Anti-Obamacare Strategy Leaving Republicans in the Cold

Republicans out in the cold on Obamacare

D’oh!

Longtime Colorado Pols reader Republican 36 posted a fascinating diary last night about Republican Rep. Mike Coffman raising money with a different message on Obamacare. You can read the entire diary here, but here's the key excerpt:

Today I received a letter soliciting a campaign contribution from Coffman that contained a "confidential memo from Tyler Sandberg, his campaign manager, deriding Obamacare and making the usual false claims that "350,000" (everyone else says its 335,000) Coloradans had their health insurance canceled (forgetting to mention 92% received renewal notices in the same envelope with the cancelation of last year's policy) and claiming Obamacare "will be a significant issue this election," and claiming "It is a very real issue causing very real harm to Colorado families." In other words, at least in Mr. Sandberg's opinion, he lines up with the "Old Coffman" and wants Obamacare repealed.

However, Coffman's cover letter takes an altogether different position on Obamacare. In his fear based plea for contributions, he tees off on Nancy Pelosi and makes the following statement:

And what would a Democrat-controlled House mean?

No chance to amend and reform Obamacare. [Pols emphasis]

This is a subtle message from Mike Coffman's campaign that contains a startling reality: The incumbent Republican in perhaps the most competitive Congressional seat in America is no longer soliciting support based on a message of "repeal Obamacare." This is not a message that Coffman's campaign was likely to just toss out there without having numbers to back it up, which makes it very likely that Republicans are seeing polling numbers indicating that voters are getting tired of the anti-Obamacare message and looking for candidates to talk about how to "amend" or "reform" the law instead.

There's plenty of reason to believe that Coffman's move to an "amend and reform" message is not just a flash in the pan. As our friends at "The Fix" noted on Monday, President Obama is encouraging Democratic candidates to run with an overt pro-Obamacare message:

President Obama announced last week that more than eight million people had signed up for insurance via the federal marketplace, a surge of last-minute activity that not even the most optimistic administration allies could have hoped for. And, then there was the news from the Congressional Budget Office that the health-care law will cost $100 billion less than projected over the next decade.

Amid a (rare) victory lap on the law, Obama was asked whether the news of the past week meant Democratic candidates should run on the law this fall rather than away from it. His answer?  "I think Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact….we're helping because of something we did."

Late last month, after a series of anti-Obamacare ads were being debunked across the country, the Washington Post took note of what it called "The incredible shrinking Obamacare sob story." The problems with an anti-Obamacare message have continued here in our state; as Colorado Pols was first to report yesterday, the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity group is apparently having difficulty finding a "real" person who is a "victim" of Obamacare.

All of this is very bad news for Republican candidates in Colorado who were hoping to ride an anti-Obamacare message to victory in November. Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner, for one, is basing his entire campaign on trying to tie Obamacare to Sen. Mark Udall. If this message isn't working, Gardner won't be the only Republican looking for a new job.

These Anti-Obamacare Ads Are Really Getting Stale

The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reports on the new TV spot from conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which debuted this morning at a press conference featuring another dubious "Obamacare victim" we discussion yesterday:

A new TV ad unveiled Wednesday by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity hits U.S. Sen. Mark Udall for the nearly 335,000 health insurance policy cancellations doled out to Coloradans since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“Your health plan, cancelled. All because Mark Udall said ‘yes’ to Obamacare,” says the narrator…

First of all, let us just say that the melodrama in this ad is comically over the top, with the first four seconds featuring a couple looking up at the camera so mournfully that it looks like an SNL skit. The voiceover narration practically hisses in anger, which is off-putting compared to the actress in AFP's prior ad–who was at least an engaging actress. This ad is just, for lack of a better word, shrill.

