Once Again, So Much For That Blowout

You can look now.

It’s okay, you can look now.

With the dust settling on the 2014 midterm elections in Colorado, an election that undeniably gave beleaguered Republicans in this state victories to be proud of, a more accurate picture of this year's electorate is emerging. As we've noted in the days since as Gov. John Hickenlooper's narrow re-election and Democrats' surrender of only one chamber of the legislature by only one seat gave them reasons to cheer, the high water mark for the GOP in a year where everything was operating in their favor basically amounted to a draw–a split at the top of the ticket, and split control of the legislature by the same single-seat margin the Republicans managed in 2010.

On Election Night, the early returns in Colorado didn't reflect Democratic strongholds that were counting late into the night. As a result, the numbers in Colorado for television audiences fed the national narrative of a Republican wipeout–and excited reporters and local Republicans were only too happy to reinforce this generalization. But in Colorado, we know now that was not the whole story. The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels notes in her story this weekend about the small-ball success of Cory Gardner's field campaign:

Because many of the early returns involved GOP ballots, the initial tally showed voters kicking out Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper [in addition to Udall], and going for Republican Bob Beauprez — but the governor prevailed.

Hickenlooper won by 3.1 percentage points, Gardner by 2.1 percentage points, according to the latest ballot tallies. That's a far different narrative than initial reports showing Gardner with a resounding lead and the governor winning in a squeaker. [Pols emphasis]

And Burt Hubbard, writing for Rocky Mountain PBS, is even more blunt:

Viewers watching Colorado returns on Election Night received a skewed impression of just how results were going at the top of the ticket.

While Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner appeared to be beating Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall in a landslide, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez looked to be edging Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in a race that remained too close at midnight to call.

But with Denver and Adams counties still counting a small number of ballots Friday morning, Hickenlooper held a wider margin over Beauprez, 49 percent to 46 percent, than Gardner did over Udall, 48.4 percent to 46 percent. Each was different than first perceived as a result of slow vote counting in the Democratic strongholds of Denver and Boulder.

Fewer than 40,000 voters in seven key Colorado counties were the difference between a clean Republican Party sweep of all statewide offices, and both Hickenlooper and Udall holding onto their seats, according to an analysis by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News. [Pols emphasis]

Everything we talk about in this space about competing campaign narratives in this election, Mark Udall's mistakes, Sen.-elect Cory Gardner's audacious no-apologies political reinvention that proved stronger than any mechanism for accountability that exists in today's politics–all of this matters a great deal, and teach lessons about how to win for both sides. But as we said last week when nobody wanted to hear it, 2014 really could have been a lot worse for Colorado Democrats, and they deserve credit for holding back what proved to be an even stronger Republican national wave than 2010 was. Democrats have many mistakes to learn from, but the idea that this election has somehow vanquished them, or changed the blue-trending political dynamics in this state enough for Democrats to lose heart about 2016, simply has no basis in reality.

Kudos to the media for revisiting the Election Night spin, which didn't stand the test of time.

Unpacking “Abortion”: What White Men Don’t Get

Or, “Why Mark Udall and Amendment 67 Both Lost in 2014″

I was sitting in my living room a number of months ago, when a Udall commercial came on television and our wonderful Colorado senior U.S. Senator confidently and clearly articulated the word, “abortion”. “He’s going to lose”, I told my husband, “Mark’s going to lose”.

White men don’t get it — especially the kind of 30 year old, private school-educated, pea-coat-wearing frat boys who run market research firms and conduct polls and fly back and forth between DC and Denver — the kind who show up in every federal election, advising Senate and Congressional candidate campaigns on behalf of the DCCC or the DSCC. Out of touch and clueless about middle-aged or retired suburban women, or people of color of all ages in CO, they brought down Joe Miklosi’s congressional campaign in 2012, and they just brought down one of the best U.S. Senators we’ve ever had, Mark Udall. Udall’s team should have questioned their advice and trusted local grassroots, boots-on-the-ground opinions instead. They can’t say they weren’t warned.

