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

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

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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 The truth is, the Colorado General Assembly repealed the criminal penalties for public accommodation in 2013, the same year they passed the civil unions bill.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.

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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.

Quinnipiac: Hickenlooper Closes Ten-Point Gap

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The last couple of polls from Quinnipiac University of Colorado races have pegged both the U.S. Senate race and the Colorado gubernatorial race with Republican leads considerably in excess of most other polling. In polling speak, Quinnipiac's numbers this year are what you'd call an "outlier"–a poll skewed well away from the results of other contemporary polling.

There are signs today that this is changing, at least in the gubernatorial race. Five weeks ago, Quinnipiac released a poll showing Republican Bob Beauprez leading Gov. John Hickenlooper by ten points, numbers that not even partisan Republicans could feel confident about. A week ago, Quinnipiac had Beauprez up by four points. Today, Q-pac's press release announces a that Hickenlooper has fully closed the gap:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, behind 50 – 40 percent September 17, now has 45 percent to former U. S. Rep. Bob Beauprez' 44 percent among likely voters, leaving the governor’s race too close to call, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today. Libertarian candidate Matthew Hess has 1 percent, with 2 percent for Green Party candidate Harry Hempy. Another 7 percent are undecided.

Women are the key to Hickenlooper’s strength, backing the incumbent 49 – 39 percent. Men back Beauprez 49 – 41 percent. Hickenlooper gets 45 percent of independent voters to Beauprez’ 40 percent. Democrats today go to the governor 94 – 4 percent, while Republicans back their challenger 86 – 6 percent.

“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.

Any way you look at this poll it's good news for Hickenlooper. That said, we're still not really convinced at this point that Quinnipiac is polling accurately, and wonder if this sudden shift to Hickenlooper is more "CYA" on the part of Quinnipiac. Quinnipiac's results have been outlier on the other side of this race, too: back in April they had Hickenlooper leading by 9 points, the last such numbers he has seen. Without impugning their metholodology from the peanut gallery, we will say that it's very common for polls to get closer as the election approaches–and sometimes, that happens as much to protect the pollster's reputation as it represents legitimate science. Back in their more partisan days, Rasmussen was infamous–or at least perceived to be–for polling that was heavily GOP biased right up until the last few weeks before election.

Is Quinnipiac really seeing these wild swings, or has the gubernatorial race been close–but still favoring Hickenlooper–since at least early September as almost all other polling has shown? Team Hickenlooper is fine either way, but our gut says the latter.

Infighting and Petty Posturing in Beauprez Camp

Dustin Olson, via Glamour Shots

Dustin Olson, via Glamour Shots

When Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez was putting his campaign together last spring, he made a point of trying to include top staffers from other flailing or near-dead Republican campaigns. This was easier said than done, according to Republican insiders, who say that Beauprez thought he could make a nice stew with a bunch of mismatched ingredients.

What might have seemed a good idea to Beauprez at the time has resulted primarily in infighting, petty posturing, and silly turf wars that are straining the seams of a campaign desperately trying to find some sort of momentum in the closing weeks of the election…and threatening to poison other GOP campaigns along the way.

As Coloradans count down the last two weeks of the 2014 election cycle, rumors of trouble inside the Beauprez campaign have seeped outside of Republican circles. From what we hear, problems that were simmering over paychecks and grievances about who really represented the "top of the ticket" (Beauprez or GOP Senate nominee Cory Gardner) have grown more heated in recent weeks as Beauprez has failed to gain any real traction in his bid to unseat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Bob Beauprez for Governor

Bob Beauprez’s Oct. 14th campaign finance report.

It's no secret that the Republican Party in Colorado has been scattered in every direction in recent years. The emergence of the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party in 2009 significantly altered the GOP power structure, but upheaval within Colorado Republican circles actually dates back to the bitter 2006 gubernatorial primary between Beauprez and Marc Holtzman.

Beauprez thought he could find some measure of Kumbaya by recruiting a top Holtzman staffer — Ryan Lynch — to join his campaign after State Sen. Greg Brophy ended his campaign and took Beauprez's side during the "Dear God, anybody but Scott Gessler" phase of the GOP Primary (Lynch had been working on Brophy's sputtering campaign for governor).

But Beauprez already had Republican strategist Dustin Olson at the top of his campaign hierarchy, in addition to Communications Director (and son-in-law) Allen Fuller. From what we understand, Beauprez probably screwed up by approving a huge disparity in salaries for the three men. Courting Lynch so insistently probably didn't make the Alpha Males of Team Beauprez feel much better, either.