And as Lee continues, it's also factually incorrect:

The 335,000 figure on display in the AFP ad has been challenged by Udall, because about 92 percent of those people received renewal options for their health care policies. [Pols emphasis]

One of the central allegations made by Obamacare opponents in recent months has been the number of insured Americans whose health insurance was supposedly "cancelled." The 9NEWS Truth Test of AFP's previous ad singled this claim out as missing vital context:

It's true that millions of people with individual coverage got cancellation notices because their old plans didn't meet the standards of Obamacare…[b]ut getting one of these notices is not the same thing as losing insurance.

…[T]his ad is trying to make you believe that all those people just became uninsured, which is just not the case. [Pols emphasis]

In Colorado, as Lee notes once again today and we've explained over and over and over in this space, 92% of health insurance policyholders who received "cancellation notices" in fact received instructions for renewing their existing health plans. The claim that "335,000 Coloradans had their health insurance cancelled" may have been a potent talking point in January, but with the full facts now in view–that most were offered renewals, that the insurance marketplaces have signed up tens of thousands for insurance at far lower out of pocket cost, and most importantly, that the rate of uninsured Americans has plunged due to Obamacare–it's just ridiculous that we're seeing yet another TV spot based on this thoroughly-debunked "cancellation" falsehood.

But here you go, folks. And we doubt it will be the last.

“Respect”–Udall Tears Into Gardner Over Banning Abortion

UPDATE: Cory Gardner's campaign responds with what appears to be their stock response on abortion and Personhood questions. Eli Stokols of Fox 31 reports:

Gardner’s campaign responded quickly, attacking Udall for going negative and alleging that the ad distorts Gardner’s record.

“After nearly two decades in Washington, Senator Udall has decided to launch his reelection campaign with a negative, misleading attack ad because he has no record of accomplishments,” Gardner campaign manager Chris Hansen said in a statement. “While Coloradans sound the call for new leadership, Senator Udall continues to lie about Cory Gardner’s record while distorting his own.

Gardner's campaign is sticking with this approach in order to defend his own background with the abortion issue: Making a broad accusation that opponents are "distorting Gardner's record." We suppose there is nothing much else for Gardner to say in response to the two main points of the ad, that he 1) supported legislation that would make abortion a felony, and 2) he was a supporter of Personhood for years before his surprise flip-flop in March.

If you have a weak defense, all that's left is to play offense.

—–

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is up with his campaign's first TV spot of the election season–and it's a powerful kickoff, hitting GOP opponent Cory Gardner squarely on his past support for banning abortion and "Personhood." From Udall's release:

(more…)

Tell Cory Gardner to Disclose “Good Life” Special Interest Ties

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

For a high-resolution photo, click here.

Today, ProgressNow Colorado brought a yacht to the Colorado Capitol, and called on Congressman Cory Gardner to disclose whether fellow passengers of the Good Life, a yacht connected to Gardner and a controversial 2012 Florida fundraising junket, have donated to Gardner’s U.S. Senate campaign.

"We call on Cory Gardner to stopping conning Colorado and immediately disclose the names of the lobbyists from his luxury junket aboard the ‘Good Life’," demanded ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Cory Gardner claims to be in Washington fighting for the people of Colorado, but his record tells a different story. Gardner has quickly become a creature of the Washington, D.C. insider crowd, taking advantage of every perk offered to him by corporate lobbyists and out-of-state special interests.”

In March of 2012, a CBS News investigative report disclosed a closed-door fundraiser held on behalf of Gardner and several other hand-picked Republican members of Congress. Special interest donors reportedly gave tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for access to Gardner and other members of Congress. Gardner even served as a “guest bartender” at a “happy hour” that required a $10,000 donation just to get in.

(more…)

GOP American Crossroads Poll Shows Udall Up By 2 Points

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

The conservative Daily Caller reports on a new poll conducted for Republican-aligned SuperPAC American Crossroads on the Colorado U.S. Senate race:

Incumbent Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall has a slim lead over his challenger, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, according to a new poll from American Crossroads.

Forty-five percent of those polled said they would vote for Udall, compared to 43 percent for Gardner. Twelve percent of respondents aren’t sure who they will vote for.