Although the “frat boys” (as I like to call them) are confident in the answers they receive in their polls and surveys, they ask all the wrong questions. Any federal level candidates in CO who continue to run campaigns without having every important CO demographic represented on their strategy teams will lose in the future (are you listening, Senator Bennet?). If they want to understand suburban, middle class mothers or college-aged people of color, or seniors on fixed incomes, they better have them on their steering committees in similar proportions.

The abortion issue is a perfect example. Research shows the vast majority of women want abortion to be legal and safe (this is not a Democratic secret, folks). For some people (including young men), the battle cry “My body, my choice” resonates with an underlying libertarian “don’t tell me what to do” chord. For many women I have spoken with about this issue, either as a women’s leader, or as a former crisis center counselor, or as an activist/organizer who has knocked on thousands of CO doors over many years, abortion is not a black and white, intellectual issue – it is a personal, very private decision which is frequently not discussed in polite company. For some women, it is a painfully emotional subject associated with layers of spiritual, family and financial baggage. For many women, terminating a pregnancy is a tug-of-war with their heart, and certainly not a subject they are comfortable having bantered about ad nauseum on their living room televisions by a bunch of men who have no proverbial clue what it is like to be a woman. For many women, the entire conversation is off-limits, and the frankness of the political ads makes them feel very, very uncomfortable.

Not only are many women uncomfortable hearing abortion debated while they’re helping their eight year old with homework or collapsing into a chair after a long day at work, their motives to have had an abortion are not always what men assume them to be. For a lot of women, abortion is not about “my life” or “my body” or “my choice”. For many women I’ve talked to, choosing to end a pregnancy is motivated by selfless concern and love for the potential life they are considering bringing into the world. Women are motivated to have abortions for the same reasons they are motivated about organics, GMOs, fracking, education, climate change, gun restrictions and punishing pedophiles –- because they love children and want every child to be wanted, so they can have healthy, happy lives. For many women, termination is a decision made early in a pregnancy long before there is significant fetal growth or sensation, to protect a child from a life without adequate resources (parenting, food, clothing, health care, etc.) or because of quality of life issues related to fetal anomalies and genetic disorders. For many women, abortion is an emotionally painful but completely selfless decision, made with the best interests of another potential human being in mind – not something every frat boy understands easily.

If there is one thing women will fiercely protect more than their own bodies, or their own choices, or their own civil rights, its children — even other people’s children. Mike Coffman’s brilliant marketing team (let’s face it – he doesn’t get re-elected every two years because he is a good congressman) understood this well in 2012 when they watched Joe Miklosi take a stand for Choice, and then they socked him with an ad that associated Joe with pedophiles because he voted no on the straw-man “Jessica’s law”. I’ll never forget the women I spoke with at the doors while canvassing for Joe who said, “I can’t decide if I want to vote for the guy who hates women, or the one who hates children”. In the end, they voted against the man they were tricked into thinking “hated children” by Coffman’s brilliant, yet evil henchmen.

Amendment 67 failed because women want to keep politicians out of their doctor’s offices. Senator Udall lost his race because women want to keep politician’s talking about abortion out of their living rooms. If Senator Bennet wants to win re-election in 2016, he needs to listen to CO middle-class moms directly and include them on his steering committees — and skip any advice from frat boys about messaging — unless it is about messaging to other frat boys.

Inside The Triumph of “Con Man Cory”

Cory Gardner and the smile that changed everything.

Cory Gardner and the smile that changed everything.

In order to understand what happened this week in Colorado's U.S. Senate race, which saw the first ouster of a sitting U.S. Senator from this state in decades, we return to a story that came out on Election Day by Politico's Neil Malhotra, titled "Why Do Voters Believe Lies?"

The lede of the story? Colorado GOP Rep. Cory Gardner.

There is no such thing as a federal personhood bill.” Or so said Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner, the Republican candidate currently locked in a tight Senate race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, in an interview a few weeks ago. It was a surprising statement—not only because the federal personhood bill, otherwise known as Life Begins at Conception Act, does in fact exist but also because Gardner himself co-sponsored it. “This is all politics,” he added, blaming Udall for spreading untruths about him.

