Sabato: Colorado Senate Race Moves to “Likely Democratic”

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver)

Well-known political pundit Larry J. Sabato has updated his regular “Crystal Ball” forecast of U.S. Senate and Gubernatorial races throughout the country, and there’s a significant change in Colorado. From the Center for Politics:

Colorado: Coming into the 2016 cycle, it was pretty clear that the Republicans would largely be on the defensive. Only two Democratic-held seats stood out as ones the Republicans could hope to win, one of which was Colorado (with the other being Nevada, now an open seat on account of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s retirement). Sen. Michael Bennet (D) has proven to be more resilient than some might have thought…

…At the outset of this cycle, Bennet appeared a slight favorite to start, but now it looks as if he may hold a stronger edge. Bigger-name GOP politicians — including Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R), and Rep. Scott Tipton (R) — declined to challenge Bennet in a presidential cycle. Instead, the Republican field is a logjam of double-digit proportions, though only five candidates officially filed petitions to get on the primary ballot. Other candidates will try to get on the primary ballot by getting at least 30% of the vote at this weekend’s state Republican convention. Whoever wins the GOP nomination on June 28 will have a serious financial deficit to overcome as Bennet had $6.7 million in the bank at the end of 2015. More importantly, just as the circumstances at the presidential level have weakened the ratings for a number of GOP Senate incumbents, they have improved Bennet’s odds as the only potentially vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent. The Centennial State race shifts from Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic.

Quite frankly, this change isn’t a huge surprise. The Republican Senate field is crowded with seriously-flawed candidates no matter how you slice it. We’re still waiting to hear about any Q1 fundraising numbers from the candidates, and rumor has it that every major GOP candidate has been careful in recent weeks to keep the expectations bar set very low in terms of money raised in the last full quarter before the June 28th Primary.

Unless at least one of the GOP candidates are able to come up with a strong fundraising haul — or anything, really, that could begin to separate one candidate from the rest of the Republican field — the trend lines on Colorado’s Senate race are likely to continue moving in favor of incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver).

BREAKING: Jack Graham Enters GOP Senate Race with $1M and a Wadhams

A visual guide to the Jon Keyser for Senate campaign this morning.

A visual guide to the Jon Keyser for Senate campaign this morning.

The race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate just changed in a big way. As Ernest Luning reports for the Colorado Statesman:

Former CSU athletic director Jack Graham is planning to petition his way onto what could be a crowded Republican primary ballot for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet, and he seeded his run with a $1 million deposit to his campaign account yesterday.

Not only is Graham seeding his campaign with a cool million, he’s bringing on former Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams as his campaign manager.

We’ll admit that we don’t know a lot about Jack Graham politically, but $1 million and Dick Wadhams is more than enough to shake the foundations of the massive GOP field running for U.S. Senate. Wadhams is no longer the feared political operative who guided Wayne Allard and John Thune into the U.S. Senate, but he does give Graham a legitimacy that he otherwise would have had to work hard to establish on his own.

Former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham

Former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham

On the fundraising side, seeding his campaign with a million dollars instantly gives Graham a warchest that the 10-12 other GOP candidates may not be able to match. Graham is a former Athletic Director at CSU, and the job of AD at a major university is largely related to fundraising; Graham no doubt has a hefty rolodex that he can consult as he starts dialing for dollars.

Graham’s loud entry into the Senate race changes some of what we wrote just yesterday in assessing the state of the Republican field of candidates. State Sen. Tim Neville is still in the driver’s seat to win the June Primary because, for one thing, he doesn’t really have to worry about getting his name on the ballot. Neville should have little trouble generating more than 30% of the votes at the State Republican Convention (the minimum amount needed for ballot access), and he’s a known and trusted quantity to many in the far-right base of the GOP.

And then there’s Jon Keyser. To borrow a Trump-ism, Keyser just got schlonged.

Keyser was the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s (NRSC) big recruit for the Senate race, and he pushed all of his chips into the center of the table by resigning his seat in the State Legislature as well as his job at a big Denver law firm. Keyser’s campaign got off to an inauspicious start, with questions about campaigning while on military duty and a general  indifference from the media about his chances. The plan was for Keyser to hunker down and raise money — he reportedly had soft offers of support for millions in campaign cash — but Graham, Wadhams, and $1 million may scurry that support in a hurry.

Graham’s entry into the Senate race really changes the math for Keyser. Anybody can try to petition onto the ballot (Graham, Ryan Frazier, and Robert Blaha are already going that route), but it’s a giant pain in the ass and a significant drain on resources, time, and money to go that route. Keyser’s team has already indicated that he will go the petition route, but that assumes that big donors are still onboard with the NRSC’s Keyser experiment following Graham’s bombshell. Remember, there was already a self-funder in the race in Blaha, and Frazier claims to have raised at least $200k, which gives him a good head start on the petition process. Writing a big check to Keyser suddenly looks like a long-shot bet.

Keyser could try to switch strategies and go the convention route, but Republicans don’t really know who he is, and there are — at most — three available ballot spots through the Party. Neville will certainly claim one of those spots, with Peggy Littleton and Darryl Glenn (or someone else) potentially fighting it out for 30%.

