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.

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.

 

Hickenlooper Survives 2014 Democratic Bloodbath

UPDATE: In a message to supporters a short while ago, Republican Bob Beauprez concedes defeat:

This is a different message to share with you than we had hoped. We have been watching the results as votes continue to be counted and unfortunately at this point, even with a handful of counties still reporting, there just aren't enough options to get us across the finish line.

I just spoke with Governor Hickenlooper. We had a good conversation and I congratulated him on a hard fought race.

—–

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Moments ago, The Denver Post called the Colorado gubernatorial race for incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper:

Gov. John Hickenlooper is projected to hold his office, according to calculations by The Denver Post on Wednesday morning.

With 93 percent of votes counted as of about 7:20 a.m., Hickenlooper is leading Bob Beauprez, a Republican, by roughly 22,000 votes. Votes are still being tallied in predominantly Democratic Boulder and Denver counties.

Hickenlooper holds 48.3 percent of the vote while Beauprez is trailing with 47.1 percent.

As Election Day turned to Wednesday, Democratic strongholds in Denver and Boulder still had tens of thousands of votes left to count. Swing-state counties and GOP holdouts, meanwhile, had far fewer ballots left for Beauprez to make gains.

Outgoing GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler says in this story there is a "strong likelihood" of a recount, but at present that would not be automatic: it would be up to Bob Beauprez's campaign to pay for it unless the margin drops to under half a percent. While we wouldn't put that past Beauprez, the numbers just don't appear to be there for a recount to close the margin.

With Hickenlooper's apparent narrow victory over Beauprez, along with the defeat of both 2013 Republican recall election winners by Democrats in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, there's an interesting sidenote forming to what was undeniably a terrible night for Democrats in Colorado and across the nation. We have a lot of analysis coming on this election, but we'll start our readers off this Wednesday morning with an observation: that the gun lobby, for all of their agitation over the past two years, didn't factor much last night.

On a day when many, many Republican votes are cast, Beauprez's defeat after another of his now-trademark over-the-top negative campaigns is a repudiation of that style of politics as well–in stark contrast to the indestructible beatific grin that helped Cory Gardner become our state's junior U.S. Senator. It's very clear that campaign tactics in Colorado are going to change after this election on both sides; and we would regard the universal disavowal of blatant mendacious fearmongering in our politics as a positive development.

And congratulations to Gov. Hickenlooper, perhaps the happiest Democrat in America today.

Quinnipiac’s Final Poll: 100% “CYA”

Madame Quinnipiac knows all.

Madame Quinnipiac knows all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ballot Return Momentum Swinging–Right Now, Right On Cue

votebutton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Local Journalism of the Election Cycle

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

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

SEIU Colorado TV ad

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—–

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

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

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

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

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

Here's the full memo and crosstabs.

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

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

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

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Home Quinnipiac, You’re Drunk

beer-drinker

Polling from Quinnipiac University this election season has easily been the most erratic of any public pollster. One week ago, Quinnipiac claimed that Gov. John Hickenlooper had erased a 10-point deficit from their early September polling. In fact, the September poll showing Hickenlooper down by 10 points was widely panned as inaccurate even by supporters of Hickenlooper's Republican opponent Bob Beauprez. The result one week ago seemed to us like Quinnipiac walking back their previously outlier results to something closer to polling-consensus reality.

Well folks, if we're to believe Quinnipiac is in any way polling Colorado accurately, the race has flipped completely back around in only a week:

Men are going Republican in a big way in the Colorado governor's race, giving former U. S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, the Republican challenger a 45 – 40 percent likely voter lead over Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Democratic incumbent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Libertarian candidate Matthew Hess has 4 percent, with 2 percent for Green Party candidate Harry Hempy. Another 9 percent are undecided. 

This compares to an October 23 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University showing 45 percent for Gov. Hickenlooper and 44 percent for Beauprez…

"Five points down, six days to go. The numbers are tight and the ticking clock is the enemy. Is the wolf at the door for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper? " asked Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.

Compare that quote with the same Quinnipiac polling director Tim Malloy a week ago:

"Off the mat and clearly building momentum, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper fights off a ten count and enters the final round of the gubernatorial slugfest looking stronger by the day," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Okie dokie then! One of those must be right.