Campaign finance reports (at left) show that Olson alone collects nearly double the monthly salary of Lynch and Fuller combined. Olson was paid $12,000 at the beginning of October, with Lynch and Fuller each taking home $6,500. Interestingly, Beauprez's reports are careful to note that Olson and Lynch hold similar titles with the campaign; both Olson and Lynch are listed as "Manager and Deputy Managers," a title share that surely makes Lynch feel much better about his bank account.

Bob's Beard

Allen Fuller still has the best beard of the Beauprez staffers.

Adding to the drama has been Beauprez's Lt. Governor running mate Jill Repella (remember her? No?) Repella has made it a point in her "public" appearances with Republican Party faithful to talk about how "proud" she is to be "representing the top of the Republican ticket in Colorado." You could argue whether Beauprez or Gardner truly maintains the "top spot" in Colorado GOP campaign circles, though on a broader scale, the implications of a Gardner victory are much more important for Republicans. This has become a regular source of irritation for Republicans in Colorado, many of whom would probably side with Gardner if they had to choose one or the other.

We don't want to overstate the importance of any of this, but it should not be ignored, either.

You can often tell a great deal about the direction of a campaign based on the mood of the core people involved. This kind of infighting can, and does, happen from time to time, but you usually see it when a campaign has reached its conclusion and the great Monday-morning quarterbacking begins. The fact that these rumors are spilling out now is a bad omen in general for Beauprez's campaign.

Has Right-Wing Media – And a Special Booking Agency – Killed Beauprez’s Chances?

Beauprez-Profile-Right

The vast collection of bizarre online media programs and bunker-crazy talk-radio hosts has probably cost Bob Beauprez the governor's office.

Beauprez can't shake off the digital archive of underground thought that he articulated on these shows beginning after his last gubernatorial loss in 2006 and continuing into this very year. It's defined him.

Calling Obama "a different kind of American than any I know" on the "Talk to Solomon Show," saying, on the Talkback with Chuck Wilder Show, that there's a “growing sentiment” that America might be on the “verge of something very, very bad,” and “folks realize they may need to protect themselves against the government that was supposed to be instituted to protect us," warning, on the Internet show “Christian Today,” that "I hope and pray we don’t see another civil war but this administration is pushing the boundaries like none I think we’ve ever, ever seen," expressing his love for the "Tea Party movement," on KLZ 560-AM's Wake Up with Randy Corporon, as "the healthiest thing we have seen in very long time in America," and accusing Americans of being like "sheep" who’d blindly allow the government to implant microchips in their bodies.

It goes on and on, and you can read more here and here. And if you bottom feed on the Internet for a while, you can probably find something new and shocking yourself.

How did Beauprez get there? How did he find all these weird shows?

It's a good bet that many of them came from Beauprez's apparent booking agency, called "SpecialGuests.com."

This outfit's special guests are truly special, but in the depressing sense, and include a collection of pundits plucked from the right-wing underground. Stars include Gun Owners of America Director Larry Pratt and Phyllis Schlafly, to give you an idea of what's available today.

On SpecialGuests.com, Beauprez's description references his right-wing blog, A Line of Sight, which would have certainly attracted the shadowy shows he frequented:

ABOUT YOUR GUEST, BOB BEAUPREZ:

…Since 2007, Bob has published a monthly e-magazine called A Line of Sight (http://www.alineofsight.com/), a public policy and opinion resource on current political issues. Then, in 2009, he authored his first book: A Return to Values: A Conservative Look at His Party…

Bob continues to stay politically active, guest hosting on various radio talk shows, doing numerous media interviews nationally, and maintains a busy public speaking schedule.

Beauprez's "numerous media interviews," and the conspiracy-tinged questions he was asked as a "special guest," are now a special part of his downfall.

Snoop Dogg and Mike Dunafon: The Fog of Weed

Snoop Dogg, Mike Dunafon.

Snoop Dogg, Mike Dunafon.

9NEWS reports:

Mike Dunafon is not exactly a household name. Sure, he is a former Bronco and the current mayor of Glendale, but his name is not what

comes to mind when thinking of Colorado's gubernatorial race. But multi-platinum recording artist Snoop Dogg is looking to change that this Halloween weekend.

The "Yes We Cannabis Festival" features a lineup that is yet to be announced, but will feature Snoop Dogg as the main act. Snoop collaborated with Dunafon and artist Wyclef Jean on Dunafon's campaign song, "The Trap," which features all three rapping about campaign issues like big government, pot laws, and campaign finance reform.