With just a few months to go until the June Primary, serious GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate need three things: Ballot Access, Television ads, and enough cash to fuel a staff of at least a half-dozen people. How many Republican candidates can still check all three boxes this morning?

It would seem the only Senate candidate smiling this morning is incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet.

Another Day, Another Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate

IMPORTANT POLICY CHANGE: If you live in Colorado and have been a registered Republican for about a year, Colorado Pols will henceforth assume you are running for U.S. Senate in 2016 until we hear otherwise.

Jerry Natividad, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate

Jerry Natividad, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate

 

Okay, we’re kidding…sort of. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post, Colorado Republicans will have yet another candidate seeking the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate:

Jerry Natividad, a leading Hispanic businessman in the Denver area, is preparing to announce a bid later this month for the GOP nomination. “I’m at the stage where I’m probably going to do this thing,” the 65-year-old told The Denver Post…

Natividad is the president of American Facility Services Group and owner of the Jeffco Regional Sports Facility in Lakewood. For decades, he worked the sidelines of the political field, serving as a board member of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Chair of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly and a member of Mitt Romney’s Hispanic leadership team in 2012, according to a biography from the Koch-funded Leadership Institute, where he was a guest speaker…

Depending on your definition of a “U.S. Senate candidate,” Natividad is at least the 9th Republican candidate to enter the 2016 field. Why would Natividad want to try to squeeze into this clown car? He doesn’t like the current occupants:

“When I take a look at (the GOP Senate primary),” he said, the candidates are “just more of the same.”

Fair enough.

Whoops! Jon Keyser’s Own Words Trip Up Campaign Announcement

State Rep. Jon Keyser (R-Morrison), sans feet-in-mouth.

State Rep. Jon Keyser (R-Morrison), sans feet-in-mouth.

Freshman state Rep. Jon Keyser formally launched his campaign for U.S. Senate on Monday. It was quite an inauspicious start for the half-term lawmaker from Morrison.

As Peter Marcus reports for the Durango HeraldKeyser’s campaign wasn’t even a few hours old before Keyser ran into trouble over his own words:

ProgressNow Colorado on Monday filed a complaint with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps for the Air Force, alleging that Keyser violated Air Force rules by engaging in politics while on active duty.

Keyser is a major in the Air Force Reserve.

ProgressNow highlighted a Dec. 10 report by The Colorado Statesman, which interviewed Keyser regarding his likely candidacy. Keyser told The Statesman, “right now I’m focused on national security and serving our country in uniform as a member of the Air Force Reserve.”

The article – citing an unnamed source – also noted that Keyser attended a luncheon on a day off from military duties, where he received $3 million in commitments to back his campaign.

The Judge Advocate General’s office had not received the complaint as of Monday afternoon. Generally, such complaints are handled through an internal investigation through the accused’s command post. The Inspector General of the Air Force could also investigate.

The National Journal was among the media outlets to pick up on the Herald story. Keyser supporters were quick to try to dismiss the complaint as partisan politics, but Keyser has only himself to blame for his inexplicable statements to the Colorado Statesman last month. Take a closer look at Keyser’s comments from the Dec. 10th Statesman story [all emphasis is ours]:

“I’m strongly considering it,” Keyser said in an interview with The Colorado Statesman this week. “Right now I’m focused on national security and serving our country in uniform as a member of the Air Force Reserve.”

Keyser, who holds the rank of major in the Air Force Reserve, has been deployed on a training mission in Florida this month as part of a mission to combat terrorist and transnational criminal networks in Central and South America, a spokesman said. He returns to Colorado next week.

“There’s not a campaign yet,” Keyser. “But as I spend a few weeks serving in the military, I think now more than ever, our nation is at a crossroads and the threats we face are enormous. This is a pivotal time in our nation’s history.”…

…Following a recent visit to Washington, D.C., where Keyser attended the Republican Jewish Coalition’s presidential forum luncheon last week as an invited guest on a day off from his duties, he received $3 million in commitments of soft money to back his campaign, said a source familiar with the matter.

If you’re scoring at home, you can mark this down as an “unforced error” by Keyser.

The Keyser Senate campaign is clearly intending to focus on his military background as a primary selling point, but Keyser really stuck both feet in his mouth with his comments to the Statesman. This wasn’t just a one-off thing, either; Keyser talks about “serving our country in uniform” in the same breath as a potential Senate bid, and he does so in two separate quotations.

The U.S. Military has specific rules about combining politics with military service. It is too early to tell if Keyser’s words will lead to a formal investigation by the Air Force or Department of Defense, but regardless of the outcome, it’s important to repeat that Keyser is being tripped up by his own words here. This was a completely avoidable and unnecessary mistake by someone who will need to defend himself against Republican critics who worry that Keyser is too inexperienced for such a big leap in elected office.

This isn’t the first time that Keyser has made a weird, unforced political error, either. In October 2013, when Keyser was first running for his state House seat, he falsely alleged that there was a problem with Colorado’s voting system because he received two ballots instead of one. Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson, a Republican, immediately noticed that Keyser’s “second ballot” was not a duplicate, but a separate ballot for a special taxation district election related to property Keyser owned outside of Jefferson County. Go back and read the story before you try to argue that this was an innocent mistake by Keyser and not an intentional lie.