Udall’s lead is well within the poll’s 4.35 percent margin of error, meaning that the contest remains a dead heat.

In terms of favorability, voters’ opinion of Udall is almost evenly split, with 41 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of him to 42 percent unfavorable.

Their opinion of Gardner, however, is more clearly divided, with 38 percent unfavorable to 30 percent favorable. But 32 percent aren’t sure.

Here's the memo from Harper Polling.

This conservative leaning poll has a fairly high margin of error at 4.35%, and uses automated methodology that we really don't think is as accurate as live interviews. Despite these caveats, it's interesting that a month of high-volume attacks on incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall do not appear to have moved the needle against him at all–Udall still polls narrowly ahead of challenger Cory Gardner. We'll want to see more polling to establish that clearly, but as a Republican strategist, you can't look at unchanged polls after shoveling money into attack ads against Udall over "Obamacare" for a month and feel good about it. If that's right, Americans for Prosperity and friends just wasted a pile of Koch Brothers money.

Not From Metro Denver? It May Not Be Possible to Win a Statewide Race

Some Colorado politicos were surprised when state Sen. Greg Brophy failed to generate enough support to make the Republican ballot for Governor last weekend, but it makes plenty of sense when you consider recent electoral history in our state. Brophy hails from Yuma County in Eastern Colorado, an area that is home to only about 10,000 residents. Brophy may have had the support of Republican delegates from Yu18 years in Coloradoma County, but that number would be just a fraction of the votes he needed at the GOP State Convention.

Congressman Cory Gardner, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, is also from the Yuma area. Gardner succeeded Brophy in the State House when the latter was appointed to the State Senate in 2005. Gardner had no trouble winning the GOP nomination for Senate last weekend, primarily because he did not face the same crowded field of gubernatorial candidates that stood in front of Brophy. But Gardner still needs to figure out how to solve what we’ll call his “Yuma Problem” if he hopes to win a General Election matchup with Senator Mark Udall…and history is not on Gardner’s side.

The last time Colorado voters elected a statewide candidate who did not hail from the Front Range of Colorado? That was in 1996, when Loveland-based Rep. Wayne Allard was first elected to the U.S. Senate (Loveland was much smaller in 1996 than it is today — the population has doubled since the 1990 census).

Cory Gardner, Bob Schaffer.

Can Cory Gardner (left) break a trend that former CD-4 Rep. Bob Schaffer could not?

It has been 18 years since Colorado voters last elected a non-incumbent candidate who did not have roots along the Front Range, and particularly, the Denver Metro area.

Check out the numbers from the 2012 election, when a total of 2,584,719 ballots were cast in the race for President. Nearly 80% of those votes came from the Front Range of Colorado, between Ft. Collins and Pueblo. More than 1 million votes were cast in just four Denver Metro counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, and Jefferson.

There was a time in Colorado when grizzled political veterans of any political party agreed on one thing: That a Denver-based politician could never win a statewide office. That old yarn was repeated as recently as 2006, finally dying out for good when former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter was elected Governor.

Population shifts in Colorado over the past 20 years have dramatically altered the landscape of statewide politics, to the point where the old saying about Denver politicians has been flipped on its head. In fact, it may no longer even be possible to win a statewide race if the candidate is not from the Denver Metro area – or at the very least, from somewhere along the Front Range.

With so many media outlets concentrated on the Denver Metro area, local politicians have a significant advantage when it comes to earned media and building name recognition. It’s difficult for a rural Congressman such as Gardner to generate name ID when the Greeley Tribune is the largest media outlet in his district.