Despite a fair amount of press for the colorful mayor of Glendale and longtime principal of the infamous Shotgun Willie's strip club, he has yet to register in the polls with any significance. The reason for that is simple enough: the budding (pun intended) marijuana industry in Colorado has no desire to upset the proverbial apple cart, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has openly spoken in favor of repealing of Amendment 64. Even though incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has occasionally made statements about marijuana legalization that upset stakeholders, he's not going to try to kill the industry off out of pure snooty moral rectitude.

There's a good possibility that the voters who Dunafon and rapper Snoop Dogg could swing would not vote at all otherwise, but if Dunafon were to pull votes from anyone it would logically be from Hickenlooper. We think the smart money in the marijuana lobby knows that, and that's why Dunafon hasn't gotten much traction even with high profile (pun intended) entertainers like Wyclef Jean and now Snoop Dogg backing him up.

Having said that, this might be a good remedial lesson in how politics work to share with your stoner friends.

Q-Poll Tightens Governor’s Race, CNN: Gardner 50%, Udall 46%

beauprezdemsfear

Lots of polling out this morning on Colorado's two top races today, with more on the way–starting with Quinnipiac University's newest poll of the gubernatorial race. The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

A new poll from Quinnipiac University still shows Republican challenger Bob Beauprez in the lead, but Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has closed the gap among women and independent voters and his favorability ratings have improved.

The poll, released early Wednesday, reveals Colorado voters favor Beauprez over Hickenlooper 46 percent to 42 percent, a change from last month when Quinnipiac tracked a 10-point lead for the Republican.

"After seeming to waver in our last survey, women and independent voters pull Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper back from the abyss and reinvigorate a race that's very close," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.

Here is Quinnipiac's release on today's poll.

In truth, very few local observers took Quinnipiac's 10-point lead for Bob Beauprez seriously, and it's more likely their numbers are just tracking back to reality from previously outlier findings. We'll have to see tomorrow's Q-poll of the Senate race for a clearer picture of movement within their sample.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Meanwhile, CNN's new poll of the Senate race shows Republican Cory Gardner up by four points over incumbent Sen. Mark Udall:

Gardner held a 50 percent to 46 percent edge on first-term Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in the survey of 665 likely voters, conducted Oct. 9-13. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Republicans have targeted Udall and several other Democratic incumbents in their effort to win at least six seats this fall — enough to gain a Senate majority for President Barack Obama's final two years in office. Traditional Democratic advantages among women and urban voters aren't enough to overcome strong headwinds, said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

"Udall is getting clobbered in the all-important suburbs, as well as in rural areas, and his lead in Colorado cities is not enough to overcome that," Holland said.

"There is a gender gap, but in this case it appears to be working in favor of the Republican. Udall has a nine-point advantage among women, but that is dwarfed by the 20-point lead Gardner has among men," he said.

The same CNN poll shows incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper with a statistically meaningless one-point lead over Beauprez, 49-48%. We haven't seen the memo yet for CNN's poll, and since this is their first survey of Colorado races there's no trajectory to observe here. That said, most recent polling has shown Gardner opening up a small lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, consistent with these numbers. Historically, as readers know, polling in Colorado tends to understate Democratic turnout, and recent election reforms like mail ballots for every voter and registration all the way up to Election Day make it more or less impossible for pollsters to know if their "likely voter" samples are accurate. Smart pollsters concede, and everyone playing pundit in these races needs to be aware, that the final result could be very different from anybody's polling due to unknown, unknowable variables. After this election, we'll all know a lot more about how these reforms have changed the electorate.

With all of this in mind, Democratic field campaigns fanning out across the state of Colorado today are fully aware of the urgency of their task–and these polls explain why.

Bizarre Crosstabs Undermine Latest SurveyUSA Poll

Reading tea leaves.

Reading tea leaves.

The Denver Post released new SurveyUSA polling on the Colorado gubernatorial and Senate races yesterday that are raising eyebrows–not so much for the bottom line results, which show both races very close, but the numbers under the proverbial hood. As the Post's John Frank reports on the Senate results:

Gardner and Udall remain in a tight race, 45 percent to 43 percent, according to a SurveyUSA poll of likely voters released Monday.

Gardner's lead is within the margin of error, making the race a statistical tie, but it represents a reversal from a month ago when Udall held a 4-point edge.

The Post poll — conducted Thursday through Sunday — had a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 4.1 percentage points.

"There has been movement to Gardner that is unmistakable and what had been nominal advantage for Udall has been erased," said Jay Leve at SurveyUSA.