Bottom line: no other polling has shown the kinds of wild swings that Quinnipiac has shown in the Colorado gubernatorial race, or the large leads they have indicated on either side. The fact is, for a host of reasons, we believe the polling this year is less reliable than perhaps any we've seen since we've been covering politics. Quinnipiac's consistently outlier, otherwise entirely inconsistent results could make them the "worst of the worst" in an already bad pack–polling so bad, you'd do better to throw darts at the proverbial map.

Rocky Mountain Heist–So Bad It’s…Well, See For Yourself

UPDATE: Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch makes an astute point:

—–

citizensunited

The controversial right-wing filmmaking crew Citizens United released their much-anticipated movie about the "Democratic takeover" of Colorado titled Rocky Mountain Heist last week, now available on DVD as well as streaming free on conservative website Newsmax.com. Overall, the video appears to be a overheated version of Adam Schrager's Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado, with some misleading anecdotes backdropped against the effective (and perfectly legal) Democratic infrastructure generally given credit for turning Colorado blue for the past decade.

Rocky Mountain Heist draws viewers in with references to a memo, purportedly from the Colorado Democracy Alliance in 2006, that refers to a campaign to "educate the idiots"–obviously an incendiary choice of words for any election strategy document. What Citizens United doesn't mention is that the "educate the idiots" memo was an obvious forgery, using bizarre language and bad grammar that nobody on the Democratic side could even recognize.

And that's just the beginning. The movie references the case of Jack Phillips, the bakery owner who was found to be in violation of the state's public accommodation law, claiming Phillips "faced jail time" for his refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The truth is, the Colorado General Assembly repealed the criminal penalties for public accommodation in 2013, the same year they passed the civil unions bill. To imply in the fall of 2014 that refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in Colorado could result in jail time is just one example of the way this movie blatantly misleads its audience.

Seth Masket, a DU professor, relates his experience of being duped into an interview for Rocky Mountain Heist in a Washington Post blog last week:

At one point in the film, I claim the following:

Latinos have not only been increasing in their potential to vote, but they’ve been voting increasingly Democratic over the last 10 years in Colorado.

By itself, this is not a particularly controversial statement. It is empirically verifiable that the number of Latino voters has increased substantially in Colorado over the past decade and that those voters are more likely to vote Democratic than they used to be. But this quote is inserted in between some footage purportedly showing that Democrats are trying to encourage illegal immigration, an insinuation by Tom Tancredo that the Obama administration is essentially recruiting Democratic voters via undocumented Mexican immigration, and a paean by Michelle Malkin to her Filipino parents who “immigrated here legally. It wasn’t easy. They learned English, they learned our history, they followed our rules.”

So now my uncontroversial quote is helping to legitimize an argument that undocumented immigrants from Mexico are invading our country, affecting our elections and undermining our culture.

For us, perhaps the most egregious lie in the whole film–the one that proves Citizens United is purposefully out to mislead you–is this frame:

udalltomfreespeech

This is the point late in the film where Citizens United declares their court case invalidating campaign finance laws is the reason why the "gun control revolt" in Colorado was successful–enough that "Sen. Udall" is proposing to "roll back free speech rights across the country."

But if you look closely, you can see they're not even attacking the right Sen. Udall.

tomudall

Bottom line: since the release of Rocky Mountain Heist, we've honestly been surprised by how little attention it's received in the mainstream press, and how little buzz among voters on either side of the political spectrum it seems to be generating. That's partly because the material is really quite weak, relying more on breathless reporting of uncontroversial politics than findings of real nefarious fact. And at key moments, the whole production is pasted together with rank deceptions like what you see above: maybe enough fool the most uncritical and most committed partisan Republicans, but laughable to anyone who stops even for a moment to think about what they're being presented with. As a tool for persuading undecided voters, Rocky Mountain Heist is just plain bunk.

Given the splash they made with the court battle just to set up shop in Colorado, we expected better.

Fear and Lies: Controversy Erupts Over False RGA TV Spot

UPDATE: 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman says the station has not refused the ad, but it isn't running there:

Republican-Governors-Association-RGA-LogoTo be clear, our original report was based on an update to the Denver Post's story:

UPDATE: Channel 9 is not airing the ad in its current form, Hickenlooper campaign says.

Which, to be fair, doesn't explicitly say 9NEWS pulled the ad–so we regret any presumption. This story is still reportedly developing, we'll update.