Keyser is going to need to run a tight campaign if he hopes to defeat state Sen. Tim Neville in a Republican Primary in June. These are the kind of boneheaded moves that will only add to the perception that Neville is unbeatable with GOP voters.

Top 10 Stories of 2015 #5: Everybody (and Nobody) Wants to Run for U.S. Senate

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) attempts to count the number of Republican Senate candidates with two hands.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) attempts to count the number of Republican Senate candidates with two hands.

Robert Blaha; George Brauchler; Ken Buck; Bill Cadman; Cynthia Coffman; Mike Coffman; Dan Domenico; Ryan Frazier; Darryl Glenn; Jack Graham; Jon Keyser; Peggy Littleton; Greg Lopez; Tim Neville; Ellen Roberts; Greg Robinson; Don Rosier; Mark Scheffel; Justin Smith; Scott Tipton.

That’s 20 names, just off the top of our head, of Republicans who made some manner of noise about running for U.S. Senate in 2016. The names in bold are those who have either declared their intentions to run or have very recently gone public with the proposition. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we were exhausted by the very thought of trying to look up every single Republican who was somehow connected to the U.S. Senate race.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) likes to say that Sen. Michael Bennett is the most endangered Democratic incumbent in 2016, pointing to generic heads-up matchups tested in polls throughout 2015. What these polls show, in a nutshell, is that Bennet could have a competitive re-election race if — and that’s a big “if” — he was facing a strong Republican challenger on the ballot in November (and if the election were held at the time each particular poll was actually conducted).

Here’s the rub: If Bennet is so seemingly beatable in 2016, then why are Republicans having so much trouble finding a candidate to rally behind?

First of all, any poll conducted more than year out from Election Day — in any race — is relatively useless. The average voter isn’t paying much attention to Michael Bennet just yet, and they certainly have little familiarity with the likes of Greg Lopez or Don Rozier.

The other piece of this story that Republicans fail to mention is that Bennet is considered the most endangered Democratic Senate incumbent in large part because he is the only Democratic incumbent running in a swing state in 2016. With Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada choosing to retire rather than seek another term in office, Bennet is the list of endangered Democratic incumbents. It’s a useful fact if spun correctly, but the big Republican talking point on Bennet isn’t nearly as compelling as it sounds.

Sen. Cory Gardner, left, poses for an awkward photo with state Sen. Tim Neville

Sen. Cory Gardner, left, poses for an awkward photo with state Sen. Tim Neville

When you consider all of the rumors and news about the 2016 Senate race that floated out in 2015, one name stands above the rest: Tim Neville. The far-right conservative state senator started to dip his toe in the U.S. Senate field late last summer, and on Tuesday he formally kicked off his 2016 bid with a strong focus on social issues such as abortion and gun rights. Neville will have massive support from grassroots Republican activists, the Tea Party, anti-choice groups, and big gun lobbies such as the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) — all of which makes him nearly unbeatable in the June Republican Primary.

What makes Neville such an important figure in 2016? It is not clear that he could defeat Bennet in a General Election given his out-of-the-mainstream beliefs on abortion, gay marriage, and gun safety…but it is also difficult to see how Neville could possibly lose a Republican Primary to put his name on the ballot opposite Bennet. Any Republican candidate considering a 2016 Senate bid needs to first decide if they can beat Neville among the Republican base, and whether that campaign would need to avoid the caucus process out of fear that Neville would capture so many delegates that it would stop his challengers cold.

As of this writing, the NRSC thinks it has its best candidate in freshman state Rep. Jon Keyser. Washington Republicans are trying to push Keyser as their candidate because they like how he matches up against Bennet in a General Election. It is quite likely, however, that Keyser will never even make it to the General Election ballot because of Neville’s growing presence. In short, Washington Republicans want Colorado Republicans to get behind a Senate candidate who probably can’t win the GOP nomination in the first place.

Good luck with all that.

 

Bennet Votes For CO’s Public Health; Gardner Supports Polluters

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s fairly common for people to feel disenchanted with politics these days. Unfortunately, they’re not unjustified; our elected officials don’t always behave in accordance with the values we expect of them.

However, sometimes we get to feel genuine pride for our politicians. For us, one of those came a week ago when Senator Michael Bennet voted against a reckless move in the U.S. Senate to dismantle the Clean Power Plan using a little-used parliamentary maneuver called a Congressional Review Act or CRA.

We were thrilled to hear about this decision; thwarting the Clean Power Plan would have set our nation back years in our effort to reduce carbon pollution.

That’s why Conservation Colorado today launched a $325,000 digital and television ad campaign praising Senator Bennet. His vote shows that he understands our need to protect Coloradans and their public health from carbon pollution.

[Watch the video(s) after the jump]

(more…)

Climate Change: Its What’s for Dinner

Norman Rockwell painted a scene of a fictionalized Thanksgiving that still haunts hostesses and hosts to this day.

By now most people are aware that the history that brings us Thanksgiving is not all as sanguine as we may have been led to believe. The subtext of conquest is bitter to swallow for many.

And abundance itself can devolve to gluttony and greed – stampeding consumerism no longer contained to the immediate Black Friday aftermath even, but invading the holiday itself.