Gardner's momentum is evident in the underlying numbers…

But when local polling expert Kevin Ingham of Strategies 360 started looking at those underlying numbers, he found some things that honestly don't make sense:

We make no claims to be polling experts, but the idea that Cory Gardner is leading with Hispanic voters and Mark Udall is ahead with white voters most certainly defies conventional wisdom–and quite honestly makes us wonder if those numbers got flipped somewhere. Obviously, that would have big implications for this poll result if such an error got factored into the overall results.

Ordinarily we try not to get overly picky about methodology with polling, and to rely more on multiple poll averages than the results of any one poll. But in this case, there's pretty obviously some things messed up–either in the sample or the computation of the demographic results.

So…maybe take this poll with an extra grain of salt.

Big Line Updated

We've updated The Big Line 2014, so head on over and take a look.

From where we're sitting, things don't look a whole lot different than they did when we last updated the Big Line. The Senate race is still close, though we maintain that Sen. Mark Udall will ultimately prevail over Congressman Cory Gardner as Democrats outperform Republicans in the ground game and the antics of the right-wing Jefferson County School Board convince more voters to oppose Republicans in general.

As for the other two marquee races in Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper seems to be steadily pulling further ahead from Republican Bob Beauprez, and the battle in CD-6 between Congressman Mike Coffman and Democrat Andrew Romanoff is a true toss-up at this stage.

What say you, Polsters? Let us know in the comments below.

Chuck Plunkett Defends Hack Masquerading As “Journalist”

Denver Post Political Editor Chuck Plunkett.

Denver Post Political Editor Chuck Plunkett.

A very strange story written by Denver Post political editor Chuck Plunkett last Friday could result in even more credibility damage to the state's biggest newspaper. As our readers will recall, a freelance local reporter named Art Kane had a contract to write stories about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Colorado for the Denver Post earlier this year. As we covered in detail, those stories were replete with factual errors, necessitating repeated corrections by the Denver Post. Kane's grant from Kaiser Health News was not renewed, and he subsequently went to work for a conservative "news" site called Watchdog.org–writing much more straightforward political hit pieces for an outlet not concerned with things like accuracy.

And that's where, as Plunkett picks up the story Friday, things get stupid:

Arthur Kane, an award-winning journalist, posted a first-person account Friday of an encounter with the Hickenlooper campaign in which he says he was threatened with arrest.

Kane is a former Denver Post reporter and former Channel 7 investigative executive producer whose new gig is with the libertarian-leaning Watchdog.org.

Full stop. "Libertarian-leaning?" This is something we've noticed with Plunkett: the words "libertarian" or "liberty movement" are frequent code words for conservative political groups he likes–as opposed to the much more appropriate descriptor "Republican-leaning," which would be accurate even if it turns off half his readers. But that's not the worst part: as we suspect Plunkett knows very well, Watchdog.org can be traced directly back to allies of Gov. John Hickenlooper's Republican opponent Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

Watchdog.org is operated by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a conservative nonprofit group. The Denver Post reported in their own profile of Beauprez that he was paid over $100,000 by a group called the John Hancock Commttee for the States since 2009 to advocate for the Tea Party and conservative causes. Therein lies the connection: The John Hancock Committee for the States and the Franklin Center were both launched in 2009 by another conservative group called the Sam Adams Alliance, which supplied millions of dollars in funding for each group. The organizations have many individuals in common, including board members and employees.

In short, a "media outlet," created by the same organization that also started and funded the group that paid Bob Beauprez to advocate for them, is now attacking Beauprez's opponent in the gubernatorial race. And the political editor of the Denver Post is openly running cover for their actions, omitting crucial details about the clear connections between these groups.

Kane told me that after seeing the governor at the public event Friday he stopped by the campaign’s headquarters and talked to spokesman Eddie Stern.

Ultimately, Kane reports, Stern asked him to leave, and when he did not, Stern began calling the police. At that point, Kane, who recorded the encounter, left.

“It’s just a ridiculous way to handle the press,” Kane told me Friday.

The answer, if you know all the details that Plunkett omitted, is simple: Art Kane is not "the press." Kane is a paid political operative on the same level as a campaign tracker, working in the service of Hickenlooper's opponents. We have no idea why Plunkett would try to blow up this story into a "journalism" issue, but it's just silly: Hickenlooper's campaign office is located on private property. If employees in that office ask for someone to leave said private property and that person refuses, as Plunkett describes having happened here, the appropriate thing to do is call the police. We would say call the police even if it's a reporter–and definitely if it's just a discredited hack working for a right-wing blog.

