2016 Won’t Be Like 2014 (Or 2010)

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Famed political analyst Stuart Rothenberg has a smart writeup at Roll Call today on the state of play in Colorado ahead of the 2016 U.S. Senate race–with some perspective that’s quite valuable if you’re using past performance as a predictor of future results:

Republican strategists have not given up hope of recruiting a top-tier challenger, such as Rep. Mike Coffman, who might be able to mount the sort of come-from-behind effort then-Rep. Cory Gardner did to upset Democratic Sen. Mark Udall last cycle.

But even knowledgeable Republicans wouldn’t tell you the Colorado Senate race is close to a tossup now. And in their most candid moments they might even tell you the race may never get any closer than where it is now — leaning in Bennet’s favor…

Colorado voters who wanted to send a message of dissatisfaction about the president could only do so by voting against Bennet, and subsequently Udall. That is a different dynamic from the one that occurs in presidential election years, such as 2016.

Next fall, voters won’t automatically see the Senate race as a way to make a statement about the presidential race, and the GOP won’t have a strong voter turnout advantage, the way the party did in 2010 and 2014.

The last U.S. Senate race in a presidential election year in Colorado was 2008–the year when Mark Udall blew out Republican Bob Schaffer, in a race where Schaffer was hobbled by ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and generalized dissatisfaction with the Republican brand after eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. In 2010 and 2014, election years where Democrats in Colorado fought uphill battles, presidential-year turnout ebbed, and conservative voters in this state surged to the polls. Even at the height of the 2010 GOP wave, Bennet managed to come out ahead of the decidedly out-of-the-mainstream GOP nominee Ken Buck. In 2014, Cory Gardner’s audacious con job airtight message discipline powered him past Udall’s uninspiring single-issue negative campaign.

In 2016, there is no Cory Gardner Colorado Republicans can turn to for a fresh start, and Bennet will not face the same kind of “Teflon” opponent Udall did. As Rothenberg correctly notes, presumed 2016 U.S. Senate frontrunner Mike Coffman has his own long record of immoderation, like in 2012 when he told attendees at a GOP fundraiser that President Barack Obama “is just not an American.” While Coffman has managed to keep his job since that major on-camera gaffe three years ago, Rothenberg is absolutely right that “Democrats undoubtedly would use that sound bite to introduce him to voters statewide.” Bennet may not be the left’s biggest hero today after spurning them on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, but Coffman has enough fringe ugliness in his background for Bennet to show a clear distinction with the broad center of Colorado voters.

Rothenberg concludes, and from our view there’s nothing with which to disagree:

Democrats have plenty of reasons to keep Colorado on their radar screens, and Republicans have plenty of reasons to look for a strong challenger who can take advantage of the state’s fundamental competitiveness.

But right now, it is much easier for Democrats to defend the seat than it is for Republicans to win it back from Bennet.

These hard facts are a big reason why we’re waiting to see if Coffman makes the jump to the 2016 U.S. Senate race at all, especially with a strong Democratic challenge for his CD-6 seat threatening from Colorado Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll. Whatever momentum Colorado Republicans may feel after 2014 is, looking ahead today, fraught with uncertainty–with a very different electorate than the last two U.S. Senate races here, and no “ace in the hole” lying in wait to change the game.

Naturally, we’ll let you know if we see one.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 14)

Today’s forecast calls for possible sightings of the sun. 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…

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) joined fellow Republicans in voting to approve a 20-week abortion ban. Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn is one of the primary sponsors of the legislation.

► The Senate passed a measure yesterday to move forward on votes for President Obama’s trade deal. From the Huffington Post:

“The announcement [Wednesday] will drive home the importance of the message that the pro-trade Democrats sent yesterday,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who helped craft the compromise after he helped filibuster the trade bill that he supports. “That enforcement, enforcement of the trade laws is a prerequisite to a modern trade policy, a trade policy that sets aside once and for all the NAFTA playbook. Suffice it to say that was the message conveyed yesterday by pro-trade Democrats.”

► Colorado Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) offered joint support for medical marijuana legislation. As Mark Matthews of the Denver Post reports:

The proposed Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act would lift federal prohibitions across the country on using marijuana strains that are medically beneficial to prevent certain seizures.

Gardner, a Republican, and Bennet, a Democrat, announced the bill with Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Johnny Isakson of Georgia at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday.

Because of federal prohibitions, some families who are seeking the help are forced to relocate to such states as Colorado, where they can obtain the medicine, the lawmakers argue.

What, no cool acronym for this bill? The THMAA?


Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Ellen Roberts Floats Her Name for U.S. Senate or CD-3

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

As Peter Marcus reports today for The Durango Herald, state Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) is hoisting up a trial balloon for a potential new job in 2016 — be it for the U.S. Senate or in CD-3:

Roberts spoke to The Durango Herald on Friday, two days after the legislative session ended. She said she has time now to consider the massive 2016 undertaking.

“I recognize it would be a long-shot,” Roberts said. “But to be in the U.S. Senate, that would be something that I am in the process of thinking about.”…

…One rumor that has been circulating is that U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, is considering a run for U.S. Senate. In that case, Roberts also could vie for that 3rd Congressional District seat. But Roberts said she is less interested in that seat, and a spokesman for Tipton said, “Congressman Tipton is very happy to be serving Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

We’ve heard Sen. Roberts’ name mentioned for higher office here and there, though we’d agree with Roberts herself that a U.S. Senate run “would be a long-shot.” As Peter Marcus noted in the Herald, Roberts is coming off a particularly tough legislative session that saw her take several difficult votes sprinkled in with some eyebrow-raising statements (including her off-the-reservation admission that SB-268 was, indeed, a bill about creating Personhood).

Congressman Scott Tipton was floating his own name for U.S. Senate back in January, though a spokesman was intentionally vague in responding to Marcus for this story. Running a campaign for Congress in CD-3 would seem more logical for Roberts, if Tipton did indeed decide to take a shot at Democrat Michael Bennet in 2016. Roberts has not had to run a serious campaign herself since winning election to the State House in 2006, and the Colorado Republican Party is a lot different today than it was 10 years ago. Unless Republicans were to completely stand down for Roberts, we don’t see how she’d ever make it out of a Primary; even if she did, Roberts would be forced to move so far to the right that she’d never be able to get back to the middle before a General Election.

Roberts also would need to overcome the political detriments of being relatively isolated in Durango. She has no name recognition along the Front Range, and Roberts has not built up any sort of donor base that could jump start an undertaking as ambitious as running for U.S. Senate. Any Republican candidate in 2016 will be compared to Sen. Cory Gardner in some respect; it is important to remember that Gardner had been carefully cultivating a broad base of Republican support for years prior to his sudden entry into the 2014 Senate race last February.

If nothing else, today’s news from Roberts should prod the likes of state Sen. Owen Hill (who also ran for U.S. Senate in 2014) to get moving, and it will probably shake loose a few more potential Republican names for 2016.

New Poll Shows Voters Don’t Like Either Coffman

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

A good 3 out of 4 Colorado voters have no idea who this is (hint: Attorney General Cynthia Coffman).

Okay, that headline is a bit misleading, but that was the point; when you’re 18 months from the next election, you can find anything you want from polling a largely uninformed and indifferent public.

There are a few interesting nuggets in the latest poll results from Quinnipiac University’s dart-throwing public polling outfit, but for the most part, results from a new “swing state” poll feature a bunch of different names and numbers that don’t mean much of anything. Let’s take a look at the new updates from Quinnipiac, shall we?

In an early look at the 2016 U.S. Senate race in Colorado, U.S. Rep. Michael Coffman, a Republican, runs better than his wife, State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, against Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

No shit, Sherlock. Congressman Mike Coffman is in his 26th year as an elected official in Colorado, a career that spans five different offices. His wife, Cynthia Coffman, was just elected Attorney General last November. There are probably still people in the Attorney General’s office who have yet to meet Cynthia — why would the average voter know anything about her?

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Bennet and Post’s Matthews further the “Both Sides Do It” meme again

Sen. Michael Bennet is nothing if not press savvy. Most of his press coverage, it seems to me, has been about the dysfunction and disappointment of the institution he so eagerly joined and not about any accomplishments he’s made while a member.

Not to be distracted by anything substantial he could do between now and his (presumed) attempt at getting reelected in 2016, Bennet has gone on the bipartisan offensive again to mildly criticize his senate peers, to try to seem like he’s doing something productive, and to give more credence to his guiding philosophy that “both sides do it” when it comes to political mis- and malfeasance.

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews gladly serves up the dish, and helps Cory Gardner not look like a nut at the same time:

On Thursday, Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner plan to introduce legislation that would impose strict rules — including the possibility of arrest — on the Senate anytime one or more federal agencies were thrown into shutdown mode.

It’s a situation that nearly occurred this year with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and one that impacted the entire federal government in October 2013.

Under the Bennet-Gardner bill, the Senate would be forced to take attendance roughly once an hour — every day — between 8 a.m. and midnight for as long as a shutdown continued.

The rationale, said Bennet and Gardner, was to keep lawmakers in town to negotiate.

“If someone’s idea is to grind the government to a halt, then members of Congress ought to be darn well sure they’re finding a solution together,” Gardner said. “You can’t do it by flying home. You can’t do it by going to your respective political corners. You can only do it when you’re here together, at work.”

