Gumming Abortion To Death, Part II: Joke’s On You, Ladies

Abortion-Rights

One of the central issues of the 2014 elections in Colorado was the battle over abortion policy–both at the federal and state levels, where GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner outlasted months of withering attacks on the issue, and voters again rejected a "Personhood" abortion ban ballot measure. Colorado has a long history of support for women's reproductive rights, and the lopsided margins by which Personhood has been defeated here in recent years have made the issue toxic for Republican politicians who used to proudly campaign on their support for banning abortion.

In 2014, however, Republicans successfully blunted the issue of abortion in Colorado–more than that, they managed to turn the debate back on Democrats, successfully countering that liberal "social issue warriors" were wrongly obsessing about a non-issue. Conservative go-to foil on women's issues Laura Carno wrote an op-ed suggesting that the entire question of abortion rights in this year's elections was overblown–declaring flat-out, despite the many avowedly pro-life GOP candidates on the ballot, that Colorado womens' "right to an abortion is not in jeopardy." In the Denver Post's endorsement of Cory Gardner, they claim with no supporting evidence whatsoever that "Gardner's election would pose no threat to abortion rights." Next month, one of the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate's top priorities is a 20-week abortion ban.

In 2006, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez promised to sign an abortion ban in Colorado that would make no exceptions even for cases of rape or incest, and was happy to explain in detail exactly why he thought that was the right thing to do. This year, Beauprez's message on abortion was a complete about-face: "I respect people's opinion, women's right to that choice."

Because Beauprez was defeated, and Democrats retained at least partial control of the state legislature, the question of what Republicans in full control would do on abortion isn't going to be tested here. But what's going on elsewhere, in the wake of the GOP's huge gains in state legislatures across America? As Politico's Paige Cunningham reports, all that stuff you heard before the election about abortion rights not being in jeopardy–it's simply not true.

The big Republican gains in the November elections strengthened and enlarged the anti-abortion forces in the House and the Senate. But it’s the GOP victories in the statehouses and governor’s mansions that are priming the ground for another round of legal restrictions on abortion…

Abortion rights advocates have had setbacks in the states for several years, with a surge of legislative activity since 2011. [Pols emphasis] Women seeking abortions may face mandatory waiting periods or ultrasound requirements. Clinics may face stricter building codes or hospital admitting privilege rules they can’t satisfy. Dozens of clinics have shut down in multiple states. Texas, for instance, has fewer than 10 abortion clinics now. A year ago, it had 40.

Republicans now hold two-thirds of the state legislative bodies, after winning control of 11 more chambers. They completely control the legislature in more than half the states, adding Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia to that list earlier this month. And they gained two more governor’s seats, so they will hold 31 next year.

Steady Democratic control of Colorado in recent years means we haven't seen the same kinds of proposed restrictions on abortion that have passed in many other states, and the ones that have been introduced have been defeated with enough fanfare to render them political liabilities for Republicans. Despite this, 2014 marked the greatest challenge to Democratic control by Republicans since Democrats took the legislature in 2004–and before the ballots were fully counted, Republicans had a few glorious moments when control of the Colorado House, Senate, and Governor's Mansion were all at least hypothetically in reach.

Today, even with Republicans only in narrow control of the Colorado Senate after last month's elections, a program credited with reducing teen pregnancy by 40% is already in jeopardy. Without more power, there's not much that Republicans in Colorado can do legislatively to further restrict abortion and contraception access–but now that the election is over, it's time to recognize that the downplaying of abortion by the GOP and accommodating local media was enormously deceptive. The truth is, restrictions on reproductive choice are passing across the nation–and if Republicans had taken control of this state as they did so many others in the last two midterm elections, restrictions on abortion rights could well become law in Colorado too.

In that event, a lot of local pundits and media types would owe you an apology.

For If It Prosper, None Dare Call It a “War on Women”

waronwomen

AP via the Denver Post, a familiar 2015 Colorado legislative battleground already taking shape:

Democrats who credit a drop in teen pregnancy to expanding access to long-acting birth control such as intrauterine devices have to persuade Republicans to use state money for contraceptives…

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative has provided low-income women access to birth control like IUDs and hormone implants for free or low cost at 68 clinics in the state. But state officials say $5 million is needed to continue the program.