It was, indeed, all about politics. Gardner’s strong support of personhood legislation might have bolstered his popularity among conservative Republicans. But after declaring his Senate bid, Gardner found himself having to appeal to a more moderate electorate (Colorado voters have repeatedly rejected a personhood ballot measure) and changed his position on the issue. So far, his equivocation hasn’t hurt him…

In the end, Gardner's decision to abandon the Colorado state Personhood abortion ban ballot measures he had supported for years right after entering the Senate race did not prevent him from defeating incumbent Sen. Mark Udall as we and many Democrats believed it would. As Democrats cried foul and began loudly hammering away at the inconsistencies of Gardner's flip-flop on Personhood, Gardner never once admitted that there were any inconsistencies. Udall, Democratic surrogates, and eventually the press itself grew exasperated trying to rattle the unflappable Gardner, pointing out that not even other proponents of the Colorado Personhood abortion ban or the equivalent federal Life at Conception Act agreed with him–his insistence that the two measures were different, or that Gardner's "federal Personhood bill" would ban abortion or abortifacient birth control.

The enormity of Gardner's falsehood on the state and federal Personhood bills shocked Democratic strategists, and convinced them that Gardner had opened himself to a fatal line of attack. But, as Politico's Malhotra wrote on Election Day, there was something Democrats hadn't considered:

[R]esearch has shown that attempts to correct misinformation don’t just fall flat; they often backfire. Forcing people to reckon with and argue against facts they don’t want to accept actually makes them more entrenched in their political predispositions…

People on both sides of the political spectrum do this. When they see information they like, they are not motivated to come up with reasons why it is wrong. When they see information they don’t like, they work very hard to discredit it.

The smile.

The smile.

Much has been made of Cory Gardner's indestructible smile. Gardner's sunny disposition ingratiated him with non-ideological voters, and made less informed voters of all stripes more likely to be skeptical of negative messages against him. The harsh subject matter of abortion, rape and incest, etc. contrasted against Gardner's smile, frequently positive ads, and upbeat demeanor generally. Gardner's parry to the attacks on abortion, a dubious proposal to make oral contraceptives available over the counter, succeeded in "muddying up" the issue–not enough to win over all women voters, but enough to win some and introduce confusion about where he really stood with others.

But abortion was far from the only issue on which Gardner was caught red-handed lying to voters. Local and national media fact-checkers dismantled Gardner's claims about his past support for renewable energy, questioned major discrepancies in Gardner's story about his "cancelled" health insurance plan, and easily discredited Gardner's crass fearmongering about the Ebola virus and the Islamic insurgency in the Middle East–just as a few examples. But Udall's campaign failed to make any of these demonstrable lies stick to Gardner. Part of it was the fact that Gardner had successfully "gummed to death" the abortion issue, which made it harder for voters to accept other negatives against him. But the other part was that Gardner was already winning the voters over with positive energy, trumping all such fact-based arguments.

In the end, this was a perfect storm for Mark Udall, and a challenge he was just not built to overcome. Udall, a contemplative and reserved public figure not predisposed to self-promotion, couldn't match Gardner's relentless charisma, and as a result the negative attacks on Gardner lacked a counterbalancing affirmative case for Udall's re-election. Gardner out-smiled and out-gabbed Udall–and not even the press, by September and October livid over Gardner's many evasions and falsehoods, was able to make a difference.

Does Mark Udall deserve blame for his punishing defeat, which almost certainly had negative effects down the ticket for other Colorado Democrats? Absolutely–once it was clear that the abortion attacks were not gaining the right kind of traction, Udall's campaign and Democratic surrogates should have broadened the message to include all the other things Gardner wasn't being honest about on the campaign trail. It wasn't wrong to attack Gardner over Personhood, especially after Gardner made it an issue–but it was wrong to rely on that message after it hit its point of diminishing return. Gardner's lies about energy, Obamacare, and other subjects could have supplemented a broader narrative of how voters couldn't trust Gardner on any issue. Instead of fixating on abortion, Udall's team could have pivoted to how all of these issues render Gardner untrustworthy.

