Udall/CIA “Hacking” Flap Heats Up

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

​As the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe reports, a fight over the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's oversight of Central Intelligence Agency detention and interrogations programs, which prominently features Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, is escalating rapidly:

The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday sharply accused the CIA of violating federal law and undermining the constitutional principle of congressional oversight as she detailed publicly for the first time how the agency secretly removed documents from computers used by her panel to investigate a controversial interrogation program.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that the situation amounted to attempted intimidation of congressional investigators, adding: “I am not taking it lightly.”

She confirmed that an internal agency investigation of the action has been referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. And she said that the CIA appears to have violated the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as various federal laws and a presidential executive order that prevents the agency from conducting domestic searches and surveillance.

She has sought an apology and recognition that the CIA search of the committee’s computers was inappropriate, she said. “I have received neither,” she added.

Here is Sen. Udall's statement on developments today:

"I applaud Chairman Feinstein for setting the record straight today on the Senate floor about the CIA's actions to subvert congressional oversight," Udall said. "The actions the chairman outlined are the latest events that illustrate why I directly pushed CIA Director Brennan to acknowledge the flaws in and misrepresentations about the CIA's brutal and ineffective detention and interrogation program. Unfortunately, the CIA responded by trying to hide the truth from the American people about this program and undermine the Senate Intelligence Committee's oversight role by illegally searching committee computers. The U.S. Constitution is clear and Coloradans agree: The separation of powers and aggressive oversight are fundamental to our democracy, and Coloradans can count on me to continue to protect these foundational pillars no matter who is in the White House." [Pols emphasis]

For its part, the CIA denies everything:

Shortly after Feinstein's speech, CIA director John Brennan denied her allegations.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Brennan said at an event in Washington. "We wouldn't do that."

It should be noted that Sen. Udall has consistently tacked to the left of Sen. Dianne Feinstein on oversight issues related to intelligence and national security. Feinstein has been widely criticized for being overly deferential to the CIA and NSA alike as chair of the Intelligence Committee–especially after the recent revelations by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. So to see Udall and Feinstein on the same page publicly challenging the CIA is pretty good evidence that this was indeed a serious breach.

In addition to the political benefits we've discussed for Sen. Udall in an election year, it's important to have members of President Barack Obama's own party challenging excesses in the name of national security just as they did during the Bush administration (when most of these surveillance and detention programs either came into existence or were greatly expanded). Anyone who legitimately cares about personal liberty should be every bit as upset with these alleged abuses occurring under Obama as they were under the Republican administration of George W. Bush–and obviously, that works in reverse for Republicans who are suddenly up in arms about surveillance they didn't mind when a Republican was in the White House.

Udall, unlike many of his peers, can truthfully say he has been consistent on this issue without fear or favor.

Cory Gardner Polls Similar to Randy Baumgardner in Senate Race

GardnerStache

Maybe Cory Gardner would poll better if he had Randy Baumgardner’s moustache.

New polling data on Colorado's U.S. Senate race was made available today by the right-leaning firm Rasmussen Reports, and the results are telling in their sameness compared to previous polls. Rasmussen now keeps Toplines and Crosstabs behind a paywall, so we don't know the answer to the question that we've always found more telling than anything ("very favorable" vs. "very unfavorable" ratings). But in a head-to-head matchup, here's how Rasmussen sees it right now:

Mark Udall: 42%
Cory Gardner: 41%
Other: 5%
Undecided: 13%

Astute readers might recall that these numbers are not all that different from the last public poll in this race: The Quinnipiac University poll in early February. Here's how Quinnipiac shook out the numbers one month ago on the question of theoretical head-to-head matchups:

Mark Udall: 45%
Ken Buck: 42%

Mark Udall: 43%
Randy Baumgardner: 41%

Mark Udall: 44%
Owen Hill: 39%

Mark Udall: 43%
Amy Stephens: 41%

As we've discussed in this space before, we have a hard time seeing how Gardner is going to be able to move to the middle and raise his low name ID in time to defeat Udall in November (assuming, of course, that Owen Hill does not win the GOP Primary). Gardner may be a better U.S. Senate candidate for Republicans because of his fundraising ability, but he's not an election-changing candidate in and of himself.