The problem, of course, is that Democrats no longer have full control of the Colorado General Assembly. And that means the decision of whether to continue a program credited with reducing the rate of teen pregnancy in Colorado by 40%, in addition to reducing the number of abortions, is at least partly in the hands of Assistant Senate Majority Leader-elect Kevin Lundberg.

"We are talking about the most critical issue of protecting life or abortion," said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, a Republican from Berthoud who will chair the Health and Human Services Committee. Lundberg said he doesn't oppose the use of condoms or pills. But he said IUDs are "abortifacients," meaning they cause abortions.

"That is not medically correct," countered Dr. Larry Wolk, the state's chief medical officer and the director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment… [Pols emphasis]

The thing is, we already know it's not medically correct, we just dealt with the incorrect assertion that interuterine devices (IUDs) are "abortifacients" when failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez said as much during a debate against Gov. John Hickenlooper this year. Beauprez was drilled by reproductive health experts for claiming IUDs are "aborifacient" after Hickenlooper cited this same program a successful policy. Other Republican candidates, like U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner desperately trying to convince undecided voters that the whole idea of banning birth control is "crazy," watched in horror as Beauprez at least morally validated the idea of doing just that.

Perhaps the biggest triumph of the 2014 elections in Colorado for Republicans was successfully "gumming to death" the issue of reproductive choice, which had cost them dearly in previous years as Colorado's electorate rejected abortion bans over and over. Led by Cory Gardner's deliberate campaign to "muddy up" the issue enough to blunt Democratic attacks, the GOP's insistence that the "war on women" is fake eventually suckered enough pundits, reporters, and editorial boards to sway conventional wisdom–at least through November 4th.

But as we'll all learn again next month, the "war on women" simply takes a break during election years.

Colorado’s BEST Political Ads (2014)

Here's our list of Colorado's BEST Political Ads in 2014. Click here to get back to the introduction page.

Colorado's BEST Political Ads (2014):

1. "Joe Neguse for Colorado First Ad," Joe Neguse (D) for Secretary of State [30 Seconds]
If there was a better political ad in Colorado in 2014, we didn't see it. The first campaign spot for Joe Neguse was a simple affair, with the candidate speaking directly to the camera about making his first-ever political advertisement. Rather than asking for your vote in the ad, Neguse talks about his desire to improve the voting process for everyone in Colorado. There isn't much in the way of fancy production value in Neguse's ad — it wouldn't have been necessary, anyway — but this straightforward approach really worked because the script is well-written and Neguse has the natural charisma to grab the viewer's attention. While not "technically" complex, this type of spot is much more difficult than it looks; some candidates either don't speak well in front of a camera or are working off of a script with too many buzzwords and rhetoric to make a connection with the audience. Neguse handled this one perfectly.

 

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Colorado’s Best and Worst Political Ads: 2014

Back in late October, we asked you for suggestions for the Best and Worst political ads in Colorado this cycle. We took your suggestions and combed through YouTube searching for more candidates for Best and Worst political ads of 2014, and we've come up with finalists in both categories. We'll put the finalists to a vote to see which TV ads Colorado Pols readers think stood out the most this year.

Click here for Colorado's BEST Political Ads in 2014.

Click here for Colorado's WORST Political Ads in 2014.

How do we distinguish a "Good" advertisement from a "Bad" ad? There are a lot of different approaches for this kind of thing, but we decided to keep it simple and visceral. Our criteria:

► INSTANT IMPRESSION: A good political ad should stand out immediately in your mind — if you need to watch a particular ad a dozen times to make your decision, then it wasn't that good, and it certainly wasn't memorable.

PRODUCTION VALUE: Does the ad look like a 6th-grader made it with cheap movie-editing software? On the other hand, does the ad look over-produced and too melodramatic?

► MESSAGING: Is the ad clear about the candidate or issue it hopes to influence? Is it easy to understand without trying to cram too many talking points into 30 seconds?

► IMPACT: Rarely is one political ad responsible for determining the outcome in a particular race, and we didn't want to limit the discussion to candidates and campaigns that were victorious on Election Night. The Secretary of State race is a good example here; Democrat Joe Neguse was responsible for our favorite ad of the cycle, while Republican Wayne Williams (the winner in the SOS race) starred in some truly terrible spots. In this category, we also consider any negative effects from the ad in question — did the ad backfire and end up harming the candidate or issue it was designed to promote? Finally, we judge impact based on how we think the ad influenced an average voter; if a voter knew nothing else about the candidate or issue, would this ad be enough to get that voter leaning in the right direction?