It would not be wrong for Democrats, and anyone else who cares about honesty in politics, to be deeply concerned by what Gardner's lie-based victory says about our political culture today. In 2012, Mitt Romney was broadly perceived to be untrustworthy after his own flip-flops and false statements.

The difference, of course, is that Romney lost. But Gardner's victory in 2014 could validate the strategy of lying to win elections and never apologizing–or even admitting that you're lying, even after everyone with an ounce of political savvy knows it. Lying in politics is not new, of course, but Gardner has elevated it to a new level–of ruthlessness, shamelessness, or brilliance depending on whose side you're on.

And we cannot see how that is a good thing for America.

UPDATE: Told Ya So, Part II – more calls for Bennet’s resignation

UPDATE: Another call for Bennet's resignation at DailyKos.

There are other contributing factors, including bright Red districts, but Betsy Markey and John Salazar's short lives as One Term Congresscritters/Congressional Blue Dogs evidently taught Colorado's state-wide electeds nothing. 

Both Michael Bennet and Mark Udall went the Blue Dog route at the start of Obama's presidency, and by doing so aided and abetted Republican Obstructionism and put a choke hold any number of progressive policies that have since been thwarted. I bemoaned their actions in real time at S2. Here, Howie at Down with Tyranny gives a bloody post-mortem:

Of the 6 utterly worthless challengers the Blue Dogs endorsed, 2 were elected: Gwen Graham (FL) and Brad Ashford (NE). Their candidates were heavily supported by "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel, who pushed them on his colleagues and backed them at the DCCC. Below is a list of the 6, including how much the DCCC spent on them directly and what percentage of the vote each wound up with: 

• Gwen Graham (FL)- $3,572,524- 50.44%
• Patrick Henry Hays (AR)- $1,760,339- 43.62%
• Brad Ashford (NE)- $1,432,187- 48.64%
• Nick Casey (WV)- $792,432- 43.88%
• James Lee Witt (AR)- $81,804- 42.59%
• Jennifer Garrison (OH)- $39,310- 38.59

So if everything holds after recounts, etc, the Blue Dogs have gone from 19 to 12– if the two conservatives they helped elect, Graham and Ashford – join the caucus. 

That's the situation in the House, which Howie tracks like a bloodhound. Here's a summary:

Wall Street is howling that they will only accept New Dems Vice Chair Jim Himes as the next DCCC chair. Get ready for an explosion from grassroots activists if Pelosi goes for it. In winning his reelection, staunch progressive champion, Jeff Merkley (D-OR), issued this statement: 

In 2008, we won very narrowly in a great year for Democrats. In 2014, facing millions of dollars of Koch Brothers attack ads, against an opponent heralded by Republicans, and amidst a national tidal wave, things could have gone very wrong.

Instead, we won big… Our victory sends a powerful message: when you stand up for working Americans, when you fight for a fair shot for everyone– a chance to work a good job at a living wage and go to college and retire with dignity– working Americans stand up for you!

We took on the powerful special interests and we won. Because our values are Oregon values and American values.

Bad election for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Generally, not so bad for the Democratic wing.

 

Still waiting for Colorado's Dems to start acting the part and quit being afraid of their shadows. Still waiting for congressional Blue Dogs to go extinct while Colorado's Dems insist on giving them life support.

Part I. Yes, there will probably be a Part III for those of you dying to know the thoughts of Zappatero.

Colorado Democrats Ride Out Republican Wave Yet Again

Colorado rides the GOP wave again

Colorado Democrats rode out another national Republican wave and maintained control under the Capitol dome.

Republicans claimed big victories across the country in the infamous Tea Party Wave year of 2010…everywhere, that is, but in Colorado. Democrats lost seats in Congress and in the state legislature that year, but Sen. Michael Bennet was the only Democratic Senate candidate in the country to withstand a strong Republican challenge (from then-Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck), and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was swept into the Governor's Mansion with relative ease.