So don’t blame me for ruining the day to raise another issue we can fret over even as we count our blessings otherwise – and that is climate change. Specifically what that clear and present climate crisis means for the food system and food security.

As you slather butter on squash and pile high your pie, you might consider that food systems are among the most vulnerable to climate change.  At risk from drought and wildlife, floods and landslides, threatened by declining pollinators and expanding pests, burdened by crashing fisheries. Of the systems that sustain humanity, how we produce and find the food we eat may be the most in jeopardy.

The point with all this isn’t to ruin the feast but to provide a morsel to chew on as the tryptophan kicks in. And may there be many more days of too much deliciousness in your life. But if we care about feeding ourselves and each other we ought to care about climate change and what we can do about it.

Recently I helped convene a group of growers, food advocates, climate crusaders, and local heroes in a series of gatherings and events around local food security and climate change, as reported in High Country News and KVNF community radio.

Pete Kolbenschlag, the organizer of the Paonia panel discussion, knows that food security affects everyone. “If you care about what’s on your plate, and you care about feeding other people and the planet, then we need to care about climate change, because climate change is going to affect our food supply,” he says.

The purpose was to consider what climate change means for agriculture and rural communities on the Western Slope and how we could begin to work collaboratively to address it.

Generally western Colorado is vulnerable to increased periods of drought and extreme precipitation, a snowpack that melts earlier and warmer winters, with freezes into May likely to remain a fact on the elevated slopes on the western flanks of the Rocky Mountains.

Warm winters result in early blooms on fruit trees that are then at risk to late snow and spring frosts.

Accepting some problems such as increased incidences of early bloom coupled with late April freeze, which is a real problem for the fruit producers where I live for instance, will be part of living with a changing climate.

And climate change means several things more broadly for farming and food security in Colorado as well, including:

*Adapting our farming and food systems to a changing climate will be necessary: to create more climate resilience into the design, crop selection, and techniques; and to make wise water use and management, a top priority in all aspects of growing and producing food.

*Adopting better practices in agriculture and in food system, to reduce greenhouse gas contributions – from eating less meat to utilizing techniques that enhances local carbon capture.

*Accelerating the transition to cleaner energy sources and more local power production in agricultural and food production.

Food security and the threats looming to it from climate change is an issue of global significance.  It also matters for us here at home.  And meeting the challenges that climate change poses for Colorado’s food system will take national and state commitment, as well as local action.

Homegrown approaches for rural communities and others that can help us adapt our food system to address climate change,  from sharing local clean energy capacity and installations (‘solar barn-raisings’) to expanding local food networks.

There is tangible value in gratitude. And for most of us there are things for which we are rightfully thankful. Considering these things helps cultivate a positive attitude.

We can be thankful we are removed from troubling global events we see, perhaps. We may be thankful we are not fleeing a war torn cluster of other powers’ making.

But even these situations have roots not only in political upheaval, like in Syria and Iraq, but also in basic needs that are going unmet. The fact is we are all connected. Global security is connected to food supply. And that supply is being directly impacted from climate change.

A stock Thanksgiving meal set unlike any that I have personally experienced, yet with several classic elements.

So if you are fortunate enough to be able to look with thanks upon your table this season, do take time to think about the world beyond your circle. Remember your family and friends that aren’t there. Include the farmers and winemakers, the workers and craft that brings bounty to you.

But also thank Governor Hickenlooper for defending the Clean Power Plan and Senator Bennet for supporting it against Republican rollbacks in the Senate. One little bite at a time, and some perseverance, and we can make a real difference.

Maybe say a little prayer for peace. But also send it to the world’s leaders heading to Paris this week. Ask that they keep the wisdom that reminds: the smart ruler fills bellies while the harvest of an army is a waste of thorns.

If we want peace, we need security. And if we want security then people need to be secure in their food supplies. And to ensure people have full bellies, and secure food supplies, political leaders need to Act on Climate. It really is as simple as the food on our plate.

Robert Blaha Getting Serious About Senate Bid, Hiring Staff

Robert Blaha

Robert Blaha

If you’ve been wondering what’s happening with the promised Senate campaign of Colorado Springs Republican Robert Blaha, the National Journal has you covered [Pols warning: This link also contains the world’s largest picture of Robert Blaha. Seriously. We’re not kidding.] From Andrea Drusch:

Robert Blaha, who pledged to join the race after Ben­net sup­por­ted the Ir­a­ni­an nuc­le­ar-arms deal, has lined up Re­pub­lic­an strategist Jordan Gehrke, ad-maker Fred Dav­is, and poll­ster Gene Ulm to run his po­ten­tial cam­paign. And after spend­ing nearly $1 mil­lion of his own money in a failed 2012 con­gres­sion­al bid, he’s vow­ing to make an­oth­er siz­able in­vest­ment—one his still-un­of­fi­cial polit­ic­al ad­visers hope will ward off po­ten­tial Re­pub­lic­an chal­lengers.

“There’s really no oth­er top-tier can­did­ate in the race, from our per­spect­ive,” said Gehrke, who most re­cently served as gen­er­al con­sult­ant for Sen. Ben Sas­se’s cam­paign in Neb­raska. “Robert is go­ing to seed the cam­paign in a very sig­ni­fic­ant way right up front with a siz­able in­vest­ment per­son­ally just to demon­strate how ser­i­ous he is about this. The way this primary is set­ting up, there’s nobody who is go­ing to be more con­ser­vat­ive than him, and there’s nobody who’s go­ing to out­raise him.”