You’ll hear a lot of different statistics and historical patterns around the 2014 election, including predictions based on how candidates typically fare in the 6th year of a Presidency. But this Colorado pattern is more than a trend – it represents a fundamental shift in the electorate that would be difficult for any candidate to overcome. Check out our graphic of all statewide candidates since 1996 after the jump…

(more…)

Ryan Budget Barely Passes; Colo. GOP Delegation All Vote Yes

UPDATE: Mike Coffman's Democratic opponent Andrew Romanoff responds:

The Ryan budget does not reflect the values most Americans share. It would force middle-class families to pay more in taxes, students to pay more for college, and seniors to pay more for health care. The House I led balanced the budget every year. But we didn’t do so on the back of the middle class. Some estimates suggest the Ryan plan would cost the country as many as three million jobs. Among the other casualties: 170,000 at-risk children, who would lose access to Head Start.

The winners? Those in the highest income bracket, pharmaceutical manufacturers and corporations that offshore their employees.

If you’re serious about growing the economy, you don’t eliminate job training. You eliminate tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.

If you’re serious about balancing the budget, you allow Medicare to negotiate deeper discounts in prescription-drug prices – instead of sticking seniors with higher bills.

If you’re serious about strengthening the middle class, you vote against the Ryan budget. 

—–

Gardner Ryan Budget

Cory Gardner loves him some Paul Ryan

As the National Journal reports, the latest "Ryan Budget" has passed the House (barely). All of Colorado's Republican Members of Congress voted 'YES' on the budget — Reps. Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn.

The House on Thursday narrowly passed Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican budget carrying $5.1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years without closing tax loopholes, as Ryan and other GOP leaders averted a potentially embarrassing defeat on the bill because of party defections.

The measure passed 219 to 205, with 12 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting no. A swing of just seven Republican votes would have defeated the measure…

…Even some Republicans acknowledge passage of the Ryan budget is more an aspirational declaration of their party's priorities and vision of government spending.

But the vote Thursday showed that it is not necessarily a reflection of all House Republicans' vision. Some conservative defections were anticipated.

Having already flip-flopped on major issues such as Personhood, we're a little surprised to see both Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman sticking with Rep. Paul Ryan on a vote that will almost certainly hurt them with General Election voters.

New Koch Ad, Same Tired Obamacare Spin

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Pro-Obamacare group Protect Your Care responds:

"Coloradans won’t be fooled by these deceptive ads. Obamacare opponents like the Koch Brothers and their allies have no plan to help Coloradans get health care, so they keep repeating the same lies that have been debunked over and over," said Laura Chapin, Colorado state director of the pro-Affordable Care Act group Protect Your Care. "Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Coloradans with pre-existing conditions now have health insurance. Mental health care is covered, which is critical in a state like ours where suicide is the leading cause of death for young people.  Colorado women can get mammograms and birth control with little or no out of pocket costs.

Affordable Care Act opponents like the Koch Brothers and their allies have no alternative for the 277,000 Coloradans and 7 million Americans who have signed up for health insurance, which is 7 million more people than they care about. And running ads can’t cover up that fact.”

——

The Washington Post reports on a new ad from another arm of the Koch brothers family of conservative attack groups, now running in Colorado against Sen. Mark Udall on a reported $650,000 buy:

A Virginia-based nonprofit that served as the main funding arm of a political network backed by the conservative Koch brothers in 2012 is running attack ads directly for the first time, launching television commercials Tuesday against two Democratic Senatorial candidates.

The spots by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce attempt to link campaign donations from the health care industry to Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, suggesting they gave “special favors” to insurance companies by backing Obamacare.

“The hypocrisy is shocking,” says a female narrator in the Udall ad…

In this year’s midterms, Freedom Partners is bringing in-house many of the functions it financed through other groups in the last campaign. The organization’s elevated role speaks to how the Kochs are exerting more control over the political activity they fund, a strategy that provides more accountability to fellow conservative donors who want to know how their money is being spent.

The Sunlight Foundation's Jacob Fenton adds a little more detail about this group at the Colorado Independent.

For an organization that supposedly is more directly accountable to the Koch brothers than others, we can't say the content of this ad is any more defensible than other anti-Obamacare ads that have been exposed as factually misleading. The vague allegation that Sen. Udall "worked with health insurance companies to pass Obamacare" doesn't fit with the usual anti-Obamacare attacks, but seems even more ripe for blowback. According to Open Secrets, Udall's opponent Cory Gardner has taken piles of money from health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and other health industry sources. But here's another question: why would health insurance companies be donating to Udall if Obamacare is destroying the health care system? It seems contradictory to the whole case against Obamacare Republicans are trying to make.