—–

FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Thinking it was set to fire a potential kill shot in Colorado’s governor’s race, the Republican Governors Association instead shot a blank.

With eight days of voting left, the Republican Governors Association went back on Colorado’s airwaves with a hard-hitting ad featuring the father of a girl who was murdered in 1993 by Nathan Dunlap, the death row inmate who Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper granted a reprieve to last May.

Unfortunately, a glaring factual error in the ad may lead Colorado television stations to pull the spot from the airwaves.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports via Gov. John Hickenlooper's campaign that 9NEWS is refusing to air the ad in question, and further explains the enormous factual error behind their decision:

The last frame of the ad states: “Now John Hickenlooper is threatening a ‘full clemency’ for Nathan Dunlap that could set him free.” The ad cites an Aug. 25 story in The Denver Post, but the article never mentions the governor setting Dunlap free. And the governor’s attorneys said that’s not possible.

“The statement in the ad is flagrantly false, misleading and factually inaccurate,” Hickenlooper’s attorneys said in their cease-and-desist letters…

“The temporary reprieve of the governor’s executive order leaves only two possible outcomes with respect to Mr. Dunlap’s sentence, neither of which includes setting him free: (1) full clemency with life in prison and no possiblity for parole or (2) execution,” the attorneys wrote.

Hickenlooper's granting of an indefinite reprieve to "Chuck E. Cheese Killer" Nathan Dunlap was an act that pleased his Democratic base, and it's important to keep this in mind when talking about the politics of that decision. But it has also generated arguably the harshest attacks on Hickenlooper from his political opponents, foremost now from opponent Bob Beauprez. The expenditure of political capital in that decision is part of why Hickenlooper's once-stellar approval ratings have been brought to earth in the last couple of years. These are political realities.

With that said, this ad is plainly, ridiculously false, and we agree it should not air in its present form. Bartels reports that the Republican Governors Association responded to the cease and desist letter with (we are not making this up) Merriam-Webster dictionary's definition of "clemency," as if that's in any way relevant or binding. Given the nature of his crimes, there is no plausible scenario we can imagine in which Nathan Dunlap will ever see the outside of a prison. At no point before this ad has anyone seriously suggested that Hickenlooper might set Dunlap free, this has always to our knowledge been a debate about execution versus life imprisonment. Reasonable people can disagree about the efficacy and morality of the death penalty, but that's not what's happening here. Because this discussion is not based on the facts.

Like the Beauprez campaign's willful abuse of Tom Clements' death, or Cory Gardner falsely invoking Ebola and ISIS against Mark Udall, the scare tactics we're seeing as the 2014 campaign comes to a close are marked with something else: pervasive dishonesty. It's tough to say objectively if it's worse this election than in prior years, but it feels that way today.

NBC/Marist: Gardner 46%, Udall 45%, Hickenlooper Up 5

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

New polling from NBC/Marist College shows…you guessed it, a continuing nail-biter in Colorado's U.S. Senate race:

In the race for U.S. Senate in Colorado, Republican Cory Gardner, 46%, and Democratic incumbent Mark Udall, 45%, are in a virtual tie among likely voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate or have voted early. Five percent of Colorado likely voters are undecided, and 2% of those with a candidate preference say they might vote differently. Among likely voters in NBC News/Marist’s September poll, Gardner trailed Udall by 6 percentage points.

Independents likely to vote and gender play a role in how the race has changed. Udall’s once 15 point lead among independents has shrunk to just 3 points. And, the gender gap has widened with men as the driving force behind the gains for Gardner. He now leads Udall among men by 15 points, up from 5 points.

Looking at the governor’s race in Colorado, Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper, 46%, is ahead of GOP challenger Bob Beauprez, 41%, by 5 points among Colorado likely voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who have already voted. Six percent are undecided, and 6% say they may vote differently.

“To seal up the potential crack in the Democratic firewall for the U.S. Senate, Udall needs a big ground game,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “He trails among those who have already voted by 12 points.”

Most all of the numbers in this poll have tightened from the last NBC/Marist poll in early September, which showed Sen. Mark Udall with a 6-point lead. While Udall's lead has shrunk to the same statistical dead heat most other polling in this race shows, Gov. John Hickenlooper's lead over Republican challenger Bob Beauprez has grown slightly compared to early September's Marist/NBC poll. In both cases, the movement is consistent with what we're seeing in most recent polling.

