Big Line Updates; Now, with Percentages!

We have occasionally changed the appearance of The Big Line from representing fractional odds to presenting percentages. It's a matter of preference, of course, but as Election Day nears and Colorado Pols attracts more and new readers, we figured now would be a good time to switch again to percentages.

Here's what we're currently thinking as to the main movers in the top races in Colorado. For the first time this cycle, we've also added Lines for State Senate and State House majorities, respectively.

U.S. SENATE
Mark Udall (65%)
Cory Gardner (35%)

Gardner has been throwing multiple messages at the wall of late, which is typically the sign of a campaign that doesn't feel confident in the direction it is headed. There's a saying in football that if you are rotating more than one quarterback into the game, then you don't really have a quarterback. If you're a Gardner fan, this is a very difficult question to answer: What is his path to victory here?

 

GOVERNOR
John Hickenlooper (68%)
Bob Beauprez (32%)

While there has never been a point in this race where it really felt like Gov. Hickenlooper was in trouble, Hick has made enough errors that it has provided Beauprez with an opportunity. Still, Beauprez can't win just by running a decent race; if Hick stops his stumble, there's not enough room for Beauprez to squeeze past in November.
 

ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE TREASURER, SECRETARY OF STATE
With so much money going into races for the U.S. Senate and CD-6, there will be little oxygen left in the room for candidates in the other statewide races after Governor. It's difficult to tell at this stage whether any of the candidates will be able to do enough to make their own luck.
 

CD-6 (Aurora-ish)
Andrew Romanoff (54%)
Mike Coffman (46%)

We wrote earlier about our belief that Countdown Coffman is underway following incumbent Rep. Coffman's boorish behavior in last week's debates. We've been hearing consistent buzz that Romanoff is now rising steadily while Coffman seeks the momentum he needs to prevent a complete collapse.
 

STATE SENATE MAJORITY
DEMOCRATS (55%)
REPUBLICANS (45%)

We usually wait until this point in the cycle to attempt handicapping state legislative outcomes, but our analysis is similar to what we anticipated in the aftermath of the June Primary. Tea Party victories in two key Senate districts (SD-19 and SD-22) make winning the majority an uphill battle for Republicans.


STATE HOUSE MAJORITY
DEMOCRATS (75%)
REPUBLICANS (25%)

The ballot wasn't even completely settled until recently, but the direction of this battle has been clear for some time. Republicans have had difficulty even finding candidates for 2014; the GOP will be lucky not to lose a seat or two at this point.


Check out the full Big Line 2014 or comment below.

Obamacare “Cancellation” Carping Gets Dumber By The Day

As the Denver Post's Electra Draper reports, Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act in Colorado have taken to regularly updating the number of health insurance "cancellations" in Colorado, so as to pronounce each new one a cataclysmic failure of President Barack Obama, Senator Mark Udall, and everybody else all the way down the line–presumably not Republicans who supported Colorado's health insurance exchange, but everybody else:

The Colorado Division of Insurance has reported that there were about 2,100 health-plan cancellations in the state over the past two months, bringing this year's total to more than 6,150.

The division reported the figures for June 15-Aug. 15 to Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman last week. Senate Republicans have requested monthly on the numbers…

Since 2013, there have been about 340,000 policy cancelations in Colorado. Many customers received notices last fall as the Affordable Care Act was rolling out.

Policies that did not meet the act's minimum standards were canceled, though customers were offered replacement policies. Other cancellations were the result of business decisions by the insurers as part of normal operations. The insurance division did not track cancelation numbers in the same way before the act.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act cite the cancelations as proof that it is hurting consumers more than helping.

The conservative Daily Caller portrays these new "cancellations" as further proof of Obamacare's utter failure:

More than 2,000 more Coloradans had their health insurance plans cancelled as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to a letter from the state regulatory agency to state Senate Republicans.

Following a dust-up earlier this year between Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and the Division of Insurance, Republicans have requested regular updates on policies that are cancelled because they don’t conform to Obamacare or because companies are getting out of the individual insurance market…

State Senate Republicans have requested regular updates from the insurance commission about continuing cancellations. In March, the commission reported 1,755 cancellations and in June another 2,320. Last week’s total was 2,105.

In all, nearly 340,000 Coloradans received cancellation notices, although not all are because they don’t conform to the ACA; some carriers are leaving the individual insurance market altogether.

The "335,000 cancellations" figure is one we've been talking about in this space for many months, mostly in an effort to debunk highly misleading characterizations of the issue. As we've noted repeatedly, over 90% of these "cancellations" were in fact renewal notices for existing policies, as state health insurance officials had determined this was permissible even before President Obama did the same thing for health plans across the nation. We're honestly surprised to still be seeing this talking point at all, after studies showing the rate of uninsured in Colorado has plunged arithmetically disproved it.