The ad concludes with a reference, once again, to the supposed "335,000 Coloradans facing health insurance cancellations," a talking point that has been debunked so many times it's…well, not surprising to see it again in a new ad, but for anybody who knows the facts, it's more than a little frustrating. At this point, everyone with more than a casual involvement in this debate knows that statistic is grossly misleading. There's no plausible way to claim ignorance when this has been so exhaustively explored and repudiated.

But here's another $650,000 invested in that bogus message nonetheless.

Local Control Initiative TV Spot Running in Denver

A brief release from RBI Strategies yesterday:

Coloradans for Local Control today aired their first cable TV ad. The ad focuses on the proximity of fracking to homes and playgrounds, and the need for local control.

Fracking is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years spreading into the residential communities located on top of the Niobrara. Local governments must be able to listen and respond appropriately to community concerns and balance industrial activities with residents' quality of life, health, property values and long-term economic vitality.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

The spot focuses on the proximity of oil and gas wells to schools and homes and asks viewers: “Would you want to live here? Want your kids to play here?

“Right now, you and your neighbors can’t stop it,” the female narrator continues. “With local control of oil and gas drilling, you have the tools to protect your neighborhood.”

As FOX31 Denver first reported last month, Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, is putting his considerable wealth behind the campaign, which is likely to make life more complicated for two of his fellow Democrats on the ballot this fall…

As the likelihood of a ballot measure allowing local communities to regulate industrial land uses including oil and gas drilling within their boundaries increases, we're seeing previews of the likely opposition approach: driving a wedge between conservationist Democrats and top-line Democratic candidates, and the false conflation of a local control measure with an "all-out ban" on fracking statewide. Addressing the former, we would argue that Gov. John Hickenlooper is much more compromised on energy than Sen. Mark Udall, yet even Hickenlooper will be seen as sufficiently preferable–on a wide range of issues–to whoever wins the GOP gubernatorial primary to turn out the Democratic vote just fine. As for Udall, he can demonstrate a stark contrast with his opponent on energy issues favorable to conservationists, and is perfectly safe staying neutral on this "state issue" if he chooses.

The second attack on this initiative is frankly much more dangerous, and as we've discussed in this space, deceptively conflating a local control initiative with an unworkable statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing in the public's mind is becoming an everyday occurrence. It's easy to understand why: a total statewide ban on fracking won't pass. Colorado is an energy producing state, and that's not going to change. This measure is about local communities, at their option, protecting themselves. Just like a number of Front Range residential cities have already done.

If the voters can be made to understand what the initiative actually does, it will pass.

Mark Udall Crushes Q1: $2.07 Million Raised

The smile of a man who raised over $2 million in Q1.

The smile of a man who raised over $2 million in Q1.

AP's Nick Riccardi:

Sen. Mark Udall's campaign says it raised $2 million in the first quarter of the year, transforming the Democrat's re-election bid against a tough opponent from a low-key contest into a top-tier national race.

The campaign will file reports showing it has $5.9 million cash on hand to fight off Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, who made a surprise entry into the race more than halfway through the quarter…

Polls have shown Udall narrowly ahead of most Republicans in Colorado. After Gardner's entry, national conservative and liberal groups began airing ads in the state. Analysts predict the race will be one of the most expensive in the nation.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Udall, a Democrat facing a strong challenge from Republican Congressman Cory Gardner, raised $2,068,205.47 in the year’s first fundraising quarter.

That brings his total cash on hand to $5,904,534.45 in what’s become a top-ten race that could determine control of the Senate.

