Obama Coming To Help Udall (Cue Talk Radio Freakout)

President Barack Obama, with close ally Satan (right).

President Barack Obama, with close ally Satan (right).

The Hill reports–it's true what you've heard! The Obamanation himself–coming to Colorado to help Sen. Mark Udall! What could it mean? Will they sacrifice babies and kittens to Allah? Will they stop your children from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and/or take away their salty, sugary snacks which is just as bad? Will they singlehandedly raise the gas prices at your local station and force you to buy solar panels? Will they, horror of horrors…cancel your health insurance?

How could Mark Udall do this? After all, didn't he "refuse to answer" if he would campaign with the President back in January? Conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics is incredulous, folks. Isn't the President still less popular than a root canal administered by Paris Hilton?

Udall is in a tough reelection fight with Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who made the swing state competitive for Republicans when he jumped in the race earlier this year. 

Most polling of the race has shown Udall only slightly ahead of Gardner.

Obama’s visit to Colorado is unusual for him. He’s largely stayed away from senators due to his persistently low popularity in most of the most competitive states this election cycle…

Obama and Lady Liberty.

Obama and Lady Liberty.

Never mind that the Republican-controlled Congress' popularity, from which Udall's opponent is campaigning against him, is far worse! The conventional wisdom, as validated by savvy "independent" pundits who watch FOX News in the daytime when the good stuff is on, is that the absolute last thing Sen. Udall possibly needs today is face time with President Barack Obama. But despite the pundit-validated and thoroughly groupthinked consensus on the matter, The Hill notes correctly:

[T]the president did win the state twice, and Udall appears unfazed by the likely attacks from Republicans surrounding his visit. Indeed, he’s already had Vice President Biden in the state to headline a fundraiser for him. [Pols emphasis]

Hey wait, that's not what Mike Rosen says at all!

You may have heard, as in every day lately, that President Obama's approval ratings are not the very best right now–and that the conservative news media has more budding "scandals" to grouse about than since…well, since the last Democratic President was six years into his term. But despite the rock-solid belief on the talk radio right that the Benghazi/Obamacare/VA/Bergdahl drumbeat is just a few news cycles from sending the President back to Kenya where he belongs, there are plenty of Coloradans ready to welcome Obama back to a state he carried in the last two presidential elections–even hoping he comes, with some choice words for his detractors.

And that appears to include Sen. Mark Udall. Please adjust your conventional wisdom accordingly.

BREAKING: Udall First Democratic Senator to Call for Shinseki to Resign

Mark Udall calls for Eric Shinseki to resign

Sen. Mark Udall (D)

Senator Mark Udall today called for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. From the Associated Press:

Udall becomes the first Democratic senator to make such a demand in the ongoing scandal over VA medical care. He made his statement Wednesday on Twitter after the release of an internal report that found the VA systemically delayed care to wounded veterans and manipulated records to cover it up.

The VA's inspector general is investigating 42 VA facilities across the country. It found the average wait time for care at the Phoenix VA hospital was 115 days.

In his tweet Udall said, quote, "In light of IG report & systemic issues" Shinseki should step down.

As the first Democratic Senator to call for Shinseki's resignation, Udall will no doubt be accused of election year grandstanding by Republicans. But Udall's record as an independent voice on the powerful Armed Services Committee makes it much more difficult for critics to go after him here. From leading the way among Democratic Senators on issues such as the NSA spying controversy, Udall has established a pattern of thoughtful oversight on military issues that should only help him in November.

“Lose By Winning”–The Colorado GOP’s Long-Term Dilemma

The Republican base (increasingly to scale).

The Republican base (increasingly to scale).

A great analytical piece from Politico's Todd Purdum this weekend makes points that observers of Colorado politics should keep in mind, and have been borne out by Colorado's recent political history as we'll explain:

It’s the predominant paradox of contemporary American politics: If Republicans prevail in this year’s midterm congressional elections, it will be because of their party’s sharp-edged stances on topics like abortion and Benghazi, Obamacare and immigration, gay marriage and the minimum wage — issues that energize the GOP’s core base of support.

But if Republicans lose the race for the White House in 2016, it will be because of their party’s polarizing, out-of-step stances on those very same issues, which alienate much of the broader electorate the GOP needs to win a national contest in a country whose demographics and political realities are shifting under its feet…

“The Republican Party has essentially now two wings: a congressional wing and the national wing,” the veteran GOP pollster Bill McInturff said at a recent Pew Research Center forum on so-called millennial voters, those from 18 to 29 years of age. The congressional wing is thriving, especially in the South, in districts that are 75 percent, or even 80 percent, white, and where every incumbent’s worst fear is a challenge from the right.

…On questions like climate change and gay marriage, pollster McInturff said, younger voters no longer believe there is anything to argue about. He summed up their views as: “‘We wouldn’t fight about that. That’s just presumed to be true.’” [Pols emphasis]

Thomas Mann, the veteran political scientist and Congress-watcher at the Brookings Institution, said that, at the moment, the Republicans are “simply not a presidential party.”