But setting aside the "cancellations" that occurred after the rollout of the ACA versus subsequent total numbers of insured, there's a much more basic reason this claim is just getting silly. Even before Obamacare, insurance plans in the individual and small group markets were routinely cancelled and modified by insurance companies. There is nothing to indicate that we are seeing a higher rate of cancellations today, now that the initial changeover due to ACA mandates is past, than before the ACA was implemented. Insurance companies used to cancel plans for all kinds of financial reasons, many of which have been outlawed by the ACA's tight restrictions on the rescission of policies. Consumers in the individual market were well accustomed to this. But for the things that actually matter, like getting sick, cancellations are no longer a threat as they were before the ACA.

Bottom line: there's a reason why attacks on Obamacare like the "cancellations" canard are widely believed to be running out of stream. It's because voters can see for themselves now that the horror stories promised by Republicans once the ACA went into effect have not come to pass. If the millions of Americans the GOP insists "lost their health insurance" actually had, there would be riots in the streets. Instead, we now know that the rate of uninsured both nationally and in Colorado has plummeted since the ACA went into effect. Republicans continue to pump more and more money into ads demonizing Obamacare, but the point of diminishing return has already been hit.

To quote Gertrude Stein, "there is no there there."

Oppo Dump: Cory Gardner Co-Wrote “Disastrous” Amendment 52

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

A lengthy press release and “research dump” this week from Sen. Mark Udall’s campaign highlights an issue that could prove damaging to GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner with otherwise conservative-leaning constituencies–his co-authorship of 2008′s failed Amendment 52, which would have diverted mineral severance tax funding revenues away from water projects to road construction.

Amendment 52 was described by co-author Josh Penry as a retaliatory ballot measure, intended to complicate the implementation of Amendment 58–a measure from then Gov. Bill Ritter to increase mineral severance taxes to fund education. As the Denver Post’s Mark Jaffe reported then:

“This is all about politics,” said Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, a sponsor of Amendment 52. [Pols emphasis]

Penry said that when Gov. Bill Ritter chose to seek the severance-tax change through the ballot rather than the legislature, those seeking more money for highways “were forced to put our own proposal to the voters.”

Amendment 52, which would become part of the state constitution, would cap tax revenues for water projects and could provide $90 million next year for highway projects and $1 billion over the next decade, supporters say.

While Amendment 58 failed at the polls in 2008, Gardner and Penry’s Amendment 52 went down by a much wider margin. Just about every local government representation group, the state’s Department of Natural Resources, conservationists, and most importantly, water rights stakeholders from across the state came out against Amendment 52.

“We know that we are facing a growing population and a need for water projects,” said Chris Treese, a spokesman for the Colorado River District. “This just hurts.”

We’ve reprinted the Udall campaign’s detailed press release on this subject after the jump. This is just one of a number of stories from Gardner’s long career in politics that warrants close scrutiny by the press between now and Election Day. The negative takeaways for Gardner from the Amendment 52 story are significant: from inappropriate tit-for-tat using our state’s constitution as his chessboard to a callous disregard for vital stakeholders in Colorado’s economy, for the purpose of protecting a couple of percentage points for his benefactors in oil and gas industry.

And there’s absolutely nothing about this story that makes Cory Gardner look good.

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Gardner Gets Hammered for Hiding Details on Insurance

GardnerLetter-Cong

Rep. Cory Gardner waving his healthcare “cancellation” letter during a Congressional hearing last fall.

Republican Congressman Cory Gardner has been peddling a story about his family's insurance coverage and the horrors caused by Obamacare for some time now — but the opaque nature of his argument is coming under increasing scrutiny from the media.

In Gardner's latest television ad, the GOP Senate candidate again tells the tale of his family's insurance plan being cancelled as part of the Affordable Care Act. But in a new "Truth Test" from 9News reporter Brandon Rittiman, Gardner's campaign fails miserably when pressed for details:

Gardner released his cancellation letter, from Rocky Mountain Health Plans, but took out all the details about his old plan.

The Gardner campaign denied repeated requests for details about the coverage that Gardner and his family had under the plan that was canceled, saying only that it came with a premium of $651.75. [Pols emphasis]

The campaign declined to provide evidence of the previous price or any details about the level of coverage and deductibles under the prior plan.

The cheapest new alternative listed in the cancellation notice was a "bronze" plan listed at a premium of $1246.90.

Even if Gardner's old cheaper plan was meager in its coverage, Gardner would have a legitimate policy argument to make by saying he shouldn't be required to buy a better plan than he had before.

However, if he's going to use his personal healthcare story as part of the political debate, it would be better to have the full context.

Rittiman isn't the first to scratch his head at Gardner's insurance claims, but what is interesting to note in this "Truth Test" is the increasingly aggressive line of questioning leveled at Gardner's campaign — and the consistent refusal to provide requested information. Gardner has repeatedly claimed that hundreds of thousands of Coloradans saw their health care plans cancelled because of Obamacare — a talking point that has long ago been proved false — but reporters are increasingly turning their attention to the rest of the story.

You can read between the lines here as Rittiman concludes his "Truth Test":

Like ads before it, this one references real issues with Obamacare.

But when you get the full story, it doesn't sound as bad as the Gardner campaign would like it to.