It's worth noting that much of Q1 went by without a serious challenger for incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, with Republican opponent Cory Gardner only entering the race in the last week of February. Such a massive haul in a quarter spent mostly without a serious opponent speaks to Udall's strong position–which should only become stronger as urgency builds around this race. This is not to say that Gardner will want for money: we assume his campaign went all out trying to produce an impressive Q1 number as well, and we expect Gardner's campaign to keep pace all the way through election season.

But for now, by orders of magnitude, advantage Udall.

Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity (of Us Put-Upon Billionaires) hands out “Made in China” baseballs at Rockies game

The jokes just write themselves as the Super-Rich, Anti-government, Obama-hating Oligarchic Koch Brothers attempt another poorly planned and hastily produced smear job of Senator Mark Udall on Obamacare:

Charles Koch toes the rubber. Pitching from the stretch. Looks in for the signal. He wants the batter to chase his curveball, off the plate. Here comes the pitch

The prolific attack group AFP is keying off the Colorado Rockies home opener today by slamming Democratic Sen. Mark Udall over his support for Obamacare. Americans for Prosperity Colorado is handing out foam baseballs prior to the game that say "Tell Sen. Udall Obamacare is striking out."

Oh, but he left it up in the strike zone, right over the plate!

Said Chris Harris, Udall's spokesman: "It's never good to hand out stuff in American politics that says 'Made in China.' "

 

Baseball from Americans for Prosperity emblazoned with logo and slogan: Tell Sen. Udall Obamacare is striking out.

The Koch Brothers and their paid henchmen, and henchwomen, prove to be epically cynical once again. Aand they're hoping and praying Colorado's voters, and Rockies fans, are the same. (h/t DailyKos)

(If someone can find a pick of an offending baseball, please post.)

Former CD-4 Candidate With Prophetic Words for Cory Gardner’s U.S. Senate Bid

Cory Gardner.

F*** off, Doug Aden

The Colorado Independent published a story this week about Republican Cory Gardner's bid for the U.S. Senate and his highly-publicized Personhood flip-flop. The story includes some interesting quotes from Doug Aden, the American Constitution Party candidate in CD-4 in 2010 (the year Gardner was first elected to Congress). As Tessa Cheek reports:

In Weld Country, the conservative heart of Gardner’s congressional district, Doug Aden is less sure that Gardner’s flip will win him the votes he needs to defeat Udall. Aden ran against Gardner in the Tea Party wave-year 2010 as the libertarian American Constitution Party candidate. He said he first heard of the flop when Weld County voters started badgering him to hop into the Senate race.

“It’s not whether this is a smart move to appear more moderate in his position; obviously that’s what Gardner is counting on. Unfortunately, you really want to count on your base,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know many strong pro-life folks would feel comfortable voting for a candidate they see as soft on personhood.

“A lot of these people will still say in the polls that he’s their choice or whatever, but when it comes down to actually voting, a lot will under-vote or else not go to the polls at all,” he predicted.

Even so, Aden said he has no plans to jump into the race to capture the pro-personhood voting bloc.

“I wouldn’t try to run a statewide race, because I don’t think I reflect the views of the whole state of Colorado,” Aden said. His answer raises the question at the heart of the flop: Will enough people across the state look past Gardner’s voting record to feel his views reflect their own? [Pols emphasis]

As far as political strategists go, nobody is going to confuse Doug Aden with Karl Rove anytime soon. But Aden's words may prove prophetic when it comes to the difficulty of moving from the far-right in CD-4 to a much more moderate group of statewide voters. We've pondered this question ever since Gardner first announced his intentions to run for Senate: How do you convince voters statewide that you are not the same person who is also the 10th most conservative member of Congress?