In Colorado, the 2010 "GOP wave" election is generally reckoned to have been a "modest" defeat for the Republican Party. Democrats easily won a gubernatorial race in which the Republican frontrunner self-destructed, and won a narrow victory in a top-tier U.S. Senate race against a candidate whose backward views on social issues rendered him unpalatable to independent and women voters. The state didn't completely escape the effects of historic Republican victories across the nation in 2010, with the GOP picking up two congressional seats, winning the statewide races for Attorney General, Treasurer, and Secretary of State, and the Colorado House flipping to the GOP by a single extremely narrow win in the northwest Denver suburbs. But the overall result was well short of what Republicans had expected the summer before.

In 2012, Democrats in Colorado ran the table on Election Night, sweeping GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty from power in the state House and delivering the state to Barack Obama by a comfortable margin. Going into the 2014 midterms, we see the same pressure on Colorado Democrats to turn out their base voters and swing independents that was evident in the midterm elections of 2010. The question is, can Colorado Democrats minimize the impact of this midterm "wave" as they did in the last midterm election?

The answer is very logically yes, and as the story above explains, it's because the overarching demographics driving this whole midterm/presidential year dichotomy inexorably favor Democrats. One of the biggest reasons the Republican Party has lurched so far to the right since the election of Barack Obama is that, as this changing American electorate begins to decide elections, the biggest constituency Republicans have left to appeal to is the out-of-the-mainstream fringe right wing. Republicans were fully willing to embrace the "Tea Party" to win in 2010. There was a powerful short-term advantage in appealing to this segment of the electorate, in that they are extremely reliable and passionate voters. There is a tremendous enthusiasm gap between such voters, who vote in greater numbers in every kind of election, and the much larger body of voters who turn out once every four years. We're certainly not the only ones who have said this, but we've been saying it for years: 2010 wasn't about who voted, it was about who didn't vote.

And we could say the same thing about John Morse's recall. Or the Jefferson County school board.

The markedly different electorates who decide midterm and off-year vs. presidential elections can result in head-snapping results from one election to the next. Just as one example, the Jefferson County voters who turned out to re-elect Barack Obama in 2012 would never have voted in the radical conservative school board majority now causing street protests the following year. If this seems like an obvious point to you, that's great, but most voters simply don't understand these differences–and as a result, fringe minority electorates are assumed to be representative.

In 2010, Colorado Democrats used exactly what appeals to these ardent conservative voters against Republicans with the broader presidential-year electorate–and by effectively driving home the message of GOP extremism, incompetence, and moral turpitude, they turned out just enough of the 2008 electorate to break the "GOP wave." Colorado Democrats have the same challenge in 2014, but they also have the same opportunity: a rich body of material to use against Republican candidates at every level, from Cory Gardner to Victor Head.

And each year, as the changing electorate chips away at the GOP's narrowing coalition, it gets easier.

Rep. Cory Gardner is Anti-Science

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Erstwhile "Area 51" Congressman Cory Gardner is anti-science and he wants to be your next Senator, whatever it takes.  There is no other explanation for two actions he took this week between his campaign stops and fund raisers, while working his tax-funded day job as a U.S. Representative.

In one bill that he sponsored he is working to tie the hands of biologists trying to recover one of the West's iconic species.  In the other he is trying to tie the hands of the U.S. military in its effort to prepare for the effects of a rapidly changing climate.  Both efforts are sure to please some of his primary funders–the fossil fuel barons and Koch Brothers.

The potential listing of the Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act is a hot topic across the West, the subject of both controversy and concern with hyperbolic hand-wringing  predicting calamity should it occur.  The U.S. Department of Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service is obligated under law to designate the bird if it finds that its extinction may be  imminent, and to designate critical habitat to increase the chance of the species' survival.  The ESA was signed into law by renown leftist tree-hugger President Richard M. Nixon.

I HAVE today signed S. 1983, the Endangered Species Act of 1973. At a time when Americans are more concerned than ever with conserving our natural resources, this legislation provides the Federal Government with needed authority to protect an irreplaceable part of our national heritage–threatened wildlife.

This important measure grants the Government both the authority to make early identification of endangered species and the means to act quickly and thoroughly to save them from extinction. It also puts into effect the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora signed in Washington on March 3, 1973.

Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans. I congratulate the 93d Congress for taking this important step toward protecting a heritage which we hold in trust to countless future generations of our fellow citizens. Their lives will be richer, and America will be more beautiful in the years ahead, thanks to the measure that I have the pleasure of signing into law today.

Rep. Gardner–promptly joined by go-along congressman Scott Tipton–last week introduced legislation that would prohibit any listing of the bird for 10 years. Not based on science, or  recovery chances, or habitat protection or really anything, other than the notion that it might hamper oil and gas drilling, tar sands mining, oil shale dreaming and Craig-America's  never-dying hope for an Inland Empire where there should have been a reservoir any ways. Ten years might seem like a random number, but Rep. Tipton says it is because of 'real  science,' which presumably means findings that oil and gas companies have signed off on rather than that prepared by field biologists who have studied the matter for decades.