And Gardner says he doesn’t really want to grind government to a halt as part of the majority party in both houses with just that recent and destructive record. It just kinda happened. So that’s how the Post will portray it.

And what else?

For more than two centuries, the Senate has had the ability to compel attendance, but the Colorado legislators’ bill would make clear that an arrest warrant is the penalty for skipping town during a shutdown. “It’s using existing procedure,” Gardner said. “(But) this procedure is a little bit of a hammer.”

So it uses existing procedure. Anyone who’s watched CSPAN for more than 5 minutes is likely to have heard “I call for a quorom” from someone on the floor of the senate. And because Bennet or Gardner clearly do not want to be accountable for holding their fellow senators accountable, they issue a press release instead and pretend they’ll pass a law to do what they won’t do while they’re standing on the floor. 

It’s a dirty job, but someone should be willing to do it; if they want to be bipartisan so bad, they could take turns!

A showy bill

Without question, the bill is a bit showy.

But both lawmakers said they’ve been working on the legislation for months — and that aides have spent hours with the parliamentarian to ensure they got the rules right.

So admittedly it’s a showy bill. Destined for failure. Not gonna happen. 

But the Denver Post writes it up. And Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner get to be bipartisan while pretending both sides are threatening a government shutdown and both sides are equally responsible for the current dysfunction in our government.

Well, both sides, no, all sides, did it in this case: they perpetuated a lie with some of the most lazy and irresponsible governing and reporting possible. And Michael Bennet gets a headline once again while doing nothing for his stature, and nothing for the people he represents.

Is Michael Bennet part of the New Dem/Elizabeth Warren strike team?

I sure hope our Senior Senator, the Esteemed Michael Bennet, isn't part of this bull:

Centrist Democrats are gathering their forces to fight back against the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left could prove disastrous in the 2016 elections.

[snip]

The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of moderate Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.

"I have great respect for Sen. Warren — she's a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side."

Peters said that, if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, "it's going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition."

This is truly laughable. Or cryable.

And if the abject failure of this continued Democratic Triangulation away from its own natural base is not clear to any of those people, then their competence to address politics in any form is reaching nil.

Gabe Horwitz of centrist Third Way told The Hill, “In the last election, Democrats, as a party, offered a message of fairness. Voters responded, and they responded really negatively … Democrats offered fairness, and voters wanted prosperity and growth.”

Actually, Gabe, most analyses said the Democratic message wasn't. The biggest policy gains that would've helped our losing candidates were ignored and the president who ushered them in was given no credit. A prime example of the failure of Third Way's strategy is our own Mark Udall.

“For Colorado, there are some different dynamics in place. We have a fast-growing state, we have growing Latino, millennials and youth populations. That, together with the right message, should help our nominee. At the same time we are going to be fully cognizant that we have got to appeal to middle-class, working-class voters, and we can’t allow Republicans to increase their share of the vote there. The message has been a little challenging. We really need to be talking about where the two parties are different and focus on the economy in terms of job creation and pocket-book issues.”

This is where Warren comes in, from the Digby post:

The Hill notes that the NDC's policy proposal is aimed at pushing back against a progressive agenda announced last week by Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The Facebook video of Warren discussing the plan and hammering the unfairness of the current economy for hard-working Americans has received just short of 2 million views.

Hey, that's what Udall and Bennet did in 2010.

Colorado’s two freshman senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, are part of a self-described centrist group of 15 Democrats meeting regularly “seeking to restrain the influence of party liberals in the White House and on Capitol Hill,” according to an account in Roll Call.

The group has a “shared commitment to pursue moderate, mainstream and fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as health care reform, the housing crisis, educational reform, and energy policy,” according to a statement issued Wednesday by the group.

(I should start getting royalties from that link any day.)

Those results should also speak for themselves. They succeeded in their own short-sighted goal, hamstrung the president from the time he took his first oath, and guaranteed that our economy would be moribund for the next 8 years. Huzzah!

Michael Bennet has remained eerily quiet this whole time, despite his term ending soon and the new campaign beginning – if only in its planning stage. Though he did make sure to deflect the blame for his horrible shot at DSCC Strategist-in-Chief.

And yet the New Democrats, Third Way-ers and Blue Dogs persist, despite red flags everywhere.

Warren speaks to kitchen-table issues in plain English working people understand.

My wife spoke last month with a Fox News-watching brother of a friend. He's white, registered unaffiliated, disenchanted with both parties, and didn't bother to vote in the 2014 mid-terms. Neither party has done anything for the working man for 40 years, he told her. Yet he liked "that woman" who's taking on the big banks. He couldn't name her, but thought it a miracle that she's still alive.