You may recall that Blaha “announced” back in September that he would “announce” his campaign for Senate in October. Blaha tells the National Journal that he may hold off on a formal kickoff of his candidacy until “after the holidays,” which may also mean, after the PAC supporting my candidacy is ready to roll:

“We con­tin­ue to as­sim­il­ate the team and to pre­pare for 2016,” Blaha said. “I can’t really think of any­body jump­ing in that would de­ter us at all at this point. … We’re not talk­ing about timeline be­cause we’re go­ing to let a little time pass. … The most im­port­ant thing we can do to really get our strategy, our pro­cess, our team.”

Be­cause he doesn’t hold fed­er­al of­fice, Blaha can raise money for a sup­port­ing su­per PAC be­fore join­ing the race. It was a tac­tic em­ployed by pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Jeb Bush this year and mim­icked by at least one oth­er Sen­ate can­did­ate this cycle.

Col­or­ado Re­pub­lic­an con­sult­ant Patrick Dav­is, who ad­vises Blaha, has said he would likely run the su­per PAC.

Blaha is President of something called Human Capital Associates, which may or may not employ George Costanza, and spent about $800k of his own money in his failed 2012 bid to defeat incumbent Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn in CD-5. Blaha’s team isn’t saying how much money he may invest in his Senate campaign, but Jordan Gehrke tells the Journal that Blaha was “not going to lose because of a lack of money.”

Well, then…Bla-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! [read in spooky voice, because of Halloween and all]

Biden Declines Run As Hillary Consolidates Support

Vice President Joe Biden.

Vice President Joe Biden.

CNN:

Vice President Joe Biden ended months of intense speculation about his political future on Wednesday by announcing he wouldn’t seek the presidency, abandoning a dream he’s harbored for decades and putting Hillary Clinton in a stronger position to capture the Democratic nomination.

With his wife, Jill, and President Barack Obama at his side in the White House Rose Garden, Biden said the period of grieving his family has endured after the death of his son Beau meant that the window for a successful campaign “has closed.”

Still, Biden positioned himself as a defender of the Obama legacy and made clear he views himself as the best possible successor to the President. In tone, the remarks sounded like the kind of speech defending staunch Democratic values that he might have given had he reached the opposite conclusion.

“While I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent,” he said in a speech that highlighted Democratic themes on income inequality along with a call for a national movement to cure cancer. “I intend to speak out clearly and forcefully, to influence as much as I can where we stand as a party and where we need to go as a nation.”

Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton.

The broad consensus in the wake of this announcement is that Joe Biden’s window of opportunity to get into the presidential race closed after Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s strong debate performance on October 13th in Las Vegas. Perhaps most helped by opponent Bernie Sanders’ powerful call for the Democratic base to move past the GOP’s strategy of hyping petty scandals against Clinton, since that debate it’s become much clearer that Hillary has the strength to fight through the kitchen-sink attacks and own the primary.

Biden’s decision to stay out of the race is thus a large momentum boost for Hillary’s campaign, and could be pivotal to helping her consolidate support ahead of the first primary states. Looking ahead, a successful Hillary Clinton nomination and campaign could result in big coattail assists for Democratic candidates–in particular, for self-evident reasons, women like Democratic CD-6 candidate Morgan Carroll, but also for Michael Bennet and others down the ticket. As the opportunity to elect the nation’s first woman president begins to take shape, there is a scenario in which her campaign becomes a game-changing political snowball, with ramifications for American politics even greater than the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

Yes, we know, the Hillary haters in your life do not want to hear this.

Don’t let 80,000 Coloradans down

The following is from Dr. Christine Gilroy of Colorado Health OP:

“I am writing to explain what you will see in the news in the next few days.

The feds have quietly been shutting down co-ops in other states over the last 3 months. New York and Nevada were most recent. I am speaking now, as they have since issued gag orders to these co-ops.

The reason these co-ops were closed was that they were successful in the Individual Market. New York had 200,000 members.

Start up insurance requires 3 years to build Risk Based Capital. Starting Co-ops required an initial start-up loan, the feds promised second year funds to Risk Based Capital, which they reneged on in the CROMNIBUS budget of 12/9/14.

They told us at the same time we could not accept Venture Capital loans or Angel Investor dollars that help other start-ups through their initial capitalization period.

The Feds also promised to support the new individual market for 2 years through Reinsurance of the Risk Corridors. This meant that insurance companies would be incentivized to take all comers through the exchanges, and more insurance companies would participate to dilute the risk.

Today they broke their promise to Colorado, and denied us the Risk Corridor funds we were promised. They offered 12%. This affects every company that participated in the individual exchanges, not just Colorado HealthOP. Colorado HealthOP only needed 35% risk payment, and would have required no further infusions of federal money to be profitable in 2016, and are currently on track to pay back our loans — with interest –before they were due.

Short-sighted partisan politics are harming the people of Colorado.

The ACA was successful in lowering individual health premiums throughout Colorado. The Colorado HealthOP is part of that.