Baumgardner's 41% in the Quinnipiac poll last month was essentially an example of how a "generic Republican" might fare in a head-to-head matchup with Udall. One month later, the GOP's beacon of hope (Gardner, in case you were getting confused) is polling no better than a guy known only for his outlandish moustache. If the polls are correct, Gardner is no different than any other "generic Republican" choice at this point in the election cycle. If that's still a "game changer," maybe we're talking about different games.

 

Ain’t No Party Like a Tea Party Party: Gardner Really Needs Hill to Drop Out

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week has some useful information on the Tea Party that may play a significant role in Colorado's GOP Senate primary.

Sean Sullivan at the Washington Post breaks down the relevant numbers. Yes, you've see this movie before, but it's worth noting that the Tea Party continues to be a problem for Republicans:

By nearly 2-1, Republicans say a candidate's tea party affiliation makes it more likely they will vote for them, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But by about the same margin, the broader pool of Americans is less likely to vote for that candidate. [Pols emphasis]

In short, it's generally a good idea for GOP candidates to embrace the tea party in a primary. But in swing districts and states, it's typically a bad one to do it — or at least to do it too much — in the general election. That makes for a tricky proposition. And it's a dynamic that explains why the Republican Party in numerous races has nominated tea party candidates who played well in primaries but fell flat in the general election (See Mourdock, Richard and Cuccinelli, Ken.)…

…The poll shows that independents are about as hostile toward tea party candidates as the rest of the electorate, with 34 percent saying it would make them less likely to support them, compared with only 15 percent who said it would make them more likely to vote for those candidates. Democrats, unsurprisingly, show virtually no warmth toward tea party candidates.

Colorado Senate Tea Party

Will that be one lump, or two?

This data is particularly relevant in the U.S. Senate primary between Rep. Cory Gardner and state Sen. Owen Hill. Prior to Gardner's entry into the GOP field last week, Hill had been racking up some pretty strong Tea Party endorsements. Of course, Gardner has been a darling of the Tea Party as well since his 2010 campaign for Congress in CD-4, and he has enthusiastically voted with Tea Party positions during his time in Congress.

The Tea Party Conundrum comes into play differently depending on the campaign's focus, so let's look at the scenarios:

1. Republican Primary
Will Hill or Gardner secure more votes among Tea Party voters in the June Primary? Hill absolutely must have Tea Party support to beat Gardner, so he'll be less concerned about how that support might impact him in the fall. Hill's message of a "backroom deal" to get Gardner in the Senate race should play will with anti-establishment Tea Party types — the sort of voters who would love to demonstrate their disgust with insider politics by propelling Hill to an upset victory.

Gardner, meanwhile, needs to keep some of his Tea Party support to make sure he checks Hill in a Primary, and his record as the 10th most partisan Republican in Congress will allow him to do that. However…
 

2. General Election
Gardner is facing the same problem that Ken Buck saw in his 2010 Senate campaign. If you can't win the Primary, then the General Election is irrelevant — so it makes sense to play all of your Tea Party chits in June and not try to over-strategize for November. But as Buck and countless other Tea Party-backed candidates found out, the label is serious baggage in a General Election. And as the Washington Post-ABC News poll shows, any hope that such a divide might be different in 2014 can be put to bed.

There's a great graphic on the Washington Post website that shows how the numbers play out. Voters in general, and specifically "Independent" voters, say that they are considerably less likely to vote for a Tea Party-backed candidate in a General Election. Those numbers are so high in part because even Republican voters say they are just 18% more likely to vote for a Tea Party-backed candidate; in other words, average GOP voters aren't thrilled with the Tea Party, either.

All of this leads to a fairly obvious conclusion: Gardner really needs Hill to drop out of the U.S. Senate race. Sure, Gardner would be favored to beat Hill in a GOP Primary, but at what cost? In one sense, Gardner could use Hill's Tea Party support as a means to distance himself from the Tea Party should he win the June Primary. But that approach only works if Gardner actually forsakes public support of the Tea Party before the Primary; otherwise, saying "I defeated the Tea Party candidate in a Primary" becomes a lie that is much-too-easily-debunked.