(That's Warren he's talking about.-ed.)

He's a conservative from North Carolina, where Third Way's Kay Hagan — running an Obama-style field campaign, but selling herself as the "most moderate" senator — narrowly lost her U.S. Senate seat to "Typhoid Thom" Tillis.

Centrist Democrats, don't be too proud of that political battle station you're constructing.

Word to the wise. And to the blinkered centrists who think Bipartisanship is the solution and that Republicans will start acting rationally any time soon and can be counted on to complete a triangle of equal policy and political dimensions.

NOT. GONNA. HAPPEN.

Yes, Bennet’s Keystone XL Triangulation Is Stupid

Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Michael Bennet

This week, President Barack Obama vetoed a bill passed by the GOP-controlled House and Senate to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This legislation would have short-circuited an ongoing State Department review of the project, and trumped court proceedings in the state of Nebraska over the legality of eminent domain takings to build the route. Obama had repeatedly threatened to veto the bill, and the administration has become increasingly ambivalent about the Keystone XL project overall as global oil prices have plummeted, domestic oil production has surged, and grassroots opponents have waged a highly effective publicity campaign.

As we've discussed in this space many times, the case to build Keystone XL, even years ago when these intervening pressures weren't yet a factor, has been consistently overhyped by its proponents. Last year, Cory Gardner insisted on the campaign trail that Keystone would result in "thousands of Colorado jobs," a number that was inflated somewhere in the neighborhood of 100%. The truth is, Keystone XL won't enter the state of Colorado, won't produce a significant number of jobs in our state, won't produce more than a few dozen permanent jobs anywhere once the pipeline is built, and will result in an increase in local gas prices due to the routing of Canadian oil supplies to Gulf Coast export terminals. Even ardently pro-oil Gov. John Hickenlooper agrees with Obama's decision to veto the bill.

With these facts once again established for the record, 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman reports:

They come from different political parties, but Colorado's US Senators both voted for legislation to authorize building of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner both also confirm to 9NEWS they will vote for a veto override, which is being planned by majority leader Mitch McConnell.

That Sen. Michael Bennet planned to vote for the Keystone XL pipeline was never in question. He's voted for it before, including late last year during ex-Sen. Mary Landrieu's desperate attempt to get Keystone XL passed during her runoff election campaign. Bennet says he thinks Keystone should be "part of a bigger solution" to climate change, a statement that we'll admit makes very little sense to us.

But voting to override the President's veto makes even less sense. Politically, this doesn't win Bennet any supporters who would actually support him against a viable Republican. But worse, Bennet's unapologetic thumbing of his nose at Keystone XL opponents further drives an emerging wedge within the Democratic coalition in Colorado. Even if he got a green light from the White House to vote this way since the override has no real chance of succeeding, this is insult added to injury for Bennet's Democratic base–and has no political upside that we can see.

Though assailed by the GOP as a monolithic party of anti-energy environmentalists, the uneasy truce among Colorado Democrats over support for the oil and gas industry is in fact extremely fragile. Too many Democrats at high levels have convinced themselves that they can openly triangulate on the issue, and keep the Democratic coalition that has mostly dominated elections in this state since 2004 together.

Our response, delivered with increasing urgency: there's a limit.

DeGette Skipping Bibi Netanyahu’s Speech

Benjamin Netanyahu.

Benjamin Netanyahu.

Controversy is building in Washington over an address to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled for March 3rd–just weeks before Israeli elections, and not invited by President Barack Obama as a breach of diplomatic protocol. Netanyahu's address, pertaining to negotiations with Iran over that country's nuclear program, is controversial in Israel for the same reason, with a majority of Israeli voters saying the speech should be cancelled. Reuters:

The speech has caused controversy in Israel and the United States, where the Democrats and the White House are angry that the Republican speaker, John Boehner, invited Netanyahu to speak at a sensitive time in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and six big powers including Washington, and only two weeks before Israel's closely fought March 17 election.

Following complaints from opposition parties, election chief Salim Joubran decided that Netanyahu's address should be broadcast with a five-minute delay in Israel, giving news editors time to cut any statements deemed partisan…

President Barack Obama, at odds with Netanyahu over the Israeli prime minister's criticism of the nuclear talks, will not meet him during his visit, saying it is a breach of protocol to receive a foreign leader before an election.