Please, call your Congresspeople. 80,000 Coloradans rely on Colorado HealthOP to provide access to affordable care. Let’s make sure they keep their promises to the people of this state.

Super-Scary Anti-Bennet Iran Ad Parodied In Record Time

UPDATE: AP via the Colorado Springs Gazetteit looks like Advancing Colorado was fudging their buy number for dramatic effect, as if the ad wasn’t enough melodrama:

“With Washington Republicans lacking an opponent in the Colorado Senate race, it comes as no surprise that a secretly funded group with ties to the billionaire Koch brothers is out with a deeply offensive, fear-mongering attack against Sen. Bennet,” said Andrew Zucker, senior communications adviser at the Colorado Democratic Party.

Lockwood, who formerly ran the conservative billionaire Koch brothers’ Colorado young voter outreach organization, said Advancing Colorado is not funded by the Koch brothers, though he declined to disclose donors. He said the ad buy was six figures, including broadcast stations in Denver starting Tuesday, and online and digital. Democrats said the broadcast portion is only $46,000, which Lockwood didn’t dispute, making it a fairly small buy. [Pols emphasis]

—–

Jonathan Lockwood of Advancing Colorado.

Jonathan Lockwood of Advancing Colorado.

A press release from well-funded conservative advocacy group Advancing Colorado this morning announces a “shocking” new ad, criticizing Sen. Michael Bennet for his support for the agreement with Iran to prevent that nation from developing nuclear weapons:

Today, Advancing Colorado launched a six-figure television advertising campaign to alert Coloradans to Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet’s support for the president’s Iran Deal. The launch follows Bennet repeatedly voting to block an up-or-down vote on the disapproval resolution.

The video sequence begins with children counting down from ten in their native languages. The children countdown in English, Hebrew, German, Spanish, Arabic, Italian, Russian, Chinese and Swedish. Then video of a mushroom cloud explosion cuts off the last child as she says, “one,” with intense sound effects and a lasting piercing noise, depicting a nuclear attack from the leading state sponsor of terror.

“A nuclear Iran is a threat to the entire world. Sen. Michael Bennet support’s Obama’s Iran Deal. Sen. Michael Bennet is jeopardizing our safety. Call Sen. Michael Bennet,” the ad declares, featuring Bennet’s DC office’s phone number. “Ask him, ‘Why?’”

It’s a shocking TV spot, for sure, but it’s hardy original: the sequence of cute kids counting followed by a loud, scary nuclear explosion is a direct homage to the infamous 1964 “Daisy” ad produced by Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater. That these historically gripping visuals are being used to campaign against a peace agreement, as opposed to calling out Goldwater’s foreign policy belligerence, is rather Orwellian. For members of the public who know the underlying story of the Iran agreement, this ad could be an offensive backfire.

But that may not be the best part of the story: overnight, before this ad was announced to the public, we were sent a parody version with a request not to post it until Advancing Colorado’s ad was released–but as soon afterward as we could. Don’t ask us what happened here with Advancing Colorado’s internal production process, but the parody is truly hilarious if you’ve seen the original:

 

It helps if you’ve seen Terminator 2. As long as you have, this turns the six-digit scare into a bit of a punchline.

But don’t worry, folks, Advancing Colorado will “be back!” After all, they’re very well funded.

Anti-Iran Deal Resolution Dies, Local Republicans Get Nasty

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

CNN:

In a significant win for White House, Senate Democrats Thursday blocked a Republican resolution of disapproval of the Iran nuclear deal from going to a final vote.

That means President Barack Obama won’t be forced to veto the legislation and drag out for several more weeks an ugly battle with the GOP-controlled Congress over the accord he has fought hard to secure.

The vote on the procedural motion to move to a final vote, which needed 60 votes to pass, failed 58 to 42.

Obama welcomed the outcome in a statement Thursday afternoon.

“This vote is a victory for diplomacy, for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world,” Obama said. “I am heartened that so many senators judged this deal on the merits, and am gratified by the strong support of lawmakers and citizens alike.”

Scary Iran graphic via the internets.

Scary Iran graphic via the internets.

One of the votes to kill the Republican disapproval motion against the nuclear weapons agreement with Iran was Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet. In an AP story yesterday, Bennet opened up about his personal deliberations over the deal, which made him one of the last Democratic Senators to come out in support–deliberations that were influenced at least in part by his own family history:

Bennet’s grandparents smuggled his mother, who was still a baby, out of the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland to escape the Nazis. They, too, had “everyone and everything they knew taken from them in the Holocaust,” Bennet said.

Both senators [Bennet and Ron Wyden] said the Iran deal is a flawed agreement with an adversary that has threatened both the United States and Israel. But both said they strongly believe the agreement offers the best hope of keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

“We live in dangerous times, and whether you support the agreement or not, we must develop a cohesive strategy for U.S. policy in the Middle East that addresses the grave security concerns in the region,” Bennet said. “We cannot allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and we must be crystal clear that we will use force to prevent it from doing so.”