► ONCE, TWICE, THRICE: We look at each ad three times, using the time-honored tactic of watching once with the sound off and once without looking at the screen (for an audible-only impression). This can be a critical test for a TV ad, and you can always tell when somebody got sloppy and didn't run through the proper tests before they released the spot to the networks. Going through this process is intended to help catch any potential problems before the ad was finalized. For example, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's infamous 2006 ad, which features the candidate standing next to the rear end of a horse, looks a lot different when you turn off the sound. To anyone watching the Beauprez ad at home without being able to hear the full audio, the visual takeaway is: Bob Beauprez = A Horse's Ass. Certainly not what they intended.

Follow the link below to view our list of the BEST and WORST political ads of the 2014 cycle:

Colorado's BEST Political Ad (2014): Finalists

Colorado's WORST Political Ad (2014): Finalists

Colorado’s WORST Political Ads (2014)

Here's our list of Colorado's WORST Political Ads in 2014. Click here to get back to the introduction page.

Colorado's WORST Political Ads (2014):

1. "Neighborhood," Bob Beauprez (R) for Governor [30 Seconds]
We never understood the decision by Bob Beauprez's campaign to start attacking Gov. John Hickenlooper on public safety issues by making the absurd argument that Coloradans are in harm's way because of Hickenlooper. Beauprez's late strategic change reeked of desperation, but this was a bad approach regardless of the timing. The message is ridiculous and over-the-top, earning a rebuke from the Denver Post editorial board ("Beauprez dives into gutter with new ad.") and almost certainly backfiring on Beauprez to some extent. For the cherry on this turd sundae, this ad also failed the "Watch it Three TImes" test; if you weren't looking directly at the television, you would glean nothing from this ad because there is no audible narration.

*Note: The ad below is the original version. This link shows the "corrected" spot following complaints from the Post.

 

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Hickenlooper Unfiltered Again–The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As Americans wait to hear from President Barack Obama this evening on the subject of immigration reform executive orders, the Wall Street Journal interviewed Colorado's recently re-elected Gov. John Hickenlooper yesterday–and some of Hickenlooper's remarks are raising eyebrows today. As reported by WSJ's Reid Epstein, Hick began with some indirect criticism of Sen. Mark Udall's unsuccessful re-election campaign that we think is shared by many Democrats:

“We stayed on the economy the whole time,” he told Wall Street Journal reporters and editors Wednesday. “We kept coming back to the economy. These are objective sources ranking state economies across the country and we are in the top four of every major assessment.”

Mr. Hickenlooper’s victory explanation came as an inherent rebuke to Mr. Udall, who lost to Republican Rep. Cory Gardner after running a heavily negative campaign focused on social issues. Mr. Udall skipped an appearance on his behalf at a Denver fundraiser – and Mr. Hickenlooper said it was a mistake to reject a visit from the president of the United States.

“My gosh, the president of the United States calls you and you’re going to say ‘No,’?” Mr. Hickenlooper said. “The president of the United States calls and asks for your time, I think generally you should find a way to do it.”

We wanted to start with this comment from Hickenlooper about Mark Udall's decision to avoid President Obama even as Obama campaigned in Colorado on Udall's behalf, because we think it's dead-on. In retrospect, we do not believe that hiding from Obama helped Udall in the least. On the contrary, the Democratic base cheered pictures of Hickenlooper and the President shooting pool together at the Wynkoop Brewery.

The consensus view since the election is that Udall's intense focus on abortion and women's reproductive issues–particularly when that came at the expense of articulating Udall's own case for re-election–was a major strategic blunder. Hickenlooper was criticized during the campaign for refusing to "go negative" against his opponent, who had an enormous wealth of negatives to work with. Instead, Hickenlooper stayed positive, focused on the state's strong economy recovery, and in the end was vindicated by re-election in a very strong Republican year.

So there's that, and we think a lot of readers will agree. But then Hickenlooper turns to the issue of immigration, apropos with Obama's announcement coming tonight. And Democrats waiting nervously since the election can reset their counters–the number of days without a major trip off the proverbial reservation by Hickenlooper is once again zero:

Immigration: Mr. Hickenlooper predicted Mr. Obama’s executive action, to be announced Thursday, will “be very combustible.” He proposed that instead of pushing Congress to enact last year’s Senate legislation, the White House should give up on the path to citizenship that has most inflamed opponents to an immigration overhaul.