As of now, most members of Colorado's delegation reportedly plan to attend Netanyahu's speech, including all the Republicans, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, and Rep. Jared Polis. Rep. Ed Perlmutter hasn't made a public announcement yet. The one Colorado representative who has said she will not attend Netanyahu's speech is…well, we just gave it away, it's Rep. Diana DeGette. Rep. DeGette has a scheduling conflict on March 3rd:

Congresswoman DeGette will not be able to attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech. She has had a long-standing scheduling commitment that morning to address a clinical research group about her 21st Century Cures initiative, and we just learned this morning that the Prime Minister’s speech is scheduled for 11:00, which creates a conflict for her.

Other than a highly one-sided report in the Boulder Jewish News, DeGette's decision to not attend Netanyahu's address hasn't received much press. We expect that will change as long as the speech isn't cancelled, that others will be given many chances to comment, and that Rep. Perlmutter's decision whether or not to attend will be closely watched. It's a longstanding presumption in American politics that categorical public support for Israel is mandatory for any real political viability. The problem with this address to a Republican-dominated Congress is that Netanyahu is making a partisan issue out of something that historically hasn't been. And it's forcing a conflict of loyalties that American supporters of Israel haven't been made to reckon with.

In Israel, Netanyahu has been roundly criticized even by some of his right-wing allies, mostly for appearing to put his ties to the Republican Party ahead of the close relationship Israel has always had with the United States. [Pols emphasis]

It should be noted that attending a speech is not the same thing as agreeing with it. But insofar as Netanyahu is involving Colorado politicians in Israeli domestic politics without their consent, we're obliged to point out that not every friend of Israel is a Likudnik.

Or, for that matter, a Republican.

Hillary/Bennet 2016: Possibility or Joke?

For a relative latecomer to politics, Michael Bennet sure has led a charmed life. Prior to politics he was a Big Money guy working for one of Colorado's leading Conservatives. Then…

As one of President Barack Obama's early advisers on education issues, Bennet was speculated in late 2008 as a frontrunner for Obama's United States Secretary of Education. He was instead appointed by Governor Bill Ritter to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ken Salazar when Salazar became Secretary of the Interior in January 2009. Bennet was elected in the 2010 Senate election where he defeated Republican Ken Buck.

Michael Bennet is now serving his first full term and would be up for reelection in 2016.

Though he is fairly new to public elective office, he has proven to be a consummate insider and competent press manipulator. He played an effective, yet widely criticized role, in the early machinations that led to a Public Option-less Obamacare. He had to lift nothing besides a well timed press release in that effort. Bennet's latest political responsibility has been deemed a failure by many.

As Chairman of the DSCC for this last election cycle, Bennet led Senate Democrats into a historic minority and proved useless in electing his Democratic peer, former Senator Mark Udall. But he was still able to get some favorable press immediately after the losing election.

And the charmed life, or at least the favorable press, continued yesterday as Bennet got a top mention as a Veep possibility for the almost pre-ordained Hillary Clinton presidency:

The potential opposition is so weak that Clinton might wind up not even debating during the primaries, which many Democrats view as a mixed blessing.

Some advisers expect a push for diversity on the ticket. So the shortlist also is expected to include Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and perhaps California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for U.S. Senate.The Clinton team knows it can’t campaign with the swagger of a presumptive nominee because the air of inevitability was so damaging last time around. That said, some advisers are already privately talking up potential running mates, with Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Tim Kaine of Virginia dominating the early speculation.

Despite the internal confidence, Clinton won’t enter without substantial concerns and obstacles, some of which are self-evident to her top advisers and are a subject of constant conversation among Democrats during the build-up phase.

The Democratic Party, and its leaders, are going through some public soul-searching after all this electoral excitement. The big, and probably only, question for me is whether Democrats will continue their love affair with Big Money at the expense of The Middle Class or will they start giving priority to those who helped America's economy become the titan it is – the true Job Creators.

Senators like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are clearly on the side of The Middle Class. 

Michael Bennet has been eerily silent since the election. He's surely playing it safe and hoping not to kill any of this flattering VP talk. But his history and his path don't tell of someone who has the same concern for those in the middle of our economy as he does for those at the top of the heap who are on his Favorites list. Can he even contemplate the policies being proposed by Sanders and Warren? Would he dare support any of them?

Michael Bennet, and his benefactors, are going to have to make a critical choice soon about continuing that decades-long affair with 1%-er Democrats at the expense of a declining Middle Class. Those Middle Classers can't afford big campaign donations, and have been less than enthusiastic about voting for a class of Democratic politicians who think they have no where else to go on election day. But even though they don't have the money, they've freely given their votes to Democrats without asking too much in return.

That ask is getting bigger lately, and elected Democrats will have to come up with satisfactory answers that address rising inequality, the effects of austerity on the world's economies, and the base assumptions about who our economy should protect and serve. Those answers need to come sooner, rather than later, and should spell out how the richest among us can start paying their fair share again while taking the load off the hardest working Middle Class on the planet. No joke.