The Tea Party conundrum affects all Republican candidates, of course, but no race will be more high-profile than the U.S. Senate. And Gardner's Tea Party connections are just one more reason why we've openly wondered what National Republicans see that makes them think Gardner is the solution to their problems. Yes, Gardner should be able to raise much more money than any of the Republican candidates thus far, but his baggage may even be worse than what Buck carried around in 2010. How much money will it take to convince voters to believe what Cory is saying — and to forget about what he has done?

 

Rove-Style Audacity: Attacking Mark Udall On National Security

Sens. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Sens. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

​As you may have read in the New York Times this week, Colorado Sen. Mark Udall is front-and-center in another controversy over "extraordinary measures" taken in recent years to protect national security:

The Central Intelligence Agency’s attempt to keep secret the details of a defunct detention and interrogation program has escalated a battle between the agency and members of Congress and led to an investigation by the C.I.A.’s internal watchdog into the conduct of agency employees.

The agency’s inspector general began the inquiry partly as a response to complaints from members of Congress that C.I.A. employees were improperly monitoring the work of staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to government officials with knowledge of the investigation…

The specifics of the inspector general’s investigation are unclear. But several officials interviewed in recent days — all of whom insisted on anonymity, citing a continuing inquiry — said it began after the C.I.A. took what Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, on Tuesday called an “unprecedented action” against the committee.

The action, which Mr. Udall did not describe, took place after C.I.A. officials came to suspect that congressional staff members had gained unauthorized access to agency documents during the course of the Intelligence Committee’s years-long investigation into the detention and interrogation program.

As you can see, the details of this latest incident between inquiring elected officials and the "national security community" are shrouded in mystery–because they are classified. Even when someone in Udall's position feels they must speak out about improprieties they become aware of through classified information they are privy to, in most cases, they can't. In this latest case, reports suggest that the Central Intelligence Agency was monitoring computers used by Senate staff. The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reported Tuesday night:

Various news agencies reported the CIA is now investigating whether its officers improperly monitored committee staffers and possibly their computers after Udall publicly revealed in December the existence of an internal CIA report that contradicted public comments about the program. The CIA questioned how the committee got the report.

"I'm deeply concerned that the CIA is trying to subvert congressional oversight through intimidation," Udall told The Post. "My job is to fight like hell to make sure the CIA never dodges congressional oversight again and that the White House publicly commits to declassify as much of the intelligence's committee report as possible."

He conceded that might not make him popular with the president, but Udall said his oversight role is "sacred, regardless of who is in the White House."

Politically, this latest clash with the Obama administration over national security policies (and excesses) is quite good for Sen. Udall. With President Barack Obama's approval numbers suffering post-Obamacare rollout, Udall's public role in opposition to controversial national security issues like harsh interrogation methods and domestic surveillance provide a means of differentiating Udall from Obama with Colorado's independent electorate. Although most Republicans–and yes, some Democrats–have to reckon with personal hypocrisy, Udall does not–and can credibly hold civil liberties and national security up as evidence of his independence.

With all of this in mind, we're amused to see conservative mouthpieces trying to attack Udall on this issue:

One of the earliest time-honored strategies developed by Republican brainiac Karl Rove is the simple practice of never leaving any issue unanswered–even where one's opponent is the very strongest. We're seeing more attempts like the Tweet above by Republicans to attack Udall over his handling of national security issues from the left–that is, attempting to claim that Udall "didn't do enough" to stop the practices he has decried in cryptic terms from his position on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee.

Of course, Udall couldn't do that, any more than he can go into details about this latest controversy involving Senate staffers and the CIA. Because the information is classified. Any reasonable analysis makes clear Udall has done everything he could do to alert the American public about these controversies, and is one of very few lawmakers in either party who civil liberties advocates can trust.

Hopefully, it will make more than a few chutzpah-laden Tweets to change that perception.

Ukraine Makes Its Way Into Colorado Politics

We suppose it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. From Politico:

Momentum is building in Congress to wield the United States’ vast natural gas resources to break Vladimir Putin’s energy stranglehold over Ukraine — although some lawmakers acknowledged their efforts would have no immediate impact on the crisis in Crimea.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) introduced bills Wednesday to make it easier to export natural gas to countries including Ukraine, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee is working on its own legislation. Meanwhile, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is seeking new momentum for a bill he introduced last year that would give Ukraine, Japan and NATO members the same preferential access to U.S. gas as countries that have free-trade agreements with the United States…

…The legislation builds on days of pleas from lawmakers in both parties, including House Speaker John Boehner, for the Obama administration to unleash energy exports as a wedge against Russia, which supplies 30 percent of Europe’s natural gas using pipelines that largely run through Ukraine.