As for the congressman's personal story, you should take it with a grain of salt because we don't have all the details. [Pols emphasis]

Remember, folks, that the letter Gardner consistently discusses is actually addressed to his wife — and we only know that because Fox 31 reporter Eli Stokols kept asking him until he revealed the contents. From a Fox 31 story last fall:

Later that same day, Gardner appeared on CNN’s Crossfire and told the exact same story.

Since then, FOX31 Denver has asked Gardner to provide a copy of the letter or to provide additional details about the policies.

Five times.

After our story aired on Good Day Colorado Friday morning, Gardner released a copy of the letter with some information redacted, that he says his family received.

The bottom line here is really quite simple: If Gardner's personal health care sob story is free of holes, as he claims, then why not just turn over the proof to a reporter and end this line of questioning once and for all?

The truth is rarely this complicated.

Disaster Relief Debate Explodes In Acrimony, Hypocrisy

UPDATE: AP's Nicolas Riccardi reportsCory Gardner's response to questions about his role in the government shutdown last year and tensions with East Coast states over disaster relief funds–once you get past the wall of faux outrage bluster from his surrogates–are really quite extraordinary. And not in a good way. Now we can see why he didn't want to actually talk about this, just yell.

Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano contended that congressman never supported the shutdown. However, Gardner, who is close to House Republican leadership, voted with other House Republicans to shoot down Democratic efforts to reopen government and for spending bills designed to be rejected by the U.S. Senate during the 16-day standoff. [Pols emphasis]

Siciliano noted that, before the shutdown, Gardner had warned against requiring Democrats to defund the Affordable Care Act as a requirement for keeping government open. Gardner was also one of a minority of Republicans who eventually voted to reopen government.

Udall spokesman Chris Harris said the Republican still deserves blame. "Everyone can say they don't want a shutdown, but what matters is what you do about it," Harris said. "What Gardner did caused the shutdown."

Udall's campaign also noted that Gardner voted against aid to communities hit by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which opened him to charges of hypocrisy from northeastern Republicans when he helped Colorado secure federal assistance after the 2013 floods. Siciliano said Gardner had supported an initial Sandy relief package but voted against a later version because it contained too much pork. [Pols emphasis]

And that, dear readers, is why Chris Christie called him a hypocrite.

—–

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, a simmering point of contention between Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and GOP challenger Cory Gardner blew up today into a full-fledged war of words, as Udall slammed Gardner over votes against Hurricane Sandy relief and to shut down the government in 2013–votes that came back to haunt the state during and after the historic flooding along the Front Range last September.

During a three-day road trip Monday through Wednesday, Udall, who is running for re-election, dinged Gardner while touting his efforts in helping Colorado’s flood victims. Udall’s campaign on Thursday sent a news release with the headline, “Gardner Endangered Flood Recovery.” Udall this week released a campaign ad featuring the emotional mayor of Jamestown talking about the flood.

“I was incredibly disappointed to hear and see Sen. Udall dismiss our work together on behalf of flood relief last fall,” Gardner said, in the release. “When Colorado suffers a disaster, we have a history of banding together as Coloradans and helping our family, friends, and neighbors recover. I led the effort in the House to secure federal disaster relief and stood proudly with Sen. Udall and others when we successfully moved this legislation through Congress.”

FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

The impassioned response from Gardner’s campaign isn’t unexpected, but it offered Udall’s campaign a new opening: to attack Gardner and his fellow Republicans once again for voting to shut down the government last fall in an effort to stop the implementation of Obamacare.

The shutdown, which occurred just weeks after the floods, delayed federal disaster relief.

As Udall's campaign explained in their release, there are two parts to the story of last year's flooding and federal disaster relief that are bad for Gardner:

As Colorado was reeling from the worst flooding in our state’s history, Congressman Gardner chose to put his own extreme ideology over the needs of families struggling to put their lives back together. With many families still cut off from their homes and the flood waters still receding, Gardner voted to shut down the government — forcing Colorado to front the bill for National Guard personnel, endangering response readiness, and delaying assistance to farmers impacted by the floods.

In addition to voting to shut down the government and delay urgently needed recovery efforts, Gardner also had voted against the federal disaster bill that funded much of Colorado’s flood recovery needs. This funding was made possible by a disaster assistance bill that Congressman Gardner and Tea Party Republicans in the House fought against tooth and nail. As Republican Gov. Chris Christie said, House Republicans’ refusal to help Americans in need ‘was disappointing and disgusting to watch.’ [Pols emphasis]

Cory Gardner, Mark Udall tour Colorado flood damage.

Cory Gardner, Mark Udall tour Colorado flood damage.

In the immediate aftermath of the devastating flooding last year along the Front Range, local media wasn't very interested in battles playing out in Washington. But events combined to significantly threaten federal relief efforts to our state in late September and early October of 2013, at a time they were needed most. The first was the Republican-engineered shutdown of the federal government in a last-ditch attempt to halt the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The second factor, which we reported on in detail in this space, concerned bipartisan outrage from representatives of East Coast states impacted by Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012. Rep. Cory Gardner and the rest of Colorado's GOP delegation voted against the second round of Hurricane Sandy relief funding. In an unfortunate twist, the disaster relief funds Colorado needed after our flooding last year were slated to come from the same pot of money approved in the disaster relief bill Colorado Republicans voted against.

