhaps that’s what his state is known for.

Hutchins notes correctly that, talk radio apocrypha notwithstanding, Hillary Clinton’s “private email server” was never located in Colorado. We’re pretty sure that former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s private email server wasn’t in Denver either, or the private servers used by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s top employees, or the private email server extensively used by Bush White House employees, or…you get the idea. It’s both wrong and kind of stupid.

But that wasn’t Gardner’s real punchline anyway:

The U.S. Senator from Colorado continued:

“You know, they’re trying to move Guantanamo Bay detainees to Colorado where we have a Supermax prison, and I said, ‘You know what, with what’s happening I don’t want to keep them in Supermax, because we need to make room for Hillary.’” [Pols emphasis]

Okay then! So it wasn’t the “pipeline of terror from Kabul to Colorado” Gardner was worried about after all.

Of course everyone knows he’s joking, right? Except for the fact that many Republicans are not joking when they say these things, and a lot of rank-and-file Republican voters really believe it. In that context it’s not a joke at all, at least not all that funny. As a Rubio surrogate on the campaign trail, this wisecrack reflects on Rubio’s campaign as much as Gardner personally.

For those of us who follow Gardner, it’s another reminder that under that beatific smile a much less congenial politician is lurking.

George Brauchler’s Ugly Consolation Prize

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, the failure of Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler to win the death penalty phase of the trial of the Aurora theater mass murderer last year–a loss that contributed to Brauchler’s momentous decision to not run for the U.S. Senate this year–has provoked a controversial response from his Republican allies in the Colorado General Assembly.

And by controversial, we mean, well, bloodthirsty:

Currently it takes a unanimous vote of all 12 jurors, but Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud wants to get that number down a little lower. Like, maybe nine. Or 10. Or maybe 11 jurors. But not all 12. That just makes executing someone in Colorado too hard, he says. He doesn’t like the idea that one lone holdout could spoil a death sentence.

“If the policy is that the death penalty is appropriate for the worst of crimes, then a jury should not be composed of people who disagree with that basic point,” Lundberg told The Colorado Independent about his bill. Critics of the measure say it might not pass constitutional muster, and the bar shouldn’t be lowered for easing executions.

The senator will make the case for his legislation at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the Senate calendar.

The Denver Post’s Jordan Steffen has more from the bill’s primary sponsor, GOP Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Loveland:

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said he is sponsoring the bill because he “wants to save lives” and have a penalty “that will cause the bad guy to think twice before they pull the trigger.”

…But critics peg the legislation — which could still be amended — as an effort to make it easier to obtain a death sentence.

“We require the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all criminal charges to a unanimous jury,” said Colorado public defender Doug Wilson. “So (under the proposed bill) someone charged with shoplifting would get a unanimous jury, and yet when we decide we want to execute one of our citizens, we would leave it to a jury of less than 12.” [Pols emphasis]

At a time when capital punishment in the United States is under more scrutiny than at any point since it was relegalized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, and with so much controversy over the methods of execution in America and the possibility of wrongful executions, the idea of making it easier to execute people in any way seems radically counterintuitive. It’s even worse to think through the implications of executing someone over the objections of a sitting juror, which is apparently only possible in three states today. No matter how robbed Brauchler may feel over the three jurors who objected to imposing the death penalty in the Aurora shooting case, that is not something we think a majority of voters in Colorado would find morally conscionable.

In fact, this could get voters thinking about the death penalty in ways proponents won’t like at all.