“What’s amazing to me is, a lot of young Latinos, the vast majority don’t care about a pathway to citizenship,” Mr. Hickenlooper said. “They want to be able to get on an airplane and get down to Mexico City and visit their grandparents. And they want to get a job and be able to get paid over the table. Why don’t we just take the pathway to citizenship and say, ‘We’re not going to worry about it.’ Let’s have a robust guest worker system where everybody gets five years and we secure the border and we actually hold business accountable if they’re going to pay people under the table.”

There's really no way to spin these comments. Immigration reform advocates we've heard from are absolutely furious over the suggestion that "the vast majority" of immigrants don't want a pathway to citizenship. We don't think Hickenlooper intended this, but these comments could be interpreted as demeaning to the many immigrants who most certainly do want to become American citizens, and who have served as the face of the immigration reform movement for many years. Frankly, we'd like to know more about where Hickenlooper got this stuff, but in the meantime there seems to be consensus that these comments were not helpful to the larger goal of enacting comprehensive immigration reform.

We're watching, as we've seen with previous "Hickengaffes," to see this promptly walked back.

Stapleton Makes Call To D.C., Gets Courtesy Name Drop

coffmanpushup

The Hill's Jonathan Easley reports on the Colorado Republican bench looking ahead to 2016 and beyond:

Republicans might be newly optimistic about their success, but the brutal reality is their bench beyond Gardner wasn’t deep. [Pols emphasis]  

For 2016, political operatives in the state mention two names as leading the pack of potential GOP candidates with a chance to unseat Bennet: Rep. Mike Coffman and Walker Stapleton, the 40-year-old state treasurer who cruised to reelection this year. 

“After that, there aren’t any names that are immediately apparent right now,” said Floyd Ciruli, a Colorado pollster and political analyst. 

Former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams acknowledged that neither Coffman nor Stapleton has the “presence” of Gardner, but he said they shouldn’t be so easily dismissed in the search for the next great GOP hope in the state…

This story makes some points worth considering, like the strength Mike Coffman showed in his bigger-than-expected win over Democrat Andrew Romanoff, and the vote-getting ability of Attorney General-elect Cynthia Coffman–who also gives the newly minted Coffman Dynasty a footprint in two congressional districts!

We digress, but you've got to admit that was a weird story. All told, though, we agree with Dick Wadhams that Coffman lacks the charisma and message discipline that powered Cory Gardner to victory in this year's U.S. Senate race. And without those qualities, Cory Gardner may not have won the close race it turned out to be even in a wave year.

dealinwalkerfin

As for Bush family scion and Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton…sorry, folks, but we just don't see it. Stapleton's family ties, represented in this story as his primary asset, have never resonated in his favor on the campaign trail, and his advertising has tended to put the label of "career politician" on his opponents without mention his membership in one of America's foremost political dynasties. Stapleton has the connections to get his name mentioned in national political press as a possible contender either in 2016 for the U.S. Senate or 2018 for governor of Colorado, but he's done nothing to prove that he could win either race so far beyond bringing his cousin Jeb Bush to the state to campaign for him.

You never want to be too judgmental about the ability of new candidates to rocket to high office (see: Obama, Barack), but we have to agree that the overall state of the Republican bench in the long term in Colorado remains quite bleak. Democrats have a wealth of talent, particularly young up-and-comers from years of dominance in the state legislature. Democrats may have underestimated Cory Gardner for 2014, but as far as the next white knight for Republicans in this purple state?

We'll be damned if we can tell you who that is.

“No Labels” Completes Transition To GOP Front Group

Mark McKinnon, former Bush advisor and No Labels cofounder.

Mark McKinnon, former Bush advisor and No Labels cofounder.

National Journal reports on a notable development in the aftermath of Republican Cory Gardner's narrow defeat of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall–a "nonpartisan" nonprofit group based in Washington D.C. named No Labels, formed by former George W. Bush advisor Mark McKinnon, stoked controversy earlier this year when Gardner touted their "endorsement"–which the group speedily walked back claiming they don't endorse candidates, or in fact endorsed anyone who agreed to support their "Problem Solver" agenda (it was a little unclear). It was later reported that this episode caused a major rift within the No Labels organization.