Sen. Mark Udall's bill will be followed up today by a similar measure from…guess who? Reports The Hill:

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) will introduce a bill on natural gas exports Thursday, a congressional source told The Hill.

Gardner, who recently announced his campaign against Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), will introduce details Thursday.

Dueling bills on Ukraine! Intense!

 

Udall, Gardner Campaigns Begin to Lay Out Strategy

Rep. Cory Gardner

Rep. Cory Gardner

From FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Now, Udall’s campaign is quickly shifting gears, going on offense and trying to define Gardner early in the race as someone whose conservative voting record is outside the mainstream — more conservative even than Ken Buck, one of the former GOP Senate hopefuls now planning to run for Gardner’s House seat.

“We’ve swapped one reckless Tea Partier for another,” said Udall’s campaign manager Adam Dunstone. “But unlike Ken Buck, Congressman Gardner will be held to account for the out-of-touch votes he cast in Congress. His voting record placed him in the top ten most conservative members of the House, while radicals like Rep. Tom Tancredo never cracked the top 50.”

That ranking is courtesy of National Journal, which ranked Gardner as the 10th most conservative member in the House based on his votes in 2012…

…[The Udall] campaign deeply believes that once voters in this rapidly changing state learn more about Gardner’s votes, they’ll find him similar to Buck, no matter how smooth a talker he may be.

We've said as much about Gardner in this space before. Once the newness of Gardner's campaign has passed, and both the media and voters turn more attention to Gardner's recent history, it's difficult to see how Cory can present himself as more moderate than Ken Buck. It's going to be even more difficult for Gardner than it would have been for Buck to run a strong "anti-incumbent" message when Gardner is a sitting member of Congress; there's a reason that the press releases sent out by Udall's campaign use "Congressman Cory Gardner" in the header image.

As for Gardner, he seem to be betting the farm that he can beat Udall by saying the word "Obamacare" repeatedly. Again, from FOX 31:

When asked about his record at his campaign kickoff event Saturday morning, Gardner offered a response that likely encapsulates his campaign strategy of focusing almost exclusively on Obamacare, which Udall supported.

Gardner can certainly get some traction by attacking Udall on Obamacare, but there's no way that will be enough to win this race in November (assuming Gardner gets through a Republican Primary). Gardner's low statewide name ID means that he must define himself as well as attack Udall — and he must do it before Udall does it for him (see above). As we saw in 2008, merely repeating the same thing over and over again (ie, "Boulder Liberal" Mark Udall) isn't a very sound strategy for winning a U.S. Senate seat.

 

Cory Gardner: The Devil You’ll Soon Know

The Colorado Independent's John Tomasic offers solid analysis today of the entry of Congressman Cory Gardner into the 2014 U.S. Senate race. As we began working through yesterday, once the elation among Republicans that an incumbent member of Congress will take on incumbent Democrat Mark Udall wears off, serious questions about the viability of Gardner as the top-line Republican candidate on the 2014 ballot present themselves:

Young and telegenic, career Colorado politico Gardner has been touted as the great hope for a state Republican Party that for years has lost races for top seats. The main, widely acknowledged reason for those defeats is that GOP candidates have been pulled to the right by a hard-core activist base while the broader state electorate has moved to the left.

But as top Republicans have struggled, Gardner has easily garnered votes. He won two elections to the Colorado legislature in a sparsely populated agricultural eastern plains district. In 2010, he was the only candidate in the Republican field with any experience as a lawmaker running in the state’s safely conservative high-plains Fourth Congressional District. He went from the Statehouse to the nation’s Capitol by espousing hardline Tea Party positions on social issues and energy policy.

Republicans here generally seem to be banking on Gardner as a political type that has been missing in the ranks as late. The hope is that he can sell a brand that has increasingly skewed old, hardcore, inflexible and threatening. That’s the image projected by statewide figures such as Ken Buck, Pete Coors, Bob Beauprez and Tom Tancredo. Insiders see Gardner as more in line with Republicans of the past who enjoyed more mainstream appeal, men like Wayne Allard, Bill Owens or Hank Brown, who all won top offices in the state.