(more…)

Only Doug Lamborn is More Partisan than Cory Gardner

Cory Gardner and Doug LambornThere has been a lot of talk over the last week or so about Republican concerns that Tom Tancredo might poison the entire 2014 election should he emerge victorious from the June gubernatorial Primary. We won't deny that the GOP faces plenty of problems with a Tancredo candidacy, although the entire argument seems a bit silly in our opinion given the other candidates running in the Republican Primary; option #2 appears to be Bob Beauprez, whose 2006 campaign for Governor is viewed as the worst statewide campaign in Colorado history.

Former Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams has been among the loudest voices warning of a Tancredo candidacy, sounding false alarm bells dating back more than a year (we continue to be amused that anyone listens to Wadhams anymore, but that's a different story for a different day). Wadhams is a strong supporter of Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner, but as he told the Boulder Daily Camera in a story over the weekend, both Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman are doomed if Tancredo is the GOP nominee for Governor:

"If Tancredo is the nominee, everyone from (U.S. Senate candidate Cory) Gardner and (U.S. Rep. Mike) Coffman and up and down the ticket go down in November," warned Wadhams, who is supporting Kopp. "There's much at stake here."

That seems a bit melodramatic to us, but how much truth is involved in this fear of Tancredo? If we've learned anything from Colorado politics in the last decade, it is that the more moderate candidate will always win a high-profile statewide race. From Ken Salazar in 2004, to Bill Ritter in 2006 and Mark Udall in 2008 (and John Hickenlooper in 2010, although a doorknob would have beaten Dan Maes), the more partisan you are perceived to be by voters, the less likely you are to win in November. With that in mind, we combed through the annual partisanship rankings of Congress provided each year by The National Journal, and we were a bit surprised at what we found:

The biggest threat to the Republican ticket in 2014 may actually be Cory Gardner.

Cory Gardner and Tom Tancredo

Perhaps Tom Tancredo should be concerned about Cory Gardner instead.

You may have seen references to the fact that Gardner was the 10th most-partisan Member of Congress in 2012 — more partisan, even, than conservative stalwarts such as Reps. Michele Bachmann and Steve King – but the numbers tell an even more incredible tale. As you can see from the chart above, only Rep. Doug Lamborn has a more partisan record in Congress among Colorado's delegation in the past decade, and he represents a heavily-Republican district in CD-5.

If you remove Lamborn and Rep. Diana DeGette from the list (since DeGette's CD-1 is a heavily-Democratic district), you find that Gardner stands alone as the most partisan Member of Colorado's Congressional delegation since at least 2002 (when redistricting awarded Colorado a 7th seat in Congress).

As of now, Republicans appear likely to have both Tancredo and Gardner at the top of the ticket in November. Tancredo is certainly problematic for Republicans, but it may well turn out that Gardner ends up being just as harmful (if not more) as voters continue to learn about his record.

If nothing else, Gardner's heavily-partisan record should allow Sen. Mark Udall ample space to occupy the center leading into November, which is an incredible advantage for Democrats…and, perhaps, a huge roadblock for someone like Tom Tancredo.

 

 

Talk All The Smack You Want, Udall’s Buzzfeed List Is Cool

anigif_enhanced-16118-1399486372-6

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reported yesterday evening, and it rates a mention from us too:

U.S Sen. Mark Udall today showcased his previous life climbing 14s with a 14-point list on BuzzFeed that mixes summits and senatorial life — and might even be more interesting than any ad his campaign is planning…

“For Mark Udall, standing up for Colorado in the U.S. Senate and summiting the world’s tallest peaks are one and the same — well, except for the uniform,” a headline reads.

anigif_enhanced-9412-1399486168-1

Conservatives are straining to find something to complain about with Udall's Buzzfeed list, but there's just not much you can say negatively about a guy climbing a real rock (no blue screen fakery here) and smiling. This is great example of a campaign reaching out to where young voters already are, a popular forum like Buzzfeed, and giving them content that's actually fun to look at along with your campaign pitch.

Instead of grousing, we would suggest Cory Gardner's campaign come up with a Buzzfeed list of their own! Maybe there's something from that CBS investigation of Gardner's Florida fundraising junket that would look neat animated? Like a donor writing a big check or something? What does Gardner do for fun? Reread his Obamacare "cancellation letter" and circulate Personhood petitions at church? There's just not been enough life breathed into Gardner's carefully-manicured persona to identify with him. Not so with Mark Udall.

Above all, voters back candidates they like. And Udall has a edge in that regard you can't fake.