Well, as National Journal's Alex Brown reports, that rift has been "healed" by the resignation of No Labels' Democratic co-chair, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. After dozens of No Labels t-shirts were seen dotting the crowd at Gardner's victory party on Election Night, it would have been hard for Manchin not to resign:

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin stepped down Friday as one of the group's honorary cochairs, a move prompted by No Labels' backing of Republican Rep. Cory Gardner in his victory over Sen. Mark Udall. "He was upset by the decision to be active against a very moderate member of the Senate who had worked in a bipartisan way and had a track record of doing so," said a source familiar with Manchin's thinking…

"They have adopted a label, and the label starts with an 'R,' " said a Democratic strategist allied with Manchin. The strategist cited the group's backing of Gardner—and the staffers it sent to help his election—as a stick in the eye of Senate Democrats.

"They were picking a tea-party Republican over an avowed centrist," he said. "They backed the precisely wrong guy in the precisely wrong race, and they did it in a way that seemed to be intentionally provocative. They were wading into the backyard of [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Bennet of Colorado], into the most closely watched, hotly contested race of the cycle against a moderate. There wasn't anything that they could have done in this cycle that would have been more provocative to Democrats than that…"

"When they sent … paid field staffers into Colorado and made it clear that they weren't just giving Gardner a seal of approval, they were endorsing him and working to elect him, that was an incredible betrayal not just of Manchin but of everyone that they've worked with in Democratic politics," said the Democratic strategist. "You will not see a single Democratic Senate office working with No Labels again." [Pols emphasis]

John McCain, Joe Lieberman.

John McCain, Joe Lieberman.

With Sen. Manchin out, who do you suppose is taking over the "Democratic" co-chairmanship of No Labels? Get ready to laugh.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is stepping into the position vacated by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) at the centrist group No Labels…

“I’m delighted to be joining No Labels at this critical time,” Lieberman said. “We are getting closer, as a nation, to healing our divisions and working together, but we have a long way to go. The 2016 presidential elections are a great opportunity to focus on problem-solving, and No Labels is the only group that can make that happen.”

Manchin announced Friday that he was stepping down from his position with No Labels. The move appeared to be connected to the group’s decision to endorse Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) in his race against Sen. Mark Udall (D), which outraged Democrats.

That's right–Joe Lieberman, the hawkish, heavy-on-the-former Democrat who lost Connecticut's Democratic Senate primary in 2006 only to win the election as an independent, is now the head Democrat at No Labels. After 2006, Lieberman remained uneasily within the Democratic fold, but his 2008 endorsement of Republican presidential candidate John McCain (above right) left him with few allies in the party–and he resigned after his last term ended in 2012. For most loyal Democrats today, Lieberman is more what you would call a "Pretendocrat."

On second thought, for this fake "nonpartisan" group, maybe Joe Lieberman is the perfect Pretendocrat? Not for actually attracting Democrats, of course. For pretending to! Because we suspect it will be difficult for No Labels to attract real Democrats going forward.

Told Ya So Part III: The Elephant in the Room

(Discuss - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

As Colorado Pols continues to scour the election results for positive data points from a mediocre result they continue to miss the larger issue from last Tuesday's electoral dysfunction: Democrats did not have a coherent message to run on nor candidates that could create one of their own.

Harry Truman, Truth Teller

The most glaring example of this and the latest victim of ignoring Harry Truman is Mark Udall:

What about Mark Udall in Colorado, another Democrat who lost in a purple state that Obama carried? Udall built his campaign narrative around a war on women by his opponent Rep. Cory Gardner. He, like Braley, ticked off a list of progressive issues — from minimum wage to pay equity to protecting Social Security — without providing any framing story to link them together. He left out who the villains are in the story.

Udall also committed the ultimate narrative sin: delivering your opponent's story. Here's the closing line of a Udall ad: "I'm Mark Udall. No one — not government, not Washington — should have the power to take those rights and freedoms away." Voters who wanted the anti-government candidate chose the real thing!

Udall would have had a much broader audience for his "war on women" message if he framed it as part of a broader war on American families by the rich and powerful. It is easy to make opposition to pay equity or a woman's right to make her own decisions part of this broader story, which speaks to Americans' deep concerns about their families.

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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.