While not quite on par with 2010, the 2014 election turned out to be another big national wave year for Republicans…but Colorado Democrats again appear to have bucked the national trends to avoid electoral collapse. Democrats were certainly dealt a blow with Republican Cory Gardner knocking off incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, and Rep. Mike Coffman's re-election victory over Democrat Andrew Romanoff in CD-6; but as the full picture comes into focus on Wednesday, Democrats are finding that the political landscape still looks much better than it does in many other states.

Democrat John Hickenlooper has held off Republican Bob Beauprez to claim a second term as Governor, and it appears likely that Democrats will maintain control of both chambers of the state legislature. In the State Senate, Democrats reclaimed both of the seats lost in the 2013 recall election (SD-3 and SD-11). Votes are still being counted, but if Democrats do indeed maintain control of the legislature, this is a pretty impressive feat considering how the Republican wave decimated Democrats in other states. For example:

In New Mexico, Democrats were beaten soundly throughout the state, losing seats in both chambers of the state legislature (though Mark Udall's cousin, Sen. Tom Udall, won re-election as expected). In Pennsylvania, Democrats picked up the Governor's office, but in a solid-blue state Democrats lost 8 seats in the State House and 3 in the State Senate. In Arizona, Republicans elected a new Governor and picked up seats in both chambers of the state legislature. Florida Democrats lost the Governor's race and dropped seats in both chambers of the legislature. Even Minnesota had mixed results, getting hammered in the state legislature despite holding seats for Governor and U.S. Senate.

As "The Fix" explains today, the national environment for Democrats was really, really, really bad:

Democrats started off the 2014 cycle with a bad national map and it got worse and worse as people like Max Baucus (Mont.), Tim Johnson (S.D.) and Jay Rockefeller (W. Va.) retired.  Democrats were defending seven states where Mitt Romney won in 2012; they lost six with a seventh — Louisiana — headed toward a hard-to-win runoff on Dec. 6.  And, Democrats three best pickup chances were in states that gave Obama 46 percent (Georgia), 38 percent (Kansas) and 38 percent (Kentucky) of the vote in 2012.

It's hard to see what else the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee could have done to hold back the tide — even if Mark Udall won in Colorado and the party won the Iowa open seat they would have still lost the majority — given the states lined up against them. [Pols emphasis]

To be sure, the 2014 election did not turn out exactly like Democrats had hoped it might, but you could say the same thing for Republicans today. With both parties expecting Democrats to have an advantage in 2016, there's more than one silver lining as the final 2014 ballots are counted.

 

Hate to say “I told you so”, but……

I told you so!

Michael Bennet should resign the DSCC chairmanship immediately and figure out how to truly represent Colorado and the Democratic values he ran on (but has not governed on):

This last election saw a stellar set of True Progressive Democrats elected to the US Senate.Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren will join Sherrod BrownBernie Sanders, Tom Harkin and others as key fights over the social safety net and the economy continue into 2013 and beyond.

With this distinctly progressive push voters provided Democrats the political capital to counteract Radical Republican Obstuctionists and Moderate ConservaDem Blue Dogsenators who prevented President Obama from acting fully on his mandate in 2008.

The biggest question for Obama's second term is whether he'll work to protect long-standing Democratic programs and principles and enact the more progressive policies that voters urged with his second resounding electoral mandate:

"If the president stands firm … he will have the overwhelming majority of Americans behind him," Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders says.

"And sooner or later the Republicans will catch on that they are in danger of becoming a marginal, fringe party unless they get along with the program and do what the American people want."

If the president stands firm. And if the United States Senate maintains steady movement towards more progressive policies that are possible with these new and unabashedly progressive senators.

Mark Udall, despite all the "6-year itch" talk and numerous other excuses coming from The Professional Left, could have done much better for Coloradans and Senate Democrats had he taken more substantive stands on the economy and other issues. 