Last October, politicians in both parties from areas affected by Sandy attacked Colorado Republicans for their hypocrisy. New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo called Colorado Republicans the "Hypocrisy Caucus." A front-page story in the New York Daily News quoted an NYC congressman saying "I only wish the best for the people of Colorado as they repair their lives after such devastation, but…these members are persona non grata in our town." The Washington Post covered Colorado Gov. Chris Christie's reaction:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday called out four Colorado Republicans in Congress who opposed a bill to fund disaster relief programs in his state, then turned around and pushed for federal aid when their state was hit by devastating floods.

“They’re hypocrites. That’s what they are,” Christie said of the Colorado Republicans [Pols emphasis] during a telephone town hall meeting Thursday night, in comments first reported by the Newark Star-Ledger. But, he added: “We can’t be vindictive. Because we have to be concerned about the actual people that are being hurt.”

Ultimately, Colorado did receive the money we needed for recovery–after efforts by Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to smooth tensions, and the release of a hold on Colorado's aid request by New Jersey's then-Sen. Jeff Chiesa.

With all of this in mind, this week's bitter exchange of press statements makes a lot of sense. Gardner's public anger over Udall calling him out for the shutdown and Sandy relief votes is meant to squelch what is in fact a devastating criticism. In hindsight, the GOP's government shutdown to stop Obamacare was an absolute fool's errand, one that hurt Republicans vastly more than anybody else. In Colorado, that pain took on added significance as federal disaster relief was delayed due to the shutdown. And when you combine that with Gardner's vote against Hurricane Sandy relief, which blew up in all of our faces as vengeful East Coast politicians made an example of our "Hypocrisy Caucus?"

God help Cory Gardner if Colorado voters realize the full truth of all this–which is why he doth protest too much.

Tom Steyer’s Mission To Stamp Out Climate Denialism

steyer

A story from FOX 31's Eli Stokols looks in detail at billionaire Tom Steyer, who was in Aspen yesterday for the American Renewable Energy Day summit conference–talking about his ambitious plans to aggressively take on politicians in 2014 and beyond who deny the general scientific consensus that human activity is contributing to global climate change:

Steyer’s plan mirrors that of mega-donors on the right — leveraging his personal fortune on behalf of candidates who support his agenda: supporting Democrats who will push for action to combat climate change and going after Republican incumbents who deny climate science…

Steyer, who has come under fire of late amidst disclosures that much of the fortune he amassed at Farallon Capital Management came in part from investing in companies that operate coal mines, is supporting Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in his reelection bid against Republican Congressman Cory Gardner, who has denied that climate change is impacted by human activity.

“We tried to go into states where there is a big difference between the candidates,” said Steyer, who explained that the 2014 strategy is more about turning out pro-environment voters than persuading swing voters to care more about the issue of climate change.

“A lot of people who support pro-environment candidates like Mark Udall are some of the likeliest drop-off voters. [Pols emphasis] So we are focused not so much on TV ads but on the things that will be old-fashioned, 18th- century politics, trying to get local people to talk to local voters and citizens and why it’s important enough for them to get off the couch and go down to the polling place in the second Tuesday in November,” Steyer said.

As Stokols reports, Tom Steyer has announced his intention to spend $50 million this year to elect pro-environment candidates who acknowledge the role of industry and carbon energy sources in global climate change. Objectively speaking, compared to the amount of money conservative mega-donors like the Koch brothers have invested in American politics over the years, this isn't that much. Liberals also have many other well-established channels for aggregating and strategically spending money like the national Democracy Alliance. What makes Steyer's push different is the electoral focus on the environment. Not to change minds on the issue, but to motivate voters already responsive to the issue to get to the polls.

What Steyer wants is simple: for the voters who turn out in presidential election years to show up this November. Obviously, all Democrats are looking for the key to doing just that: it could help put a stop to the damaging recent cycle of political representation in the United States swinging drastically from left to right between presidential election years and midterm election years. In the polling done by backers of this year's abortive local control ballot initiatives showing enduring public support for locally regulating oil and gas drilling, you can see the electorate Steyer wants to reach clearly. It's a major reason why we believe those measures could not only have passed, but could have helped Democrats at the polls even if Democratic politicians steered clear.

Bottom line: Colorado environmental liberals who are upset by the resolution to the local control debate this year are about to see the issue clarified in the form of a straight-up climate change denier, GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner. The intra-Democratic debate over fracking in our energy producing state will take an inevitable back seat to a much more fundamental question: does Colorado want to be represented in the U.S. Senate by a man who simply rejects out of hand the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are contributing to climate change?

That message, with a few million dollars behind it, could honestly be a game-changer.