The Keystone XL Pipeline: 2014′s Fakest Issue

The Hill's Laura Baron-Lopez:

The American Energy Alliance is spending over $400,000 on a new ad accusing Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) of opposing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The conservative super-PAC claims Udall, who is up for reelection this year, wants to kills the $5.4 billion project. The ad is set to run through May 23…

Udall spokesman Mike Saccone said the reason the senator didn't vote for the Republican and Democratic budget amendments on Keystone last year was because he felt it wasn't Congress' place to do so.

"Sen. Udall still believes Congress should not be injecting politics into the review process," Saccone said.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels explains, the American Energy Alliance is on a familiar team:

The alliance has ties to the the wealthy Koch brothers, who helped found Americans for Prosperity. That group also is attacking Udall on the air.

Politico reported in 2012 that American Energy Alliance is the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, and both groups were funded partly by the Koch brothers and their donor network.

The controversy over completing the Keystone XL pipeline's Phase 4 connection between Hardisty, Alberta and Steele City, Nebraska, which would expedite shipments of Canadian tar sands heavy crude oil through to, among other locations, Gulf Coast oil export terminals, has been the subject of a massive public relations campaign by the oil and gas industry spanning several years. Over time, the case for building the Keystone XL has been hyped into an essential struggle for American freedom itself, not to mention the American economy, whose very existence apparently depends on being able to ship Canadian heavy crude oil to global markets a little bit faster.

If that sounds kind of silly, that's because it is.

The estimates of "job creation" from the construction of the Keystone XL Phase 4 line from proponents have ranged from highly optimistic to downright laughable. Media Matters documented some years ago how FOX News has estimated for its viewers anywhere between 50,000 and a million jobs created by Keystone XL, both of which having simply no basis in reality whatsoever. Now, don't get us wrong here–Keystone XL opponents haven't done themselves any favors by portraying this incremental increase in Canadian tar sands oil shipping capacity as the tipping point for end of the world. More expansive arguments about fossil fuels and climate change aside, the principal environmental risk posed by the Keystone XL is to the Sand Hills wetlands area of Nebraska. That's a significant issue, but not probably enough to inspire a March on Washington.

Here in Colorado, there's even less reason to get worked up about Keystone XL. The Suncor refinery in Commerce City already refines Canadian tar sands crude via our existing pipeline connection to Alberta, in addition to our booming local production. If anything, there's a very sound self-interested argument for Coloradans to oppose the Keystone XL, one that has nothing to do with climate change or oil pollution:

The purpose of the $7.6 billion Keystone is to move 830,000 barrels of oil a day from landlocked Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, obtaining new customers and a higher price for heavy Canadian crude, Canadian regulators said in a 2010 report. The oil sold for $23.38 less per barrel in 2011 compared with heavy grades of Mexican crude, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The Canadian plan was to use their market power to raise prices in the United States (UNG) and get more money from consumers,” Philip Verleger, founder of Colorado-based energy consulting firm PK Verleger LLC, said in an interview. Prices may gain 10 to 20 cents in central states, he said. [Pols emphasis]

Producers including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Suncor Energy Inc. (SU) and Cenovus Energy Inc. (CVE) may reap as much as $4 billion more in annual revenue if prices rise as expected following the construction of the 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) Keystone XL conduit, the 2010 report says.

Clearly, it's time to take to the streets of Denver and demand in the name of freedom that this oil export pipeline be constructed right now! So we can pay more for the same oil we already get! You can shovel all the money into this as an electoral message that you want–in Colorado, it's wasted money. The Koch brothers will love it, but Keystone XL won't be costing any Colorado Democrats their jobs.

Will Romney Decline to Endorse Gardner After 2012 Spat?

As we noted earlier today, 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has endorsed "Both Ways Bob" Beauprez for Governor. Romney is now the second 2012 GOP candidate to make an official endorsement in a Colorado race this year, following former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's late April endorsement of Congressman Cory Gardner's U.S. Senate bid.

Congressman Cory Gardner

Cory Gardner loves him some Paul Ryan, but he flip-flopped on supporting Mitt Romney for President.

Romney's endorsement of Beauprez may play a role in the outcome of the Republican Gubernatorial Primary, but it probably doesn't do a whole lot in a General Election. However, Romney's support — or, more precisely, a lack thereof — may yet be significant in the U.S. Senate race. Romney's endorsement may not move voters one way or the other, but a non-endorsement of Colorado's Republican Senate candidate would certainly raise eyebrows among reporters — and it's not really a question that Gardner wants to have to answer right now.

In April 2012, Gardner was criticized by Romney's campaign for reneging on a promise to endorse his campaign for President. As Eli Stokols of Fox 31 reported on April 6, 2012:

FOX 31 Denver has obtained an email between two top Romney staffers who call Gardner’s refusal to endorse Romney ‘disappointing.’

The email is written by Rich Beeson, a Colorado native and Romney’s national political director, to Mason Fink, the campaign’s national finance director.