His incessant harping on The Grand Bargain, his Blue Dog affinities (ref. Salazar, Markey), his stupid decision to join Third Way all got him nice little pats on the head from Lawrence Kudlow and his buddies, but were wrong politically and wrong economically. (Go ahead and check how BD/TW candidates did this year…..if you dare.)

At this point I tend to agree with Professional Political Curmudgeon Ralph Nader:

With House Democrats bracing for Election Day losses on Tuesday, Ralph Nader is calling on Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other top party leaders to call it quits.

The prominent consumer advocate and perennial presidential candidate says the failure of those leaders to win the House gavel over three straight election cycle should means it's time for a new crop of lawmakers to take control of the party.

"Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Steve Israel  (and MIchael Bennet. -z) should now recognize the wisdom of baseball’s 'three strikes and you’re out' … step down from their posts and invite fresh leadership who can save the country from the ravages of today’s Republican party," Nader said Tuesday in a statement. Hoyer (Md.) is the minority whip, and Israel (N.Y.) is chairman of the party's campaign committee.

Colorado will always be Red, or just Purple, if our elected statewide and national Democrats can't figure out how to support Democratic and Progressive policies without pissing their pants.

And if ColoradoPols (the Proprietors, not the Commenters and Posters) ever figures out that the issues they support actually deserve that support, and not only the fact that a candidate has a (D) after their name, then that would be a big help in the monumental job of rebutting Republican Lies and their Oligarchical policies.

Have a nice day, Polsters! yes

P.S. Don't kill the messenger. Same message here, here, here, here and here. And here. And here. describing Mark Udall to a 't':

Corporate America is not dumb; it's worked hard to sew up both political parties in its nefarious schemes to place their short-term economic interests before the health and well-being of the average American. One major party was more than glad to go along; the other one went along with all this angst and agita in the background perhaps, but it still went along.

And that's what did us in.

And describing DSCC Chair Michael Bennet to a 't'

The Republican corporatists are worse than the Democratic corporatists, but only to a degree. And Republican corporatists are at least true to their principles, however abhorrent those principles might be to some of us. The Democratic corporatists, however, are the real culprits here. Having sucked the soul out of the Democratic party, they have leeched out of it whatever moral authority it had left. Why weren't they able to activate the base?? Because they decimated the base!

And that's what did us in.

And here detailing the need for Dems to provide voters with a compelling reason to vote for them, not just against the other guy.

You don’t win elections with a depressed and discouraged base, and you don’t win elections without a narrative that explains to voters why we you should win. Democrats failed on both scores. What my party needs to learn is that our candidates need to tell voters why they have a D behind their name on the ballot, and our entire party- candidates, top elected officials, Democratically-aligned organizations, the grassroots and Netroots- needs to have a unified story about what the election is about.

P.P.S. Obama's "post-partisan" gambit, abandoning the 50-state strategy and removing Dean as Dem Party Chair also contributed.

P.P.P.S. But hey, maybe I'm just a Cheeto-stained loser and Colorado Pols and Michael Bennet are the geniuses.

Cory Gardner and the Elephant Still in the Room

Gardner redacted

Republican Rep. Cory Gardner waves around his (redacted) health insurance letter while speaking in Congress.

Most media outlets have a policy that prohibits them from doing any hard-hitting news stories about a campaign once we reach the weekend before Election Day [insert obvious joke here]. It is a practice that we don’t disagree with, because it would be unfair to drop a bombshell accusation on a candidate in a news story if they don’t have enough time before Election Day to attempt to refute the claim.

Anything that was going to be reported about the big 2014 races has either been done already or won’t resurface until after Election Day. There are probably plenty of untold campaign stories, but we’re particularly interested in one specific loop that never did get closed by the media – even though numerous reporters poked around the edges. Call it, “The Elephant (Still) In the Room.”