Michael Bennet Gets First 2016 Challenger: Darryl Glenn

Republican Darryl Glenn, apparently.

Republican Darryl Glenn, apparently.

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet apparently has his first official (potential) challenger to his 2016 re-election campaign, and you probably didn't see this coming any more than we did. As the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Denver Post both reported today, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Who is Darryl Glenn, you ask? Well, you see…um…er…we'll tell you?

Actually, we had never heard of Darryl Glenn before today, and we're not alone. From what we understand, this announcement was as much of a surprise to many Republican politicos as it was to everyone else. We know that Glenn is an attorney in private practice and a super-duper conservative Christian who was just elected to his second term as an El Paso County Commissioner after serving two terms on the Colorado Springs City Council. Here's part of his bio from El Paso County:

Darryl Glenn graduated from Doherty High School in Colorado Springs. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the United States Air Force Academy, a Master’s in Business Administration from Western New England College and a Juris Doctor from New England School of Law.

Glenn retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel after 21 years of active duty and reserve service. He led a $19 million Iceland Command and Control Enhancement Program implementing performance standards that saved $400,000. He served as Program Manager for a $5 billion office responsible for implementing a base realignment and closure plan. And, he supervised 35 communication system programs valued at $1 billion developing support plans that saved $20 million while providing a 40 percent increase in warfighting capability.

Say what you will about Glenn, but anybody who helped implement performance standards for the Iceland Command and Control Enhancement Program must be…well, whatever. We don't know what that means, either.

What we do know is that the 2014 election of Republican Cory Gardner to the U.S. Senate has created a perception of a new sense of opportunity for many Republicans looking to take a shot at higher office — and Glenn is just the beginning. Glenn acknowledged his early entry into the race in announcing his campaign, saying in a press release that he is jumping in the race now because he wants to use all the time he can to put together a statewide infrastructure that can help him secure the Republican nomination for the seat.

It's too early to judge whether Glenn can be a competitive candidate, but by entering the race now, he is going to force other potential Republican candidates to make their intentions known sooner rather than later. Remember that Gardner didn't enter the 2014 race until late February, and you can see how things are changing already. 2016 is not going to be like 2014, in more ways than one.

Coffman(s) for U.S. Senate?

Mike and Cynthia Coffman. And dog.

Will Mike Coffman run for Senate in 2016? What about Cynthia? Or the dog?

The D.C. publication Roll Call has an interesting story today probing around about Republicans looking for their next statewide candidate to potentially challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016, and it leads with the possibility that the GOP nominee may eventually have the last name of Coffman. But which one? Rep. Mike Coffman, or his wife, newly-elected Attorney General Cynthia Coffman?

This Senate race could make for interesting dinner conversation in one Colorado household.

Republicans say battle-tested Rep. Mike Coffman and his wife, Cynthia Coffman, the state’s newly elected attorney general, are two of the party’s top prospects to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016…

…In a Sunday phone interview with CQ Roll Call, Cynthia Coffman said she had asked her husband if he was going to run for Senate, but he had not asked her.

“He seems to be committed to being in Congress,” she said. “I think we’re both excited about what we’ve got to do over the next two years.”

Cynthia Coffman said it was “fun” and “flattering” to be mentioned, but for now she is “so excited to be attorney general.” She said she “would consider” a bid for a House or Senate seat one day, but not necessarily in 2016 — though she did not explicitly rule it out. She said by watching her husband make the commute back and forth between Washington, D.C. and Colorado, she had “realized what a drain it is,” and would know exactly what she was in for if she were to do it.

We'll forgive reporter Alexis Levinson for her lede above, since she is probably unaware that the Coffmans have maintained separate residences for years in Denver (click here for the strange back-and-forth living and voting arrangements for the Coffmans). We'd be shocked to see Cynthia run for Senate in 2016; Roll Call mentions her wide margin of victory in the race for Attorney General in 2014, but that had more to do with the fact that she was a Republican running for a low-interest race in a mid-term Presidential year. The Coffman family dog could have posted strong numbers running as a Republican in 2014.

But what about Mike Coffman?

Well, you never say never,” Coffman told CQ Roll Call outside the House chamber early last month when asked about a Senate bid, “but I’m focused on my House race.”

dealinwalkerfin

As the GOP field stands today, Mike Coffman currently tops the Colorado Pols Big Line 2016 as the most likely Bennet challenger in 2016, but that's largely because we can't think of anyone else to put at the top. Coffman is a career politician who doesn't have a personal fortune to fall back on should he run for Senate and lose. For now, we've heard that Coffman is reluctant to take a serious look at the 2016 Senate race because he is focusing on moving up in Congressional leadership. He is also a little gun-shy about a top statewide race after his brief foray as a candidate for Governor in 2005; Coffman had made it known for years that he planned on running for Governor in 2006, but Republican Bob Beauprez had no trouble kneecapping Coffman's campaign after only a few weeks.