In the email, sent on Jan. 14 with ‘Disappointing’ in the subject line, Beeson writes:

“Cory Gardner (CO-4) committed to endorse Gov. Romney and then backed away because he was scared of getting in a primary. This is very disappointing. He committed to endorse and is now ‘scared’.” [Pols emphasis]

The reason this story is problematic for Gardner is because of the flip-flopper narrative that it underscores. When Gardner made his surprise flip-flop on the Personhood issue not long after announcing his campaign for U.S. Senate, it was a mistake that made it easy to paint Gardner has someone whose political ambition trumps any core beliefs he may have. Just a few weeks later, Gardner fed into that narrative by trying to flip his position on gay rights and the DREAM Act. Gardner thought he could get away with flipping on these issues because he is relatively unknown outside of his Congressional district, but his change of heart on endorsing Romney shows that Gardner's "thumb in the wind" political compass is nothing new for the two-term Congressman.

New PPP: Udall Up Four As Gardner’s Negatives Grow

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

A polling memo from Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen spells out bad news for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner:

A new PPP survey in Colorado finds that Cory Gardner’s negatives have spiked following an early advertising campaign focusing on his record of voting to provide subsidies to oil companies.

Key findings from the survey include:

-Gardner’s name recognition has increased from 48% on a PPP poll in mid-March to now 77%. But his negatives are rising a lot faster than his positives- only 35% of voters have a favorable opinion of him now to 42% with a negative one. Previously voters were pretty evenly divided on him at 23/25. For a majority of the voters who’ve gotten to know Cory Gardner for the first time over the last month, the first impression has been a negative one. [Pols emphasis]

-Mark Udall leads Gardner 47/43 in a head to head match up for this fall’s election. Previously Udall’s lead was only 42/40, but as the race has gotten more defined in the last month he’s pushed up much closer to the critical 50% mark…

LCV’s early ad campaign has weakened Gardner as voters have gotten to know him, and put Udall in a stronger position now than he was when Gardner first made his entry into the race.

Polling details here–notable points include that incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall leads Gardner in every media market in the state except for Grand Junction and Colorado Springs, with Udall down only by four points in the latter market. The gender gap remains wide and potentially decisive–Udall is favored by women by 12 points, with Gardner up by only five points with men. Yes, it's early. Yes, there is a long way to go until Election Day. But one of the more useful aspects of polling is to consider changes over time; in this case, Gardner's numbers are not moving in a positive direction.

This poll was conducted on behalf of the League of Conservation Voters, and as a result the poll's questions mostly pertain to environmental issues. That said, there are a number of negatives converging on Gardner in the press and as campaign message points, from conservation to immigration to abortion–and all of them are set to do their share of damage.

Still intensely competitive with many months to go, the trajectory of this race now demonstrably favors Udall.

House Obamacare Hearing Turns Disastrous for Republicans

UPDATE: The Colorado Independent takes a look at Rep. Cory Gardner and his political maneuvers around Obamacare, and includes a link to today's House Committee hearing in which Gardner tries desperately to get insurance executives to answer his questions in the most anti-Obamacare fashion possible. You can see from Gardner's five minutes of questioning below that he is growing increasingly frustrated that he's getting unexpected answers to his questions (if the video doesn't cue up for you, fast-forward to the 1:32:53 mark):

The panel of insurance providers seems genuinely confused about what Gardner is asking them, since most of their replies are along the lines of, "We don't have that information." This isn't just a dodge to the question — one executive tries to explain to Gardner that the statistics he seeks come from the health exchanges themselves. Gardner then shifts tactics to ask the executives to offer up numbers "off the top of their head" on the number of insurance plans cancelled. Off the top of your head??? Way to get to the bottom of this, Scooby Doo.

Gardner's final question in the clip above is about whether it was Obamacare or the policy of the individual companies that prompted sending out "massive cancellation notices." The answers from the group are about letters of cancellation (most of which included offers to renew with a similar plan), and not about actual policy cancellation numbers, but a frustrated Gardner just talks over them and says , "So, Obamacare required the cancellations." Uh, no, that's not what the man said, nor is that the question you asked, Congressman. But if you can't get people to say what you want — just put words in their mouth!

—–

We've said many times in this space that it would be foolish for Republicans to hope that they could win big in November based on Obamacare alone. Republicans have been railing on Obamacare virtually non-stop going on five years now, and without any sort of viable alternative to the Affordable Care Act — and with enrollment and uninsured numbers starting to show significant progress — Republican attacks are increasingly sounding very hollow.

Cory Gardner.

Hey, that was NOT the negative answer I was expecting out of you!

As Elise Viebeck reports for The Hill today, an anti-Obamacare hearing before the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (of which Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner is a member) turned into a complete disaster when Republicans weren't getting the answers they were fishing for:

Republicans were visibly exasperated, as insurers failed to confirm certain claims about ObamaCare, such as the committee's allegation that one-third of federal exchange enrollees have not paid their first premium. Four out of five companies represented said more than 80 percent of their new customers had paid. The fifth, Cigna, did not offer an estimate. [Pols emphasis]

Republicans also stumbled in asking insurers to detail next year's premium rates. Companies are still in the process of calculating prices, and they have a strong financial incentive not to air early projections in public…

…The back-and-forth underscores the growing divide between Republicans and the insurance industry over the healthcare law. Insurers have worked hard to make the Affordable Care Act's exchanges successful and are expected to substantially increase their participation in the system over time.