Republican Rep. Cory Gardner had plenty of prepared talking points about why he decided to run for the U.S. Senate when he announced his intentions last February. At the top of that list was Gardner’s very own Obamacare Horror Story — a story that Gardner played up for the national media last fall before balking at answering further questions. Here’s Gardner’s Obamacare story, in his own words, from a speech on the House Floor on September 26, 2013:

The plan that my family had was an affordable plan. We shopped for it. We worked hard to find a plan that met our needs in rural Colorado. We found a plan that is now being cancelled and the plan that replaces it now increases in cost by over 100%. In fact, the plan that is most similar to the one we had is now going up to $1,480 a month — it’s a 100% increase from the plan that we had.

And here’s Gardner one day later, appearing on CNN’s Crossfire:

[Holding up letter.] "I'm going to be paying 100 percent more. A hundred percent more under my plan. Thanks to Obama. I'm choosing the plan that is most similar to the plan that cost me $650 before."

Gardner has repeatedly said that he had a health insurance plan that covered his wife and two children at a monthly cost of just $650 (Gardner claimed to have opted-out of the insurance plan offered to Members of Congress). Gardner then said that the most comparable “replacement” plan offered to his family would cost “$1,480,” which he said would cost his family 100% more money. Gardner even went so far as to say that the “replacement” plans for his family were somehow inferior to the coverage he received when paying just $650 per month.

This story that Gardner told on the House Floor and in a House Committee Hearing (in front of then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius) was repeated in an Op-Ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette, again during his Senate campaign kick-off, throughout his campaign for Senate, and in at least one television advertisement. It was a story that formed the very basis of Gardner’s entire campaign for U.S. Senate.

But is it true?

(more…)

Quinnipiac’s Final Poll: 100% “CYA”

Madame Quinnipiac knows all.

Madame Quinnipiac knows all.

Quinnipiac University has featured the wildest swings in their polling of Colorado candidates of any public pollster in 2014 by far–so far away from the trends other polling shows at the same time that they've become something of a running joke among Colorado politicos. Quinnipiac's consistently outlier results have given Republicans lots to crow about, even as smart GOP analysts admit they don't think the numbers are accurate.

One of the things we and others who follow polls have noticed is that some–not all but some–pollsters tend to release results that give them the splashiest headlines early in the election season, only to tighten those numbers to something resembling consensus reality as Election Day approaches. Based on Quinnipiac's final polling of Colorado out today, that appears to be what's happening:

A late surge by Democrats in Colorado leaves the governor's race and the U.S. Senate race too close to call, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. 

In the governor's race, former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, the Republican challenger, has 45 percent of likely voters while Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has 43 percent, with 3 percent each for Libertarian candidate Matthew Hess and Green Party candidate Harry Hempy. Six percent remain undecided…

Results in the U.S. Senate race are the same as in the governor's race: 45 percent for the Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, and 43 percent for Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, with 6 percent for independent candidate Steve Shogan and 4 percent undecided. 

An October 30 Quinnipiac University poll showed Gardner up 46 – 39 percent, with 7 percent for Shogan.

The fact is, we still don't know if these numbers can be trusted, even if they are correct in showing a rapid improvement for Sen. Mark Udall as they appear to. The poll only shows Udall leading Cory Gardner by three points with women voters, a figure we believe is substantially lowballed. Because Quinnipiac has been all over the map this election cycle, this result much closer to other polling still has little value to us–the polling equivalent of a lucky guess, or last-minute "CYA" that further underscores suspicions about their previous polling.

If it is the latter, it's a game people are becoming wise to.

Ballot Return Momentum Swinging–Right Now, Right On Cue

votebutton

FOX 31's Eli Stokols has smart analysis up today about what's really going on with ballot returns in Colorado:

Much is being made of the Republicans’ voter registration advantage in Colorado’s early voting, which inched from 104,000 Saturday to 106,000 on Sunday, seemingly a sign of yet another contested U.S. Senate battle tilting toward Republicans.

But election observers from Denver to Washington, DC would be wise to pay attention to another figure: that voter registration margin as a percentage of the overall vote.

As more votes come in, what was a 10-point GOP edge last week has slipped a little bit with each new early voting report from the Secretary of State, down to 9.2 percent Thursday, 9 percent Friday, 8.6 percent Saturday and now 7.9 percent Sunday.