The question now is whether Gardner, coming up as he has in the era of the Tea Party and embracing Tea Party positions for political advantage, has ruined his chance at convincing voters he is different than the Tea Party Republicans who can’t win a statewide race here. [Pols emphasis] Gardner, after all, has a record he has to run on, established over years where the party swerved right and away from compromise. When Gardner takes aim at Udall over Obamacare, Udall can fire back that Gardner voted to shut down the government. In the moderate middle-class Denver suburbs where elections are decided in Colorado, the angry, pointless, expensive shutdown may be at least as toxic a topic as Obamacare.

As we said, Gardner's entry into the Senate race is the direct result of the weak, out-of-touch field contending up until yesterday. The problem, much like Ken Buck himself, is that Gardner has already embraced all manner of unsightly hard-right positions from his safe Republican seat in Congress. Gardner is an proud supporter of the "Personhood" abortion ban, as the video above makes unequivocally clear. Gardner's biggest asset, a higher profile as a congressional incumbent also works against him–denying Republicans the anti-incumbency furor that might otherwise help them in this race.

Gardner faces other difficulties unique to himself, like his highly visible role in the controversy over disaster relief funds after last year's floods along the Front Range. East Coast politicians, including GOP Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, raged at Gardner and the rest of the Colorado GOP delegation as "hypocrites" after they voted against relief for Hurricane Sandy victims some months before. Gardner's name has surfaced several times as a participant in swanky fundraisers and overseas junkets.

The point is, and this is what we're increasingly hearing today from Democrats looking at this fundamentally reshaped race, is that the race remains entirely winnable for Mark Udall against Gardner–even more so if you assume, as seems safe, that whoever won the GOP primary would have enjoyed the support of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and other big-money Republicans. Okay, maybe not Randy Baumgardner. But when all is said and done, it may well be that Cory Gardner was no better prepared to defeat Udall than Amy Stephens.

How many of you said the same about Jane Norton four years ago?

Buck Can’t Help But Screw Up One More Time

Why is this room so smoky?

Why is this room so smoky?

Republican Ken Buck has been a pretty bad candidate for the U.S. Senate up until this point, which is why he has agreed to drop out of the race and run for the now-open House seat in CD-4. But it would be so un-Buck like to just walk of the statewide stage without missing a step on the way down.

Buck told the Greeley Tribune this afternoon that he and Rep. Cory Gardner had been talking about making the switch for about 10 days. D'oh!!!

Why is that such a problem? Gardner was already going to have to defend charges that this was a "backroom deal" (see Owen Hill's comments), but he could have danced around the question if there was still some ambiguity. But now, thanks to Buck, there is no way that Gardner can pretend that this was anything but a "backroom deal?"

 

(STILL BREAKING): How Does Cory Gardner for Senate Make Any Sense At All?

They too would like to be your Senator.

And the Republican clown car rolls on…

Okay, so let's get this straight…The Republican Party is going to defeat Sen. Mark Udall with Rep. Cory Gardner? The GOP thinks their best chance in 2014 is running an anti-incumbent message through an incumbent member of Congress — which is now the most disliked group of individuals in the history of public polling?

Huh?!?

The current crop of Republican candidates for Senate is, in a word, terrible. All of the candidates have massive flaws, from publicly backing Personhood to supporting the government shutdown. All of the candidates are unappealing to women and Hispanic voters. All of the candidates are from outside the Denver Metro Area — which is where the most voters are concentrated…

RedCheck
…BUT SO IS CORY GARDNER!!!


Consider this list and where Gardner ends up: You can put a checkmark next to his name and every one of these problematic issues for Republicans in 2014:

X    Personhood supporter
X    Backed government shutdown
X    Opposes immigration reform efforts
X    Opposes in-state tuition for immigrants
X    Has favored "redefining" definition of rape
X    Wants to shut down Departments of Energy and Transportation
X    Has low statewide name ID
X    Is weak with women and Hispanic voters
 X  Opposes civil unions
 X  Talked favorably about Eastern Colorado Secession

The point here isn't to just list the problems with a Cory Gardner campaign for U.S. Senate. The point is to show that there is no major issue where Cory Gardner is any different or better for Republicans in 2014 than any of the existing GOP Senate candidates. Different body, same head (or is it the other way around?)