That has estranged the industry from Republican critics of the law and created an uneasy alliance between health insurance companies and the White House.

Today's hearing, which included questions from Gardner, was apparently so disorganized that many Republican lawmakers left early, allowing Democrats to come to the microphone and take jabs at Republican claims about Obamacare without response. It's incredible that Republicans would hold such a high-profile hearing on Obamacare and not know the answers to questions they planned to ask. One of the primary benefits of holding control of the House is that it allows Republicans to stack the hearing deck in their favor…except when they don't…or when they can't. It may just be that Republicans have spent so much time and effort yelling and screaming about Obamacare that they didn't notice when the rest of the country moved forward.

There is a growing consensus among politicos that Obamacare is no longer be "repealable", and by decling to offer up a serious plan of their own, Republicans are left playing a political game that everyone else has gotten bored of watching. No doubt this is why Gardner last week decided to propose a health care "plan" of his own…albeit the same basic plan that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor proposed last year that quickly went down in flamesGardner seems to know what he should do at this point — he just has no idea how to do it.

In a recent article that appeared in Slate, the author points out troubling poll numbers for Democrats while also narrowing in on the Obamacare problem for Republicans:

(more…)

700 Million Trillion Gajillion Jobs

100s of thousands

Many hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost…um, no.

Today's U.S. Senate vote on increasing the federal minimum wage brought out the best (or worst) arguments from opponents of the proposed legislation.

Many of those arguments, like the one you see at right, focused on the scare tactic of projecting massive job losses from a minimum wage increase. In this particular case, the Tweet at right says that "raising the minimum wage will cost Coloradans 100's of thousands of jobs."

Really? Hundreds of thousands?

Similar arguments have been made in Colorado regarding jobs and fracking.You can't restrict fracking!!! That will cost Colorado 500,000 jobs!!!

With all of these big numbers floating around, it made us wonder: Exactly how many jobs are there in Colorado? Is this kind of growth even remotely possible?

So, with those questions in mind, we took a little tour through the website of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, and more specifically, the section on labor statistics. What we found is pretty much along the lines of what we thought we'd find: It is ridiculous to claim that anything specific could increase or decrease the number of Colorado jobs by 100,000 or more. We even made a graphic about it. Want to see it? Here it goes:

Colorado job statistics

This here is what they call a ‘graphic’ or ‘chart.’

As you can see from the aforementioned graphical chart thing that we produced, Colorado added a total of about 49,800 jobs in the last 6 years combined. That's every industry we're talking about — including the oil and gas industry.

With total nonfarm jobs in Colorado somewhere around 2.4 million, it would take an effort of gargantuan proportion to add or subtract many hundreds of thousands of jobs. You could argue with a straight face that 300,000 jobs will be added/subtracted over the course of several decades, but that's not really the implication in these talking points, now is it?

There are many arguments to be made for and against any subject, but once you start throwing big numbers around as casually as you might close important roads just to be a dick*, then you're really drifting into the land of imaginary facts. You're making shit up, in other words. 

 

(more…)

Minimum Wage Increase Gives Udall Strong Contrast with Gardner

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Sen. Mark Udall (left) has been an outspoken supporter of increasing the minimum wage. Cory Gardner (right), not so much.

Republican Senators today blocked an effort to move forward on legislation to increase the federal minimum wage, an issue that should nevertheless help Sen. Mark Udall draw a sharp contrast with Republican Rep. Cory Gardner in November. From NBC News:

A Democratic bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 was met with overwhelming Republican opposition in the Senate today, where it failed to garner the 60 votes needed to move past a key procedural hurdle.

The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), would have raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour over the next 30 months, after which automatic annual increases in the minimum wage would be executed to account for inflation. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was the only Republican who voted in favor of letting a debate on the measure proceed; it failed by a margin of 54-42…

…The federal minimum wage has been increased 22 times since it was first implemented in 1938, most recently in 2007 when it was raised from $5.15 per hour to the current $7.25 per hour by Democrats who had just gained control of both chambers of Congress. The annual pay for a full-time minimum wage worker currently sits at $14,500, which is below the poverty line for a household of more than one person.

Public sentiment is on the side of an increase, with 63 percent of Americans saying they would support a minimum wage hike to $10.10 per hour in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

67 percent of Colorado voters support minimum wage increaseThe NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is not the only recent public survey to show strong support for raising the minimum wage, both nationally and here in Colorado. In fact, voters in our state support a federal minimum wage increase by an even greater margin; a Quinnipiac University poll from February 2014 shows that Colorado voters support a minimum increase by a 67-31 margin.

Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet both voted to move the minimum wage increase forward, and Udall was not happy with the outcome of today's vote (full press release after the jump):

"Colorado and other states have shown that raising the minimum wage is a common-sense way to help hardworking families and protect our special way of life. The obstruction of this reasonable proposal — that would have helped 269,000 Coloradans and enhanced our state’s economy — is extremely disappointing and it strengthens my conviction that we must do more to improve Americans' economic mobility," Udall said. "This issue is far too important to fall by the wayside due to a minority of senators who are blocking progress, and I will keep fighting to empower hardworking Coloradans to make a living wage and provide for their families."

Congressman Cory Gardner has been relatively quiet on the most recent effort to raise the minimum wage, but his long record of opposition should allow Udall to draw an important distinction on another issue overhelmingly popular with Colorado voters (see: Personhood, Same-Sex Marriage, etc., etc.). Gardner was a vocal critic of a 2006 ballot measure to increase Colorado's minimum wage (Amendment 42, which passed by a 53-47 margin); a few months later, he voted against a state legislative measure to finalize implementation of the voter-approved amendment (HB07-1001; 1/22/07). Gardner also sponsored a floor amendment to strip Consumer Price Index-adjusted increases in the minimum wage (HB07-1001; 1/19/07) — completely ignoring the will of Colorado voters.

This is yet another example of how difficult it will be for Gardner to run a statewide race after years of representing highly-Republican districts in the most partisan fashion possible. Gardner can say whatever he wants about opposing a minimum wage increase, but that won't change the fact that his position is on the wrong side of the vast majority of Colorado voters.

(more…)

Cory Gardner’s Personhood Debacle Shows Inexperience, Problems Ahead

Cory Gardner's Personhood twist

Rep. Cory Gardner demonstrates the Personhood Pretzel move.

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

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

There is plenty of evidence that it isn't working, but the most damning piece of evidence is Gardner's own posturing and kneading of his position. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow recently dedicated an entire segment of her show to discussing Gardner's flip-floppity on Personhood. You can argue the level oif impact that Maddow may have on Colorado's Senate race, but that's not really the point. If Gardner hadn't spun himself dizzy over Personhood in the last 6 weeks, Maddow would not be devoting an entire segment to Gardner right now. You've read this line before on Colorado Pols, and it's a truism in politics that applies well to Gardner's situation: This didn't have to happen this way.

Gardner dropped his Personhood flip-flop bombshell on Friday, March 21, clearly hoping that a late Friday news dump would give him some cover for his astonishing change of heart on an issue that he once "supported" so wholeheartedly that he boasted in 2010 that he carried petitions to his church in support of a Personhood ballot measure in Colorado. In a letter from his Congressional office sent to a constituent on March 17 — just four days before his flip-flop — Gardner was reaffirming his support for Personhood.

How do you know when your strategy to avoid a difficult subject has failed? When you are still talking about it six weeks later.

In an interview with Shaun Boyd of CBS4 that aired last Friday, Gardner was asked again about his position on Personhood. He responded with a very specific qualifier:

On abortion, Gardner has voted for bills with and without exceptions for rape and incest. He also sponsored the “Life Begins At Conception Act” and once supported Personhood in Colorado, something he no longer supports.

In the State of Colorado, the Personhood Initiative I do not support,” said Gardner. [Pols emphasis] “I came to that opinion because of a number of issues including the fact that it would ban common forms of contraception.”

Note the bold part of the sentence above, where Gardner says, "In the State of Colorado…" The reason for the very specific wording in his answer is that Gardner has be a sponsor of the "Life Begins At Conception Act" in Congress, which is basically Personhood with a longer name. Gardner is saying, "In the State of Colorado…" because he is trying to patch a gaping self-inflicted wound that was clearly not well thought-out when he first went public with his flip-flop in March. As we wrote a day after Gardner's big flipperoo, trying to dump Personhood may not have been the no-brainer idea that some robotic political commentators once opined:

Put it this way: Gardner's campaign is in a worse position today than it was on Friday morning. Not only did Gardner not solve his "Personhood" problem, but he unnecessarily created new concerns for himself. He has now opened himself up to the always-effective "flip-flopper" attack, which will be particularly devastating for Gardner because there is video of him supporting "Personhood" with his own words. That problem boxes him in on a whole host of other difficult issues where his record won't align with moderate voters. From here on out, Gardner can't try to adjust his position on anything without feeding more fuel into the "flip-flopper" fire; that's very important, because the next stop after "flip-flopper" is "untrustworthy," which is extremely difficult to overcome.

It's worth pointing out, again, that Cory Gardner has won but two significant "elections" in his career, and both of them were decided by Republicans (a narrow 7-5 vacancy committee victory in 2005 that gave Gardner a safe State House seat, and a 2010 GOP Primary for the right to take on incumbent Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey in a heavily-Republican CD-4). Gardner has never even been a candidate in a highly-competitive General Election, and that lack of experience, combined with one of the most partisan records in recent memory, is proving the be exactly the problematic combination that we thought it might.