New Gardner Ad Attacks Udall For…Wait For It…

brokenrecord

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, here we go again–and again, and again:

When Republican Congressman Cory Gardner launched his U.S. Senate campaign in late February, he talked almost exclusively about his Democratic opponent’s support for Obamacare.

Since then, Obamacare has receded a bit as a GOP attack line as polling has indicated that Obamacare-related attacks aren’t getting much traction with voters… [Pols emphasis]

Obviously, those polls were wrong! Because Obamacare is still what Cory Gardner is spending money to talk about.

“When our family’s healthcare plan was cancelled because of Obamacare last year, we felt firsthand the painful effects of Senator Udall’s support for Obamacare. Countless families have seen their premiums rise, lost access to their doctors, or lost their health insurances plans altogether — they have Senator Udall to thank.”

Holding what’s apparently the cancellation letter his family received, Gardner notes in the ad that “335,000 Coloradans had their plans cancelled too.”

It's good question–is there anyone in Colorado who hasn't heard the GOP's story of the "335,000 Coloradans who had their health insurance plans cancelled?" If so, they must live in a cave with no radio or television reception, because this talking point has been used so many times since last October's rollout of the Affordable Care Act that is really seems to be the only thing Republicans know how to say about the law.

Never mind that it's, and this has got to be the hundredth time we've said so as well, completely bogus.

manyoptions

The amazing thing is, we've known this was a false claim almost since the day it was first heard. Last December, the Denver Post reported that over 90% of Colorado health plan holders who received a "cancellation letter" received renewal options with the same letter. Before President Barack Obama allowed existing plans to renew, Colorado exchange officials had already determined that they could do the same thing. This means those plans were either renewed per those instructions, or replaced with new plans that met the standards of the Affordable Care Act and–especially when subsidies are calculated–cost consumers substantially less money.

And that's what makes this a truly baffling theme for Gardner to keep harping on: this isn't last October. All these months later, Coloradans know the sky did not fall with the implementation of Obamacare. They can see with their own eyes that the GOP's outlandish scare tactics were not accurate. They know that those 335,000 "cancelled" Coloradans were not left without health insurance as Republicans would like them to believe: in fact the percentage of Colorado residents without insurance has plunged since Obamacare rolled out, from 17% to only 11% of the population.

Look, folks, we understand why Republicans invested so much money and credibility into the years-long assault on Obamacare. It has given the GOP an issue to rally their base around, and trouble with the rollout of the law has extended the issue's viability for them longer than they could have hoped. Backlash against the law, even based on falsehoods, helped the GOP achieve one of the greatest congressional victories in modern times back in 2010. Setting aside the moral questions, this has been an effective political weapon–up to a point.

But that point is long past now. Today, now that it contradicts what the voters can see, it's insanity to keep insisting disaster has either already befallen or is still somehow lurking.

Iraq Strikes: Udall, Tipton Back Prez While Talk Radio Rages

ORD_AGM-65D_Fired_From_F-16_lg

​Surprisingly little coverage in the last few days of local reaction to airstrikes over Iraq carried out by American forces against forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Pueblo Chieftain's Peter Roper reported this weekend:

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., called the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant fighters “brutal” in their attacks on Iraqi people, especially religious minorities including Christians.

Obama’s decision to use airstrikes to protect U.S. personnel and to provide humanitarian aid was “the right one,” according to Udall.

“(ISIS) must not be allowed to gain a safe haven in the region but this fight belongs to the Iraqis and their neighbors. I remain strongly opposed to putting combat troops back into Iraq,” he said.

There seems to be some deference among Republicans today in regards to President Barack Obama's handling of the situation in Iraq–depending on who you talk to, of course. Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh says Obama is bombing Iraq to distract from his "numerous problems," and there is general consensus on the pundit right that if Obama had just not pulled our troops out of Iraq to begin with, the situation might be better–although American public opinion wouldn't be. Most of the statements from elected Republicans, though, combine support for the airstrikes with muted and generalized criticism. Roper continues:

In the 3rd Congressional District, Rep. Scott Tipton said, “The use of airstrikes is appropriate given the circumstances and the severe threat that ISIS is posing to the entire region.”

But the Cortez Republican went on to fault Obama, saying the president owed the public a long-term strategy for addressing the ISIS problem.

As for Cory Gardner?

Udall’s Republican challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner, couldn’t be reached for comment because he was on the Western Slope, according to his staff.

Gardner's campaign has reached a degree of shrillness where it may simply difficult for them to say anything complimentary about Mark Udall or Democrats, even on matters of foreign policy where it used to be fashionable to occasionally pretend to show unity. That, or television and phones don't work on the Western Slope? We assume it's the former.

Winners, Losers, and Lessons from Frackapalooza Deal

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

​News broke late yesterday that Gov. John Hickenlooper had reached a deal to avert dueling ballot measures related to fracking — and not a moment too soon. Yesterday was the final day to submit signatures to the Secretary of State's office for certification to make the November ballot. The deal has apparently met approval with Rep. Jared Polis, oil and gas executives, environmentalists, and even some Japanese tourists on 16th Street Mall (okay, we made that part up), and will culminate in the removal of four initiatives from the ballot (two backed by Polis, and two backed by the oil and gas industry) in exchange for the formation of a humongous "blue ribbon commission" that will make recommendations to the legislature. So, instead of ballot measures, the State will appoint 18 people to continue arguing about fracking long after Election Day.