In fact, you could make an argument that Gardner is potentially worse than the current crop of candidates because: a) his candidacy was born in a smoke-filled backroom in Washington D.C., which nobody ever likes, b) he makes it harder to run an anti-incumbent message against Udall, and c) he's been in the news recently for high-profile Congressional junkets.

We understand that Gardner will probably be a much better fundraiser than any of the current candidates (though it would be hard to do worse when 2014 Republicans have been HISTORICALLY bad), but how is he anything more than a younger version of Ken Buck? (and we mean the 2014 version of Buck, not even the 2010 model).

 

Despite letter informing him otherwise, Gardner falsely states that 335,000 Coloradans lost health insurance due to Obamacare

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

On KNUS' Kelley and Company a few weeks ago, Rep. Cory Gardner said:

Gardner (@ 1:30): "I would gladly bring Barack Obama and take him around the state of Colorado, introduce him to the 335,000 Coloradans who lost their health insurance thanks to Barack Obama's bill that Mark Udall passed."

Gardner would have a tough time with these introductions because 335,000 such people do not exist. It's not true that 335,000 Coloradans lost their health insurance thanks to Obamacare.

I wondered how Gardner could make this egregious mistake, because The Denver Post reported that the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) wrote a letter specifically to Gardner, informing him that 335,000 Coloradans were sent letters stating that their health insurance policies were cancelled. They were advised of other health-insurance options, one of which, for 92 percent of these people, was to renew their existing policies or choose from other options.

(more…)

Poll: Land Use, Clean Air and Water Could Impact 2014 Elections

Colorado College has released results from its 4th Annual "Conservation in the West" poll, which shows that voters are increasingly considering conservation and environmental issues when making their decisions at the ballot box. From a press release:

This year’s bipartisan survey of 2,400 registered voters across six states looked at voter attitudes on a list of issues, including land use, water supplies, air quality and public lands’ impact on the economy. The results show overwhelming – 85 percent – agreement that when the government closes national parks and other public lands, small businesses and communities' economies in the West suffer. In a follow up message to elected officials and land managers, 83 percent believe funding to national parks, forests and other public lands should not be cut, as it provides a big return on a small investment.
 
"The Rocky Mountain region is politically diverse, with communities running the spectrum from red (predominantly) to purple to blue,” said Colorado College McHugh Professor of Leadership and American Institutions and regular Colorado political commentator Tom Cronin. “These poll results reinforce that a love for protected lands ties western voters together. Westerners across the political spectrum support the work of public land managers and expect conserved public lands to remain that way."
 
Other public sentiments expressed in the survey include that:

  • 72 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to promote more use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
  • 69 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports enhancing protections for some public lands, like national forests.
  • 58 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who votes to increase funding for land-managing agencies like the U.S. Forest Service. 

The survey also holds warning signs for candidates, including that:

  • 72 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports selling public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit.
  • 67 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who reduces funding for agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.
  • 54 percent of westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who voted to stop taxpayer support for solar and wind energy companies.

Of particular interest is how much conservation and environmental issues tend to have a stronger impact on Hispanic voters, who aren't only interested in the issue of immigration reform. If Colorado Republicans are going to start winning over Hispanic voters, renewable energy, clean air, and clean water is a good place to start.

Ain’t No Party Like a Tea Party Party

GOP Senate candidates Ken Buck and Owen Hill.

One of these men is NOT Ken Buck.

Republican Senate candidate Owen Hill is a "new" Republican leader, which is a really-not-very-subtle way of saying that he's not Ken Buck. As the Greeley Tribune (firewall) reports, Hill has received the endorsement of The Tea Party Express, a national Tea Party group that endorsed Buck in 2010 (back when they still liked Buck, apparently). As it turns out, a bunch of local Tea Party groups aren't happy about this:

But a Colorado Issues Coalition news release said Monday that the Colorado Tea Party Patriots, Arapahoe Tea Party, 285 Corridor Tea Party, Evergreen Tea Party, North JeffCo Tea Party, Lakewood Tea Party, South JeffCo Tea Party and Bears Ears Patriots stand together to disavow the endorsement for Hill, a 31-year-old state senator…

…“This out-of-state organization with no local grass roots ties does not speak with the consent nor consensus of the many tea party, 9.12 and other liberty groups in Colorado,” said Regina Thomson, president of the Colorado Tea Party Patriots.