In response to today’s vote, which effectively kills any chance Republicans had to even pass a resolution disapproving the Iran nuclear deal, let alone override a veto as they had hoped for only a month ago, local Republicans fired off a stupefying attack on Bennet–actually attempting to use his family’s history as victims of the Holocaust against him for this vote. Local blog Colorado Peak Politics penned what we must assume will be the new GOP line of attack on Bennet over the deal:

An Associated Press report yesterday noted that embattled U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet was one of two Senators supporting the Iran deal whose family members were victims of the Holocaust. It’s almost as if we are expected to excuse Bennet his bad policy decision that would empower Iran, which has threatened to obliterate Israel, because his family experienced the Holocaust.

Folks, attacking Sen. Bennet for supporting the Iran nuclear weapons deal because his mother is a Holocaust survivor is wildly, offensively inappropriate–and should be condemned across party lines. First of all, it’s opponents of this deal who have used and abused the Holocaust as a way to undermine support for it, not supporters. The likening of Iran to Nazi Germany has indeed been one of the most popular comparisons invoked by opponents of the deal. And again, it is Bennet’s family’s personal experience with the Holocaust that slowed Bennet’s decision, making him one of the final Democrats to come out in support of the agreement.

The deal is not perfect or all inclusive, but that could describe many hard-negotiated agreements that today we consider a success. Above all, this agreement is about reducing hostilities in the Middle East, not escalating them. Even if you disagree, can’t we at least be decent enough to keep Bennet’s mother out of it?

Then again, if this low blow is all opponents have left, maybe the debate is already over.

Tim Neville Wields a Mighty Wrench in Republican Senate Field

That's a big-ass wrench, Tim Neville.

That’s a big-ass wrench, Tim Neville.

The big (BIG) news today in Colorado politics is State Sen. Tim Neville embarking on a “listening tour” in preparation for a run for U.S. Senate in 2016. Considering the number of events — across the state — that Neville already has planned, it’s a safe bet that he’s already heard enough to convince him to seek the Republican nomination against incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver).

As we wrote earlier today when news was breaking about Neville’s likely candidacy, this is a decision that throws a giant wrench into the entire process by which Republicans had been trying (and failing) to recruit a top-tier Senate candidate for 2016.

Colorado political news in the last week has largely been focused on efforts by Republicans to recruit Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler into the 2016 Senate race. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is among those in the GOP publicly pushing for a Brauchler candidacy, as he told Politico on Tuesday:

“I think if he ran for the Senate, he’d be someone who a lot of Republicans could get behind — including myself,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who unseated Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in a hotly contested race last year. “I think there are a lot of people who are very interested in this race. I think a lot of them are waiting on George Brauchler.” [Pols emphasis]

Republicans have already been through 15-20 different names in their search for a 2016 Senate candidate, so there couldn’t have been a lot of people waiting on Brauchler. We started to hear over the last couple of days that Brauchler was not comfortable being pushed to make a decision on a Senate run after just concluding the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial, and now that Neville has signaled his intentions, Brauchler can bow out of the race without leaving Republicans searching for a candidate.

In fact, we’d go so far as to say that Brauchler probably should decline a Senate bid now that Neville is involved; beating Bennet in a General Election is a big feat in itself, but first beating Neville in a Republican Primary is another matter altogether. Brauchler can run for re-election as District Attorney in 2016 if he doesn’t chase a Senate seat, and then take his time in preparation for a 2018 run for Governor — which is what Brauchler really wants. This option is a no-brainer now that Brauchler can no longer count on a relatively-uncontested GOP Primary for Senate; Brauchler could lose to Neville in a Primary and not even keep his seat as District Attorney, and his political career would effectively be off the rails for years to come. A loss to Neville all but guarantees that Brauchler wouldn’t be able to mount a serious campaign for Governor two years later.

We’ve long thought that it was probably only a matter of time before somebody scratched out the math on a napkin and realized that Neville can win a Republican Primary. With heavy support in bellwether Jefferson County, and with his son, Rep. Patrick Neville, working Republicans in Douglas County, Neville has two of the most important (and largely-populated) counties in his pocket. Neville would almost certainly have the support of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) as well; he has a strong relationship with RMGO head Dudley Brown, and one of Neville’s sons works as RMGO’s political director. Finally, Neville is a darling of the religious right. Any way you look at it, Neville would be the frontrunner in a GOP Senate Primary, where he is far more likely than Brauchler to attract the support of the Tea Party groups and other reliable Republican supporters.

Can Neville beat Bennet in a General Election? That’s an analysis for another day. All that matters right now is that Neville can win a Republican Primary, and his presence may be enough to essentially clear the GOP field.

 

Bennet Leans “Yes” As Iran Deal Opposition Sputters

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Politico:

Critics of the Iran deal believed the August congressional recess was their best chance to scuttle the nuclear accord, as wavering lawmakers returned home to angry protesters and a barrage of TV ads. The longer the deal hung out there, they figured, the worse it would be for President Barack Obama.

Instead, the monthlong break has been a major bust…

The anti-deal side also enlisted prominent former lawmakers, like ex-Democratic Sens. Joe Lieberman and Mary Landrieu, to head up opposition groups, ginned up letters from retired military leaders and sent well-connected donors and activists to personally meet with Democrats still on the fence.

None of it has worked. Instead, a parade of House and Senate Democrats — even in red states — came out in favor of the deal. That eight-figure TV ad campaign has moved few, if any, Democratic lawmakers, and dovish groups like MoveOn.org are experiencing a surprising victory.