The Roll Call story also mentions two other potential GOP candidates for Senate in 2016: Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. It's far too early to talk about Brauchler as a candidate for anything while the Aurora theater shooting case has yet to be settled; the outcome of that case, more than anything, will probably decide Brauchler's potential as a future candidate.

We've also heard Stapleton mentioned as a potential candidate in 2016, but it's far more likely that Stapleton remains where he is in order to run for Governor in 2018. Stapleton did win re-election in November as State Treasurer, but not before nearly bungling the race altogether with his own missteps and excuses. Stapleton's connections to the Bush family (he's a cousin to George W. or George H.W. or Jeb or something) and his ability to raise money will always make him a potential candidate for higher office, but he could probably use a few more years to do something of value as State Treasurer to wash that Dealin' Doug-style TV ad out of your brain.

We've got a long way to go until 2016, but the campaigning for U.S. Senate will begin in earnest in the next 6 months or so. Mike Coffman looks today like the strongest possible Republican challenger, though there is no guarantee that he'll actually run. The Coffman family dynamic is fun to talk about, but there's no way Cynthia is going to be the GOP nominee in 2016.

Top 10 Stories of 2014: Colorado’s Two-Headed Electorate (#10)

How many fingers am I holding up?

Today we kick off our annual list of the "Top 10 Stories of the Year" in Colorado politics. We start, appropriately, with #10: Colorado's Two-Headed Electorate.

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The 2014 Election was unlike the 2012 Election in Colorado.

You don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to have come to that conclusion, but the 2014 Election did indeed confirm a suspicion that arose following the results of 2012: There are two distinct electorates in Colorado.

In 2010 and 2014, Colorado experienced similar results to states around the country as part of a Republican “wave” election (though you can argue that 2014 wasn’t really a wave year, but that’s another subject for another time). In fact, Colorado post-election 2014 looks incredibly similar if not for the collapse of Republican Ken Buck’s Senate campaign in the closing weeks of 2010. This might be understandable as a trend if we ignored Presidential election years, but there’s no question that Democrats were stronger at the polls in 2008 and 2012.

It is not a groundbreaking theory to suggest that Colorado has two different electorates that vary from Presidential to mid-term election years, but in 2014 we saw the extension of a very distinct pattern in Colorado that dates back to President Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Perhaps this pattern will break in 2016 with a different group of Presidential candidates, or perhaps this is a new modern reality in American politics. Everything we’ve seen suggests the latter. Here's why:

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Expert Analysis: What Happened in Colorado in 2014?

The good folks at Hilltop Public Solutions, one of the leading Democratic-aligned political consultant firms in Colorado with offices across the nation, have put together a fascinating presentation analyzing the results of the 2014 elections in Colorado. We had the opportunity to view their presentation this week, and obtained permission to use their slides and data in a post. We doubt we can explain in a blog post as well as Craig Hughes and team can tell the story, but we'll try to give readers a sense of their conclusions. This is largely a data-driven explanation, but to be clear, it does come primarily from the perspective of Democrats.

Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-2

This slide dispels one of the major misconceptions about the 2014 elections. The fact is, Democrats turned out the votes they believed were necessary to win in Colorado, and did so in greater numbers than they had in the last midterm election in 2010. What Democrats didn't count on was a national political climate that Colorado has slowly caught up with in the years since President Barack Obama's election. In 2010, Democrat Michael Bennet won substantially more right-leaning independents and even Republican votes than Mark Udall did in 2014. Combine that with the sudden erosion of support for Democrats in formerly reliable blue areas of the state–Pueblo and Adams County–and you can account for much of the difference between Bennet's narrow win and Udall's narrow defeat.

Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-3 Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-4 Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-5 Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-7

What you can see in these slides is analysis of the "surge" vote in 2014 midterms–voters who did not vote in the last 2010 midterms elections but did this year. As you can see, Democrats performed well among these lower-propensity voters, and it wasn't really what you'd call a "Republican wave" at all. But it wasn't enough to overcome the large Republican base in Colorado, which was much more unified behind Cory Gardner than the GOP was united behind Ken Buck in 2010.

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Senate Passes “CRomnibus,” Another Tea Party Tantrum Backfires

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The Hill reports on somewhat unexpected passage last night in the U.S. Senate of the $1.1 trillion "CRomnibus" spending deal, which funds most of the federal government through next September but contains provisions upsetting to both the left and right:

The debate exposed divisions within the Democratic and Republican caucuses on both sides of the Capitol and sets the stage for what could be a year of internecine squabbling in 2015. 