Is this a good deal for Coloradans? A bad deal? That depends on who you ask, of course, and here at Colorado Pols, we sort of avoid the question because we focus our analysis on the pure politics of the deal. As always here at Colorado Pols, we limit our analysis to politics while leaving the policy debate to others. Which leads us to…

Frackapalooza 2014: Winners, Losers, and Lessons

In the interest of both time and space (relative though they may be), we're going to break this up into three separate posts. So up first, after the jump, are the big Winners from Frackapalooza:

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Can you come up with a better explanation for Gardner supporting Fed Personhood bill?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Cory Gardner.

Cory Gardner.

I may be the only person in the universe who spends his quiet moments in the shower trying to figure out the puzzle, left unsolved by local and national reporters, of why Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner hasn't un-cosponsored federal personhood legislation, which aims to ban all abortion, even for rape and incest.

Gardner's been jumping up and down and screaming that he no longer supports personhood amendments here in Colorado, even saying so in a TV commercial, but he's not backing off the federal personhood bill, called Life at Conception Act.

Gardner spokespeople have told reporters that the federal legislation "simply states that life begins and conception," and it would have not real-world impact on abortion or contraception.

But if you take one minute and read the bill, you'll see that it actually factually aims to make personhood the law of the land. And other co-sponsors of the bill agree.

So what's up with Gardner?

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Udall Calls for Resignation of CIA Director After Spying on Congress Revealed

Sen. Mark Udall.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo)

From the Huffington Post:

Following reports that Central Intelligence Agency employees improperly accessed computers used by U.S. Senate staff to investigate the agency, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) on Thursday called for the resignation of John Brennan as CIA director.

"After being briefed on the CIA Inspector General report today, I have no choice but to call for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan," Udall said in a statement. "The CIA unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into Senate Intelligence Committee computers. This grave misconduct not only is illegal, but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of powers. These offenses, along with other errors in judgment by some at the CIA, demonstrate a tremendous failure of leadership, and there must be consequences."

According to a CIA Inspector General’s Office report first obtained by McClatchy, agency employees in 2009 hacked Senate computers being used to compile a report on the agency’s infamous detention and interrogation program — a move that some critics have characterized as a significant breach of the separation of powers. Brennan has apologized to Senate intelligence committee leaders, including Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who took the floor earlier this year to excoriate the agency for skirting the law and attempting to intimidate Congress.

As a member of the powerful Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, Udall has been a leading national voice on both the CIA allegations and the more well-publicized NSA spying scandal. From a purely political perspective, Udall's outspoken beliefs on this issue line up well with the interests of Colorado voters, and should help him craft a strong narrative with the barrage of TV ads making their way to your living rooms.

Gardner Camp Responds to Cosmopolitan Article by Ridiculing Magazine

Last Thursday we wrote about a story from Cosmopolitan magazine discussing the Personhood issue in Congress, with a focus on Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner's struggles with flip-flopping on the issue. Here's the money quote from that story:

[Gardner has] built his entire political career on support of personhood," Personhood USA president Keith Mason told Cosmopolitan.com. "I think he's just listening to some bad advice, and he's playing politics."

A few hours after our post first appeared on Colorado Pols, Gardner's campaign responded via Twitter in just about the worst possible manner — by (SURPRISE!) making fun of women's magazines. From Jill Filipovic of Cosmopolitan:

This week, journalist Ada Calhoun published a piece on Cosmopolitan.com about personhood bills, wildly unpopular right-wing legislation that would outlaw abortion and, potentially, some forms of birth control and in-vitro fertilization. She highlighted the Senate race in Colorado between pro-choice candidate Mark Udall and his anti-abortion opponent, Cory Gardner, who supported state personhood legislation until he didn't, and who remains a co-sponsor of federal personhood legislation. Udall's press team tweeted the article. In response, Sam Stookesberry, Gardner's deputy press secretary until last month, responded:

Cosmo Tweets

You may want to adjust those blinders

That kind of condescension is de rigueur when you write in lady-mag land. If your outlet brands itself as a "women's publication," the automatic assumption is that it's lowbrow, apolitical, superficial, or all of the above. And there's certainly plenty of content in traditional women's magazines and websites that fits the bill.

But mainstream "serious" media, with its regular forays into rape apologia and marginalizing female accomplishment, isn't exactly an enjoyable place for the feminist-hearted either. And while beauty tips, fashion spreads, and sex advice are staples of women's publications, so is an abundance of serious reporting and thoughtful writing from excellent journalists. Calhoun, for example, has written for The New York Times, New York Magazine, NewYorker.com, and the New Republic — and that's just the "N" section of her resume. Put her in Cosmo, though, and suddenly "hard-hitting journalist" becomes a sarcastic reproach instead of an accurate characterization…

The reaction to an article's placement also serves as a handy litmus test: Whether a person engages with the work sincerely or whether their go-to response is to brush it off because it appears in a women's publication alongside celebrity, fashion, and sex coverage offers a pretty clear read on how they view women more generally. [Pols emphasis] Which makes smarmy dismissals from conservative men fairly predictable — if especially rich when those men's patronizing tweets are published alongside their own less-than-hard-hitting style advice.