Nowhere has this played out more clearly than with the Personhood issue; not only has Gardner failed to put the issue behind him, he has actually raised more questions about where he stands on an issue that 70 percent of Colorado voters have repeatedly rejected. To make matters worse, Gardner has sufficiently angered a very active and vocal part of his Republican base — which, again, was unnecessary. What Gardner is now learning, which should have been obvious, is that you can't take a soft position on Personhood. You can't be "sort of" in favor of the idea that life begins at conception — particularly when you have sponsored similar legislation as recently as last summer. You are either in favor of Personhood, or opposed to Personhood; given Gardner's background on the issue, which Sen. Udall's campaign has documented in an infographic (after the jump), there was no way he was ever going to be able to convince people that his position had truly evolved.

The scary thing for Gardner supporters is not that their candidate has ineffectively tried to change his position on Personhood — it's that he keeps trying to explain himself, as he did with Shaun Boyd last week. Gardner opened this box of worms all on his own, and there's no closing the lid now.

(more…)

LCV Releases New Ad Highlighting Koch Brothers’ Smear Campaign to Elect Cory Gardner

(Return fire – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The League of Conservation Voters today launched a new television ad in the Colorado Senate race calling out the Koch Brothers’ smear campaign to help elect Congressman Cory Gardner in November. The ad, “Smear,” starts running this week and is part of LCV’s $1 million dollar ad campaign highlighting Gardner’s Big Oil ties.  

“The Koch Brothers are steering a million dollars into misleading ads to buy one of their biggest allies a promotion to the Senate. But Cory Gardner and his oil billionaire backers will find that the facts are not for sale,” said Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters.

"The Koch Brothers smear campaign and their dirty money politics have no place in Colorado. Voters deserve to know Cory Gardner's record supporting subsidies and giveaways to Big Oil.  While Gardner caters to Big Oil and the Koch Brothers, Colorado voters and our environment lose," said Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado.
 

The ad highlights that the Koch Brothers have spent $1 million on “false” and “misleading” attack ads to help elect their ally to the Senate. Gardner has sided with Big Oil and the Koch Brothers by repeatedly voting  to keep giving billions in special taxpayer-funded subsidies to oil companies at a time of record profits for the industry. Documentation for the ad can be found here.

Gardner even signed a pledge on taxes that would protect billions in Big Oil subsidies. Despite their repeated claims to the contrary, the Koch Brothers and their front group, Americans for Prosperity, have worked to keep these oil industry giveaways on the books to pad their bottom line.   

Earlier this month, LCV added Gardner to their Dirty Dozen program and released their first television ad in the race, which reminded voters that Gardner has taken more than $450,000 in contributions from the oil and gas industry while repeatedly voting to protect their tax breaks, subsidies and giveaways.

Gardner’s voting record earned him a horrible 9% lifetime score on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard. The non-partisan Scorecard is a nationally accepted yardstick used to rate members of Congress on environmental issues. Based on key environmental votes in the House and Senate, it is often used by the media to quickly describe a Member’s position. For more information, visit scorecard.lcv.org.

Ruh-Roh, Republicans: Gardner, Fracking Attracting More Money to Colorado

Republican Congressman Cory Gardner is well beyond the "honeymoon" stage of his initial campaign announcement in late February, which puts us well into the next act of examining his record as an elected official. And it's not just abortion and Personhood that is perking up ears across the country.

Bad News for Republicans in Colorado

Ruh-Roh, Republicans!

Gardner's extreme partisan record on environmental issues is drawing new interest to Colorado's Senate race. Last week, the League of Conservation Voters kicked off a $1 million ad buy criticizing Gardner for his anti-environment record and naming him to their "Dirty Dozen" program. On the heels of that announcement came news this week that the CREDO SuperPAC has included Colorado in its small list of targeted Senate races; CREDO plans to spend at least $500,000 for both TV ads and to hire some 30 organizers.

Both Gardner and the Oil and Gas industry would be right to be a little nervous about the level of support in Colorado from LCV and CREDO, but they may have a far bigger concern on their horizon. Colorado Pols has learned that representatives for Tom Steyer were in Colorado this week to discuss Steyer's potential involvement in both the Senate race and a possible ballot measure related to concerns about fracking safety. Steyer is a retired billionaire investor who is becoming increasingly active in progressive political issues. As the New York Times reported in February:

The donor, Tom Steyer, a Democrat who founded one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, burst onto the national political scene during last year’s elections, when he spent $11 million to help elect Terry McAuliffe governor of Virginia and millions more intervening in a Democratic congressional primary in Massachusetts. Now he is rallying other deep-pocketed donors, seeking to build a war chest that would make his political organization, NextGen Climate Action, among the largest outside groups in the country, similar in scale to the conservative political network overseen by Charles and David Koch.

In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own.

We understand the legislature is furiously working on something that would make a fracking ballot measure unnecessary, but Steyer has openly looked at funding such a measure in California in 2016, and his involvement could certainly change the dynamic here in Colorado — both for Gardner and any potential ballot measure.