Twenty-one Senate Democrats voted against the bill while 24 Republicans voted for it, including every member of the Senate GOP leadership.

Democratic opponents included several senators rumored to have presidential ambitions such as Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)…

As Politico reports, the vote on the spending bill yesterday came after "Tea Party" Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee demanded the Senate remain in session this weekend to vote against President Barack Obama's recent immigration executive order–this after Senate leadership had agreed to wait until this week to finish debating the divisive "CRomnibus" spending bill. Seeing an opening, Sen. Harry Reid took advantage of the tactical mistake to pass "CRomnibus," and also move ahead on another major Democratic priority: confirming Obama's many stalled nominees.

In the end the Senate passed the $1.1 trillion spending bill, 56-40, but not before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to begin moving forward on 24 of the president’s nominations, including controversial figures like Vivek Murthy to be the new surgeon general, White House adviser Tony Blinken to be the deputy secretary of State and Sarah Saldana to head Immigration and Customs enforcement and a dozen federal judges to lifetime appointments.

Republicans fought Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for months to block these nominees from moving forward and many believed as late as Friday that they’d won as the holidays approached. But when Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee took to the floor on Friday night to call for a vote on the president’s executive action on immigration and demand their colleagues stay through the weekend to do so rather than adjourn until Monday, they allowed Reid to exploit a procedural quirk and get the nominations rolling…

Had Cruz and Lee agreed to Reid and McConnell’s deal, the conservatives could have received the same constitutional point of order vote on Monday, though they attracted extra attention from both their colleagues and political watchers by forcing the Saturday session. But the point of order was defeated, so the result was the same: The omnibus was sent to the president without defunding the immigration order — and Obama appears set to win quicker approval of his nominations.

With Obama, Reid, and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell all in support of the spending package, its passage in the Senate was always assured, despite the anger over the bill's campaign finance, banking rule, and environmental protection rollbacks from the left in both the House and Senate. Those objections are much more legitimately aggrieving to progressives than anything the right has been asked to swallow in this spending deal. Still, Cruz and Lee's antics allowed Reid to get the jump on Republicans on the issue of Obama's stalled nominees, which could in the long run prove the bigger win.

Both Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet voted to approve "CRomnibus" yesterday, again expected though it won't please liberals who followed the rancorous debate in the House last week and are aware of the bill's many compromises. But especially in the larger context of Reid moving the President's stalled nominees, that vote can now be plausibly chalked up as a win for Obama and Democrats–which seems to be the prevalent media spin today. Looking ahead, we do think this debate was good for progressive Senate leaders with higher career aspirations who opposed it, foremost Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

But the big loser here is the Tea Party, whose pointless sound and fury has once again backfired.

So Long, Landrieu–2014’s Last Senate Race Ends Predictably

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

CNN:

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu lost her Senate runoff race Saturday night, felled by the red tide that's swept the South and ties to an unpopular President that she couldn't shake.

CNN called the race for her Republican opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy a little over a half hour after the polls closed. Republicans picked up nine Senate seats this election cycle and will have control of 54 seats in the chamber next year.

Once seen as Democrats' strongest incumbent, Landrieu ended up such a long-shot in her runoff with Cassidy that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee cut its investment in the state, a move that Landrieu decried as leaving "a soldier on the field."

There's no nice way to say it, really: Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu's desperate campaign to hold on against the 2014 Republican wave was an embarrassment as well as a setback to Democrats. Culminating in a last-ditch effort to pass legislation forcing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, dividing Democrats across the nation, and by all accounts angering the White House who promised a veto, Landrieu seems to have decided that the only way to survive politically in a Republican wave year is to become one. Looking back, Landrieu's efforts to scuttle the so-called "public option" during debate over the Affordable Care Act–not to mention the infamous "Louisiana Purchase"–made her less than popular with the left and a poster child for Republicans hyping the case against Obamacare.

As of this writing, Landrieu is losing to Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy by twelve points. So it's safe to say that stuff didn't work. The decision by Michael Bennet's Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) to effectively pull out of the runoff election weeks ago only acknowledged reality.

There are important lessons in Landrieu's demise for 2016, but they are different lessons from Sen. Mark Udall's much narrower loss here in Colorado. Facing an unexpectedly stiff challenge from Cory Gardner, Udall made mistakes–but not the mistake of pandering to the right, or selling out his party's agenda. Say what you will about Udall, and what he chose to emphasize on the campaign trail, but he ran on consistent values.

And that makes Udall's less than two-point loss much more honorable than Landrieu's shellacking.