As we’ve seen over several election cycles in Colorado, the early voter registration numbers can be deceiving; and the early Election Night returns often reflect few of the ballots cast over the final days of the race, offering little indication of how a race will end.

The last few elections in Colorado have given us a primer on what to expect this year, which is why Democrats have not seemed as nervous as one might expect as the GOP posted an early lead: Republicans reliably get their mail ballots returned promptly, which makes their numbers look good early. But as we approach Election Day, the pattern switches, and Democrats rapidly close the GOP's lead. By Election Night?

Well, based on 2012 and 2010, we know what's likely to happen on Election Night. Democrats outperform the public polls, and win on the strength of their late-inning ground game. And as the New York Times' Nate Cohn reports, that's exactly what's happening–right before our eyes once again.

Registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans by three points over 80,000 received ballots on Saturday. It was the first time that Democrats outpaced Republicans, and it was enough to narrow the Republican advantage to eight points, 40 to 32…

Democratic gains were underpinned by a continuation of the favorable demographic trends that had allowed them to whittle away at the G.O.P.'s percent margin over the last week. Voters under age 45 bumped up to 31 percent of returns.

Voters who didn’t participate in 2010 reached 33 percent of Saturday’s tallies, also a first.

The margin for Democrats to overcome this year is greater these the two previous general elections, but the impact of 100% mail balloting for every registered voter has yet to be fully understood in the context of those prior results. Likewise with same-day voter registration, though that seems very likely to work against Republicans in the same way mail ballots work for the GOP in early returns. The bottom line is that anyone telling you that this election "is over" by any stretch is misleading you for a very specific purpose.

Not only is this election far from over, the same dynamics that brought Democrats victory here in prior years are taking shape as we write this.

Tuesday night, and not a moment before, we'll know if it was enough.

Best Local Journalism of the Election Cycle

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Liberal” NPR goes with Gardner’s lies about Personhood and Women’s health

I truly believe NPR's Mara LIasson has Stockholm Syndrome from being a Fox News Analyst for many years. That's exactly what Roger Ailes wanted by hiring her and Juan Williams way back when, and when she clearly spouts Republican rhetoric over the People's airwaves on all those "liberal" NPR stations it becomes quite clear:

 

 

Morning Edition: Liasson Spins Gardner's Record To Paint Him As A Prime Example Of GOP Outreach To Women. On October 30, NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson appeared on Morning Editionto discuss the importance of the women's vote in the 2014 midterms. Liasson claimed that Republicans like Senate candidate Cory Gardner disprove Democrats' narrative that GOP policies hurt women, misrepresenting his policy positions in order to claim the Republican is "affirmatively going after the women's vote this year by changing their positions." [NPR, Morning Edition10/30/14]

There's more. And it's sad, though not unexpected, that the Liberal NPR has such a right-wing bias in their political coverage.

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

SEIU Colorado TV ad

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: SurveyUSA released its final poll of 2014 today for the Denver Post, showing the gubernatorial race tied and the Senate race within two points:

A poll conducted this week shows Gardner at 46 percent and Udall at 44 percent — a narrow edge within the four-percentage-point margin-of-error. The poll surveyed those who are likely to vote and those who returned ballots in Colorado's first all-mail election…

This SurveyUSA poll appears to have the same problem their director candidly admitted to, crosstabs for Latino voters and women that don't make much sense:

The poll shows Udall's advantage among Latino voters is only three points and only six points among women. Based on past elections, Democrats expect both margins to grow significantly.

In 2010 and 2012, for instance, more than 80 percent of Latino voters supported the Democratic candidates…

Either way, here are two polls that strongly counter the prevalent spin about Garner's "momentum." This race is right where it's been for months–and we're bracing for a photo finish that no one has any real ability to predict today.

—–

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

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

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

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

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

Here's the full memo and crosstabs.

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

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

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

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Year of the Lie

CoryGardner-Teeth

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

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

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

GEORGE WASHINGTON HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, saying stuff.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, saying stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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