By putting his credibility on the line in defense of Art Kane, Plunkett debased the real journalism his newspaper is responsible for providing their readers. This may not be the first such incident for Plunkett, but it's one of the most egregious. And as we've said before, the people of Colorado deserve better from our newspaper of record.

Jefferson County: The Key to the State, Now More Than Ever

Jefferson County key to Colorado elections

This kid can’t vote. But his parents, relatives, and neighbors have a new reason to get involved.

We've seen plenty of stories both locally and nationally about the continuing controversy with the Jefferson County School Board — a controversy that will almost certainly impact the outcome of several key races in November, as we pointed out early and often.

Today the Denver Post takes a deeper look — on the front page of the paper, no less — into the political consequences of a right-wing school board angering a community that is always paying attention to education issues. As John Frank writes for the Post, the crossover into the 2014 election is impossible to ignore:

It's dark and a moth circles the halo of a porch light as state lawmaker Brittany Pettersen knocks on the door of a potential swing voter in this all-important Denver suburb. Hours of canvassing ended at the home of Brian Leffler, a 36-year-old independent voter. Pettersen, a first-term Democratic House member, asks him what issue is foremost in his mind this election year. A chorus of insects fills the silence as Leffler thinks. It doesn't take him more than a moment to name a top issue. "The whole schools thing going on in Jefferson County — that's the main thing right now," Leffler said. "I know that has very little to do with you, but they are talking about taking things out of the curriculum."

Door after door, the same refrain. The turmoil at the Jefferson County school board regarding the conservative majority's plans to revamp teacher pay and curriculum is emerging as a key issue in the November elections.

"The fact it comes up naturally in conversations is really reflective of what's happening," Pettersen said. [Pols emphasis]

In an election season with no single national issue dominating the conversation, Jefferson County's vote is a volatile political cocktail that proves all politics is local.

Education. The Democratic Party enthusiasm gap. Abortion. Marijuana. The Republican Party rift. Guns. The economy.

And the stakes couldn't get much higher: The county is likely to decide which party controls the state Senate, the governor's mansion and the U.S. Senate, a combination with far-reaching implications in Colorado and Washington.

Both Democrats and Republicans have figured out that the 2014 elections may hinge on the actions of Jeffco's screwy school board, though Democrats were much quicker to respond. Republicans have tried to push back with a ridiculous message accusing the teacher's union of, well, everything, but that attempted pivot isn't going to work in a county where students, parents, and teachers have taken to the streets in protest for more than a month now. As Frank astutely points out in his story above, this is an issue that is moving along under its own power — which is going to make it awfully difficult for Republicans to redirect as ballots start landing in mailboxes this week.

 

CBS/NYT: Hickenlooper 47%, Beauprez 43%

The second half of the New York Times/CBS poll of Colorado was released today, showing Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper with a four-point lead over GOP challenger Bob Beauprez–as with this poll's showing earlier in the week of a three-point lead for Sen. Mark Udall over Cory Gardner, a good sign for Hickenlooper but still well within the poll's margin of error. Here are the toplines:

CO_GOV_3

As with the Senate poll, significant leads for Hickenlooper among both women and self-described moderates are underlying trends that bode well for the incumbent. Also, we don't see third-party candidates factoring to any significant degree, which the consensus view this year agrees helps Hickenlooper. A month ago, NYT/CBS found the gubernatorial race tied up at 43% each–so the trajectory is entirely in Hickenlooper's favor.

With three weeks to go, that's what Hickenlooper supporters want to see.

Jill Repella – Scaring Women to the R Side

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

 Bob Beauprez and Jill Repella,photo from Beauprez CampaignRecently, in Pueblo, Beauprez attempted to sidetrack discussion about reproductive choice with a strange diatribe about how women are really scared about Hickenlooper's release of violent parolees, and this is the security issue for which women should vote Republican.

Lieutenant Governor candidate Jill Repella posted a statement on the Beauprez website :  HIgh Risk Parolee Scandal. She touts her female credentials: "As a single mother, I find that [release of parolees] appalling." Repella, a woman promoting this as a woman's issue,  attempts to woo women to the Republican side as "security voters".

Beauprez got booed by the audience, and lambasted by Mike Littwin, for bringing  the murder of prisons chief Tom Clements by parolee Evan Ebel into the debate to make his point about women's safety. Hickenlooper responded factually, that prisoners are no longer released directly from solitary confinement onto the streets.

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