As we wrote last week, it would be foolish to dismiss something that appears in Cosmopolitan magazine — which boasts a readership of a female demographic that Gardner desperately needs in order to have any hope of defeating Sen. Mark Udall in November. It is completely irrelevant if some individuals — primarily men — brush Cosmo off as unimportant. Cosmopolitan magazine isn't trying to influence an audience of conservative men…even if that's all Cory Gardner's campaign can think about.

Cory Gardner: So, Cosmo Says You’re Whack…

Cosmo-July14

Guess which key demographic reads Cosmo?

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal wrote at length on a subject we have been intimately familiar with in Colorado: Congressman Cory Gardner's Personhood problem. It has now been more than 4 months since Gardner first tried to flip-flop on Personhood (but only the "Colorado" kind), and he's had a hell of a problem with the issue ever since. Gardner has tried hard to distance himself from the issue — which was the point of the flip-flop to begin with — but things have gone so bad that 4 months later Personhood is still dogging the Republican Senate nominee. He's now being criticized by Cosmopolitan magazine, which is a problem for a lot of reasons.

Since we all agree that women are probably the key to winning statewide races in Colorado, a new story out today should absolutely scare the hell out of the Gardner campaign — not just for what it says, but for where it says it: Cosmopolitan magazine. Ada Calhoun writes this week about the federal "Life at Conception Act," which Gardner sponsors and which is pretty much the exact same thing as the Colorado Personhood ballot measures:

A bill introduced in the House of Representatives last year has major criminal implications for women. If it passes, women could be prosecuted for seeking an abortion or even for taking a drug and then having a miscarriage. It would also outlaw IVF and any form of contraception that could theoretically prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, including Plan B, the IUD, and the pill…

…More than anywhere else, the debate over personhood is playing out in Colorado, the home base of Personhood USA. There, Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, has been pounding his challenger, Cory Gardner, with ads calling him out for his support of personhood. Gardner responded in a commercial that he no longer supports personhood after he "listened" to his constituents. But Udall's campaign launched a website that shows Gardner with a cartoon of the federal personhood bill perched on his shoulder, and Planned Parenthood Votes released an ad calling Gardner "still wrong for women's health." Gardner's campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

"Colorado might be a little unique because Coloradans know what this means," says James Owens, deputy communications director for the Udall campaign. "We've had two ballot initiatives on [personhood] in the last six years, and they've failed by overwhelming margins. So when people hear that there's a congressman running to represent the entire state who still has his name on a federal personhood bill, they know what that means for their access to birth control and safe access to abortion."…

"[Gardner has] built his entire political career on support of personhood," Personhood USA president Keith Mason told Cosmopolitan.com. "I think he's just listening to some bad advice, and he's playing politics." [Pols emphasis]

Whoa. That quote from Personhood USA president Keith Mason is a doozy. When you call out Gardner for basing "his entire political career on support of personhood," it absolutely kills Gardner's hopes of trying to make this look like a reasonable re-think of a controversial issue. And it's not like there isn't a preponderance of evidence against Gardner on this "change of heart."

Cory Gardner's Personhood twist

Cory Gardner is all tied up over Personhood.

Not that we're surprised this isn't going well. Take a look at what we wrote in late April, and notice how you could use the same paragraph months later:

Look, we get it. We understand the idea here. Rep. Cory Gardner was obviously concerned that his longtime support of the Personhood issue — both in Colorado and in Congress — would be a significant problem in his quest to defeat incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in November. From a broader perspective, it probably seemed like a wise move to try to distance himself from his Personhood past. But Gardner and his campaign team didn't spend enough time thinking this through.

Not only has the Personhood issue failed to fade for Gardner, but his clumsy handling of the flip-flop has actually made things worse for his candidacy. And from what we hear, some high-level Republicans are quietly growing nervous about Gardner's silly mistakes.

If Gardner loses his bid for the U.S. Senate largely because of the Personhood issue, he'll have nobody to blame but his own campaign. Personhood was going to come up in this campaign one way or the other, but Gardner's own arrogance at thinking he could just tell people he "changed his mind" has kept this as a top issue as we enter August and the busiest time of the campaign season. He should never have tried to flip-flop on an issue as seemingly black and white as Personhood, but now he's living with the consequences. 

Look, we get it. We understand the idea here. Rep. Cory Gardner was obviously concerned that his longtime support of the Personhood issue — both in Colorado and in Congress — would be a significant problem in his quest to defeat incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in November. From a broader perspective, it probably seemed like a wise move to try to distance himself from his Personhood past. But Gardner and his campaign team didn't spend enough time thinking this through.