On Energy, There’s Plenty Of Stupid To Go Around

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

On Tuesday, we discussed the silly-season "challenge" by GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall to "oppose any ban on hydraulic fracturing" in Colorado. Gardner cited a recent study of the hypothetical economic impacts of a total statewide ban on "fracking," which is not being proposed by anyone in Colorado today, and used those hypothetical numbers to claim that "100,000 Colorado jobs" are "at risk of being completely eliminated" by Udall's "refusal to oppose a ban on fracking." Gardner is blatantly misrepresenting the results of this study of a nonexistent statewide ban on fracking, claiming they could be the result of a much narrower proposed ballot initiative allowing local communities to regulate drilling within their boundaries.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels follows up today:

Less than two weeks after Republican Congressman Cory Gardner said he didn't take stands on local election issues — whether it was legalizing pot or seceding from Colorado — he blasted opponent Mark Udall for not saying where he stands on a fracking issue that could be on the November ballot.

Bartels makes an excellent point that Gardner has disclaimed any opinion on numerous "state issues," like secession and marijuana legalization. More recently, this stated desire to "stay out of local issues" has helped Gardner flip-flop on the Personhood abortion ban initiatives he had proudly supported in 2008 and 2010. Which makes it more than a little hypocritical to "call out" Udall for not taking a position on this "state issue."

But there's a more fundamental problem that Bartels completely misses in her story: there is no ballot measure coming for a statewide ban on fracking. Gardner's "challenge" to Udall specifically invokes the job losses that a University of Colorado study claimed could result from a statewide total ban on hydraulic fracturing–not the local control initiative(s) actually working their way toward the ballot.

Once you understand that, this whole debate seems awfully…well, pointless.

The only thing we have to add here, as gently as we may, is to suggest that Sen. Mark Udall has little or nothing to gain by trying to outdo Cory Gardner on support for the energy industry. The fact is, as Bartels notes in her story, that Udall is pretty friendly to energy interests overall, and has been for many years. In "response" to the standoff between energy producing Russia and energy transporting/consuming Ukraine, Udall went out of his way to hype the idea of liquid natural gas exports, trying to squelch Gardner's own LNG export pandering–even though the U.S. lacks export facilities for LNG and Ukraine lacks import facilities. This was all rightly called out as misleading by a significant number of experts.

Bottom line: nothing that Udall says or does is going to sway support in the energy industry for Gardner, one of the most beholden members of Congress to energy interests in the entire nation. Udall doesn't have to play this game, and the votes he needs are not in the energy business. The sooner he realizes that, and focuses on refuting Gardner's false statements instead of trying to keep up with him, the better off Udall will be.

Limited Immigration Reform May Be A Go – Nativists Have Already Conceded That It Would Not Be Amnesty

According to Alex Nowrahsteh of CATO, bipartisan immigration reform of the infamous 3/10 year bar may still be passable this year.  As described in the linked article, the three and ten year bar:

"requires that any immigrant who stays in the United States illegally for more than six months but less than one year may not leave and reenter for three years. Any immigrant who illegally stays for more than a year may not leave and reenter for 10 years. Also known as the 3/10-year bar, any immigrant who violates it triggers a twenty-year ban from reentering the United States – for any reason. Some unauthorized immigrants, mainly the spouses and parents of U.S. citizens, can currently apply for a green card. However, they can only do it after leaving the country. Since most unauthorized immigrants have been here for more than a decade and leaving would make the 3/10-year bar apply to them, this legislative catch-22 prevents current law from legalizing many of them."

So one would expect the anti-immigrants to immediately start crowing about this.   However, they have a small problem: one of the chief restrictionists, Mark Krikorian of Center for Immigration Studies, has already conceded that drastically reforming this bar would not be amnesty.  I have attached linked audio from the Spring of 2010 when I had the chance to get Krikorian on the record on Ross Kaminsky's radio show.  In it you can clearly hear Krikorian declare that allowing the spouse of a US citizen to stay in the country after a very minor penalty for overstaying would not be amnesty and also that he is not a "big fan" of the bar in the first place.  In fact, Krikorian stated he would support replacing the 3/10 year bar with a 6 months/1 year bar.

So how will the anti-immigrants handle the latest proposal?  My prediction: they will pretend Krikorian never conceded that it would not be amnesty.  Any bets on whether I am right?

This was originally posted by me at the Colorado Independent