No, we don't know much about "Bears Ears Patriots" either, but it sounds cool.

The Tea Party Express has an independent expenditure arm called Our Country Deserves Better, which is running this ad in a two-week cable buy beginning today. Owen Hill — he's not Ken Buck!

This infighting among Tea Party groups is one of the most significant problems that Americans For Prosperity and the Koch brothers didn't really think out when they were trying to build a group of activists with no central leadership. When you don't have a central leadership structure, you can operate more like a grassroots advocacy group. But when you don't have a central leadership structure, there is nobody to convene to try to talk things out.

In other words, it looks like Colorado is in for a Tea Party fight. Start scrounging for scones and crumpets, or whatever.

Beauprez’s Dancing Highlights GOP Anxiety in 2014

Groucho, Not KarlThe more we watch the saga of Bob Beauprez, candidate for (Governor/Senate/Student Council?), the more we are reminded of this famous quote from actor Groucho Marx. The quote doesn't quite fit for Beauprez, necessarily, but is fairly spot-on if you attribute the saying to Colorado Republicans. Since his historic implosion as a candidate for Governor in 2006, Beauprez has floated his name as a potential candidate for Governor or Senate more often than some state legislators take a bath (we're kidding, we're kidding: we're sure most of you are bathing). The response Beauprez has received from Republican leaders in Colorado has been fairly consistent; a polite, 'maybe this is not your year' from some folks, while most just pretended they weren't home when Beauprez rang the doorbell.

But that was then. Now? Now, things are different…sort of. Now Republican leaders just pretend they're not home when any of their candidates for Governor or Senate come to call. And there's Beauprez, grinning like Jim Carrey's character from Dumb and Dumber, after being told by the woman of his dreams that he had a '1-in-a-million' chance of dating her: "So you're saying there's a chance…"

Fox 31's Eli Stokols has been on the Beauprez watch for months now, and then last Wednesday, Colorado Pols reported that Beauprez was close to entering the race for Governor. Then, on Thursday, Beauprez sent out a vague Tweet saying that he was 100% committed to trying to bring the 2016 Republican National Convention to Denver. The next day, Friday (Feb

Beauprez, via The Colorado Statesman.

Beauprez, via The Colorado Statesman.

. 7), Beauprez was quoted extensively by Jody Hope Strogoff in The Colorado Statesman. He doesn't exactly sound like a guy who doesn't want to talk about running for Governor:

Asked whether he might bow out of his RNC role after the upcoming deadline, Beauprez said he has “the intention to stay.”

But Beauprez also acknowledged he’s cognizant of the upcoming caucuses to be held on March 4, and the earlier than usual election calendar that has the primary election on June 24. “It’s on my mind, sure,” he said, dashing speculation that he’s ruled out a race for governor in total.

“Are you 100 percent not running?” The Statesman queried.

“We’ll see,” Beauprez said.

“I’ll admit I’m curious, but [have] not made a decision,” Beauprez also said during the interview.

Look, it's no secret that Beauprez wants to run for something statewide, but after so many years of being politely brushed off, maybe now he's just taking his time to pretend to be talked into it. Republicans know that none of their current candidates can beat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, and as much as they may still harbor some resentment over Beauprez's horrible, no-good 2006 campaign, he at least has the ability to self-fund a campaign — a big plus when the rest of the field is having a bit of trouble raising money. Will Beauprez ultimately make the jump and run for Governor (or still, perhaps, U.S. Senate)? It sure looks like it, but that's only part of the story.

The real story here is a Republican Party that is so divided and confused that someone like Beauprez, a shamed former candidate, can even contemplate running for Governor or Senate even though the General Election is less than 9 months away. Not only can he contemplate either race — he can actually give serious consideration into running for either office. When Udall first ran for the Senate against Republican Bob Schafer in 2008, both candidates had been raising serious cash and support for months. You'd have been out of your mind to even consider mounting a challenge to either candidate in Feb. 2008, when Schaffer was sitting on more than $1.5 million and Udall nearly $4 million, respectively. Of course, in those days, the Republican Party actually had some ability to talk bad candidates out of running in order to clear a Primary.