Iranian Shahab missile.

Iranian Shahab missile.

Early in the month of August, the question being debated by the pundit class was whether President Barack Obama could marshal enough support for the “P5+1” nuclear weapons agreement with Iran to prevent an override of his veto of what everyone expected would be a motion of disapproval passed out of the GOP-controlled Congress.

Today, a veto override looks completely out of reach, and the question is now whether President Obama will have to veto anything. Key to that question is an undecided ally of Obama’s and Senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet–whose caution stems from being one of the only Democratic Senate seats needing protection in 2016, and may just now be getting comfortable with the idea of supporting the agreement as the opposition fizzles:

Iran deal opponents need only four of 14 undecided Democratic senators to put President Barack Obama in the awkward spot of vetoing an attempt to scuttle a crowning foreign policy achievement. That’s set off a complicated race between hawks and the White House to win over an eclectic group of senators, each with his or her own particular concerns…

The sole vulnerable Democratic senator up for reelection in 2016, Bennet faces an added layer of pressure that’s made him a prime target for both sides ahead of the Senate vote in September.

The first-term senator hinted this week he’s leaning “yes.”

“I have come to the conclusion that there is not a better deal available,” he said at an energy event in Denver, though he added he’s still making up his mind. “We are faced with a lot of bad choices now because we eliminated a lot of choices along the way.”

Bennet’s slow arrival at support for the Iran nuclear agreement may not go down as a profile in courage, but it’s very important to the White House’s whip count going into any vote on a resolution to disapprove the treaty. Even as opponents to this agreement have dramatically ramped up the scare tactics through the August recess, warning in hyperbolic terms of the risks of negotiating with Iran, they have failed to develop the kind of meaningful pressure to either peel off supporters of the deal or turn a sufficient number of undecided lawmakers into opponents.

In the end, if Congress can’t even pass a bill disapproving the Iran treaty, let alone override its inevitable veto, the extreme fearmongering rhetoric used to oppose it is going to look awfully silly. And they’ll have no one to blame but themselves. By failing to stoke enough opposition to kill the deal, and also failing to offer any alternative beyond the broken status quo or war against Iran, the treaty’s mostly Republican opponents have made themselves irrelevant to the final outcome.

Enviros Back Bennet, Because Obviously

Sen. Michael Bennet at Chimney Rock National Monument.

Sen. Michael Bennet at Chimney Rock National Monument.

A press release from the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund today announces that group’s and the National Resources Defense Council Action Fund’s endorsement of Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet for re-election in 2015:

The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund (LCVAF) and National Resources Defense Council Action Fund (NRDC) announced their endorsements of Sen. Michael Bennet’s re-election today, lauding his work to address climate change, protect the environment, champion renewable energy and protect Colorado’s natural treasures.

“Senator Michael Bennet has been a champion when it comes to tackling climate change and protecting our environment, and we are excited to support his re-election,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, LCVAF Senior Vice President for Government Affairs. “Michael has fought for clean air and water, worked to protect Colorado’s natural treasures like the Hermosa Creek Watershed from drilling, and led efforts to increase renewable energy. Earlier this spring, during the Senate’s budget debate, he elevated the economic and national security threats posed by climate change and the need for action. We know Michael will continue to fight for our environment as Colorado’s Senator for years to come, and we look forward to continuing to work with him.”

“We’ve known Senator Michael Bennet for years, and there’s no doubt that he’ll continue the fight against climate change and be a leader working with us to protect the environment and our natural resources,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, Director of the NRDC Action Fund. “Michael is a clean air hero who has fought against efforts to gut the Clean Air Act. He has led bipartisan efforts to protect the Hermosa Creek Watershed, Chimney Rock and Browns Canyon, and even passed amendments to make the fight against global climate a national security priority. We are proud to support his re-election.”

As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports, and we’re obliged to note having covered it in this space, Sen. Bennet’s environmental credentials are not without a few caveats:

Bennet’s support of the Keystone XL pipeline — a litmus test for ardent environmentalists — led to protests at his campaign kickoff fundraiser in March featuring a sign that read, “We don’t vote for fossil fuel politicians.” And eco-activists also demonstrated against Bennet for his support of a major trade deal in May.

The two big endorsements may help reassure environmentalists about Bennet’s credentials — even if they are unlikely to satisfy all the green activists in the Democratic Party. It also is a reflection that no major alternative — Democrat or Republican — has emerged to challenge Bennet so far.

Despite the disappointment many environmentalists rightly expressed over Bennet’s votes–in the end meaningless votes–for the Keystone XL pipeline, he has a number of actions to point to as positives on this issue as well. Bennet’s spouse Susan Daggett, a longtime former attorney for the environmental legal group Earthjustice, also helps refute the idea that Bennet is soft on the environment.

But above all, there is simply no alternative to Bennet in the mix now or likely to emerge who will be better on environmental issues than he is, and that’s why he got these endorsements so early in the race. In the absence of a strong GOP challenger, we fully expect Republicans to use votes like Keystone to drive a wedge within the Democratic coalition and weaken Bennet as much as possible. We would do the same in their situation out of sheer political expediency.

These early endorsements from credible, national environmental advocacy groups should help nip that in the proverbial bud.