It's interesting to note that Marist shows a large lead for Republican Cory Gardner among those who have already voted–an important question to ask in our newly 100% mail ballot state. Given the early lead Republicans have posted in ballot returns, that makes sense–and this poll points the path to victory for Democrats in the ground game to play out over the next eight days.

Because, and we know you're sick of hearing it, there's only one "polling sample" that matters.

Reporter CYA Can’t Excuse Bob Beauprez’s Travesty

beauprezdemsfear

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's highly controversial appropriation of the murder last year of the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, Tom Clements, for use in his campaign has changed the outlook of this race with only days to go before the election. Beauprez's shrill and personal attacks on Gov. John Hickenlooper over Clements' death principally revolve around a 2011 law, Senate Bill 11-176, which Hickenlooper signed into law after it passed the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-held Colorado House.

Beauprez's use of SB11-176 to blame Hickenlooper for Clements' death has its origins in a front-page Denver Post story published in March of 2013, not long after the murder. What Beauprez doesn't mention is that this story was proven wrong the next day by competing outlet 9NEWS, forcing the Post to publish a particularly embarrassing correction:

This article has been corrected in this online archive. Originally, due to incorrect information from a source, the role a 2011 law played in Evan Ebel's early release from prison was overstated. [Pols emphasis] The law was only one factor.

Just days after Clements' murder, an unnamed Republican source had fed the story to the Denver Post that this 2011 law had resulted in the killer's early release from prison–with the obvious intention of extracting political value from the tragedy of Clements' death. As we've noted in the past, one cruel irony in Clements' shooting at the hands of a recently released solitary confinement inmate was the work Clements had been doing to reform the solitary confinement system in Colorado.

Like we said Friday, the politicization of Clements' death, or at least the attempt to do so, has been occurring almost since the day he was killed. Clements' murder came at the height of the debate on unrelated gun safety legislation in the General Assembly, and Republicans were keen to exploit anything they could find to portray Hickenlooper as "soft on crime."

But again: the story is false. The truth is, Clements' murderer was released four years early because of a clerical error by a sentencing court in 2008. This was the key detail the Post didn't have when they rushed to print with their story blaming SB11-176 for Ebel's release. Today, the Denver Post indirectly revisits that story reporting on the present controversy, and again misleads their readers:

Ebel killed Clements and Leon in March 2013 after he was released four years too early because of a courthouse clerical error after his conviction for assaulting a correctional officer in 2008. The error — which made Ebel's sentence for assaulting a prison guard concurrent instead of consecutive — occurred before Hickenlooper took office.

Ebel was released Jan. 30, 2013, instead of years later.

But Ebel also qualified for early-release sentence reductions while he was being held in administrative segregation based partly on a law signed in 2011 by Hickenlooper.

Ebel was released four months earlier than he would have based on those rewards, meaning that when he killed Leon and Clements, he would have still been in prison.

Now, whether the Post's Kirk Mitchell is trying to defend his own faulty reporting or his Republican source for what turned out to be bad information, it's just wrong to suggest that SB11-176 made any intentional difference in the release of Clements' murderer. The 2008 error of not sentencing Clements' eventual killer correctly is what resulted in both his release four years too soon, and the factoring of any sentence reduction based on the 2011 law. 9NEWS explains this clearly in their own story from Friday:

"Was director Clements' death tragic? Yes," wrote Beauprez campaign spokesman Allen Fuller. "Should that take the conversation of the governor's public safety policies off the table?"

Fuller pointed to a 2011 law signed by Governor Hickenlooper which allowed offenders like Ebel to earn time off for good behavior during solitary confinement . While this was a factor in the timing of Ebel's release from prison, it was a paperwork error from the courts that allowed Ebel to be released years before he was supposed to.

His earned time off wouldn't have been considered if his sentence was issued properly. [Pols emphasis]

The details of this story are complicated, and we're reticent to get too far into the weeds as political bloggers. But we feel it's important to show in this case exactly why Beauprez's allegations against Hickenlooper are wrong, and how bad reporting with suspected partisan political influence has already done the voting public a disservice.

Once you understand just how factually baseless Beauprez's attack on Hickenlooper is, the whole idea of blaming the governor for the murder of his friend and partner in reforming the corrections system in Colorado becomes something more than just politically inappropriate. This is in fact a travesty–and the reason it must not be rewarded has more to do with common decency than partisanship.