Not only has the Personhood issue failed to fade for Gardner, but his clumsy handling of the flip-flop has actually made things worse for his candidacy. And from what we hear, some high-level Republicans are quietly growing nervous about Gardner's silly mistakes.

- See more at: http://coloradopols.com/search/personhood/page/3#sthash.kmsDckbY.dpuf

When Gardner Praised Udall…

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman takes us on a trip down memory lane–before U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner's career depended on disparaging everything that Sen. Mark Udall and other Democrats have ever said or done:

The recent battle over fracking in Colorado quickly entered Colorado's Senate race and the latest tiff involves Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) caught on tape a couple years ago praising his opponent on oil and gas policy.

"I believe, as Governor Hickenlooper believes, as Senator Udall has said, that the decisions on fracking ought to be made at the local level," Gardner says in the video, provided to 9NEWS by the Udall campaign. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner was responding to a question from a voter at a 2012 town hall event in Berthoud, Colorado…

Now before anybody gets too excited:

In the video, Gardner goes on to clarify that he meant states should control fracking as opposed to the federal government, adding, "I believe that [fracking policy] ought to be deferred to the state, just as Governor Hickenlooper does."

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

So no, Gardner was not making a statement that could be interpreted as endorsing the local control ballot initiatives underway this year. That said, this little vignette courtesy 9NEWS is a useful reminder that Republicans in Colorado don't really have much of a case against Colorado Democrats on pro-energy policy. After Sen. Udall announced his opposition to the local control ballot measures, Republicans continued to attack him with the same intensity. But the fact is, Udall's longstanding support for a balance between energy development and conservation is much closer to the mainstream in Colorado than "drill baby drill"–and that's why the polls consistently show Udall is better trusted on energy policy and the environment than his opponent.

There was a time, as you can see, when the trust the public places in Udall (and yes, even Gov. John Hickenlooper) on energy and the environment worked to Gardner's advantage as he tried to demonstrate how his views were mainstream views. There is a possibility that this November, the voters of this state will push the frame of the debate over drilling in Colorado well to the left of any of these politicians' comfort zones.

Either way, it's better to define the center than attack it.

PPP: Udall, Hickenlooper 44%, Gardner, Beauprez 43%

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Today's release from Public Policy Polling reaffirms the present dead heat in Colorado's U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, with incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Gov. John Hickenlooper clinging to statistically insignificant leads over their Republican challengers:

PPP's new Colorado poll finds the exact same numbers in the races for both Governor and the Senate- Democratic incumbents John Hickenlooper and Mark Udall are clinging to 44/43 leads over their challengers Bob Beauprez and Cory Gardner respectively.

In the Governor's race this represents a significant tightening over the last four months. In March we had found Hickenlooper leading Beauprez 48/38. Since that time though Hickenlooper's approval rating has dropped a net 10 points, from 48/41 then to now 43/46. And Beauprez's net favorability has improved 14 points from 20/33 then to now 31/30. That movement's come largely among Republicans- he's gone from 33/22 to 57/12 within his own party as it's unified in the wake of last month's primary.

The closeness in the Senate race is nothing new though. Our last four polls have found Udall with leads of 2, 2, 4, and now 1 point. This is shaping up as yet another key Senate contest this year where the early blitz of negative advertising has left both candidates unpopular. Udall has an upside down approval rating at 36/47, but Gardner's not a whole lot more well liked with 34% of voters rating him favorably to 39% who have a negative opinion.

beauprezdemsfear​Read the poll's full results here.

These numbers confirm a trend we've seen in other recent polling: a swift closure of the gubernatorial race as GOP nominee Bob Beauprez consolidates post-primary support and Hickenlooper recovers from a tough few weeks in the press, while the U.S. Senate race remains extremely tight with little movement in the last few weeks. We continue to foresee trouble for Beauprez as the press examines his far-right record, which hasn't happened even as Hickenlooper has faced what will likely be the worst press of the campaign stemming from his disastrous appearance in front of hostile county sheriffs. The same lies ahead for Cory Gardner, though it's arguable that Beauprez will prove easier to marginalize due to the sheer extremity of Beauprez's past statements–not to mention Gardner's slick deceptiveness.

Looking down the ticket, undeniably troubling indicators for Colorado Democrats–demonstrating the significant challenge ahead for them this year after years of political dominance. Many voters are undecided, but Republican candidates for Treasurer, Attorney General, and Secretary of State all hold leads well outside this poll's margin of error. Republicans also hold a 45-38% advantage in the poll's generic legislative ballot. Even if trends in the top-ticket races stabilize in favor of the Democratic candidates as we expect, Democrats need to recover downballot to avoid a divided state government in 2015–potentially much more divided than was the case in 2011-12, when the GOP held a one-seat House majority.

Can Democrats get it done? Absolutely–the record shows that the polls consistently underestimate Democrats in this state, as they did in 2010 when the "Republican wave" broke on the Rocky Mountains.

But anyone on either side who feels confident today is a fool.