Whether Beauprez runs or not is almost a moot point. What matter is that he even could run. He's not the man they want. He's not the man they need. But he can't be any worse than what they've got now.

 

Have Congressional Approval Ratings Lost Their Meaning?

The latest polling on the Colorado Senate race was released on Thursday from Quinnipiac University, and while the head-to-head matchups normally get the headlines, we've always looked more closely at approval ratings as a stronger barometer of election outcomes. The head-to-head matchups are fun to note, but they are often little more than snapshots of support for "generic opposition Party" versus the incumbent; something is obviously off when Republican Randy Baumgardner, who has raised as much money for his campaign as you have, appears to be within striking distance of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

According to Quinnipiac, 45% of Colorado voters approve of the job Udall is doing in the Senate, while 41% disapprove. On a scale of 1-100, that doesn't look very good. But we can't really use that scale because the playing field for federal candidates is oddly skewed. With approval ratings for Congress in general at historic lows of around 10%, you could make the argument that a 45% approval rating is actually pretty good.

In a recent national Gallup poll, only 17% of registered voters (also a record low) say that most members of Congress deserve re-election:

[V]oters see their own U.S. representative in the same way that they see most other members of Congress — as not deserving re-election.

But here in Colorado, voters are split 42-42 on whether or not Sen. Udall deserves to be re-elected. The Gallup poll was asking about members of the House of Representatives, but the word "Congress" has traditionally been assigned to include both chambers in Washington D.C. Do voters think more highly in general of their U.S. Senators than their House members? Do more people assume the word "Congress" to apply only to the House, and not the Senate?

Whatever the dynamic at play here, the historic unpopularity of Congress has to be a major factor when you try to measure the approval ratings of a particular U.S. Senator — you can't currently take any numbers at face value without considering that inherent dislike of the entire legislative body. This shows up when you look at approval ratings around the country for incumbents facing re-election in 2014. Here's a sampling of the most current available numbers for a handful of Democratic incumbents running for re-election:

Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK): 43-44
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL): 46-40
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA): 46-43

Could Udall's approval ratings be better? Sure…but how much better could they realistically get at a time when Congress is so disliked?

Bob Beauprez Getting Close to Running…for Governor?

UPDATE: One of the first things Bob Beauprez will need to answer for as a gubernatorial candidate is his glowing praise in 2010 for prospective 2014 opponent Tom Tancredo. Check out this video we were just forwarded of Beauprez introducing Tancredo at a 2010 campaign event:

Apparently, things have changed.

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Both Ways Bob Beauprez

“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right).

Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez really, really, really wants to run for elected office again. Beauprez has wanted to jump in a high-profile race ever since 2006, when he ended his bid for Governor by losing in a landslide to Democrat Bill Ritter. It wasn't just that Beauprez lost in 2006 — it goes much deeper than that. Beauprez's 2006 campaign for Governor is widely considered the worst statewide campaign in the history of Colorado, and many Republicans have never forgiven him for not only botching that race, but for giving up his incumbency as a sitting member of Congress in CD-7 (a seat that Republicans have never even come close to reclaiming since Ed Perlmutter won the open seat in 2006). Beauprez has comically (and sadly, on occasion) tried floating his own name for Senate or Governor in the years since his 2006 debacle, but his fishing expeditions have been about as successful as casting a line in his bathtub.

Nevertheless, rumors are growing that Beauprez has moved beyond the stage of looking longingly at a statewide race — and into a new position of preparing to make his candidacy official…for Governor.

Yes, Governor.

Beauprez has seen the polling numbers on the Governor's race, which show Tom Tancredo as an incredibly weak frontrunner on the GOP side. Beauprez has seen the anemic fundraising numbers, with Tancredo outraising other Republicans but also spending more money than he raised in Q4. The Gubernatorial race probably looks pretty enticing to Beauprez, who has one major advantage: He can self-fund a campaign and quickly expend more resources than his fellow GOP candidates who are restricted by the low contribution limits for Governor. Yet, we are still surprised to hear that Beauprez is leaning towards running for Governor because of that one giant albatross from 2006; Republicans have been there and done that with Beauprez before, and it was an absolute disaster.

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