Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 15)

Welcome, comrades! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may be gone, but the Russian cloud enveloping the White House isn’t dissipating one bit. As the New York Times reports today in its lead story:

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election…

…The call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove of information that the F.B.I. is sifting through as it investigates the links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government, as well as the hacking of the D.N.C., according to federal law enforcement officials. As part of its inquiry, the F.B.I. has obtained banking and travel records and conducted interviews, the officials said.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

As the Washington Post writes this morning:

The credibility gap – maybe chasm is a better word at this point – keeps widening for Donald Trump and his White House.

And what does President Trump have to say about all of this? As Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix”:

Trump’s response to these serious allegations, which have already cost him his national security adviser and now threaten the foundations of his presidency, has been decidedly flippant.  In a tweetstorm Wednesday morning, Trump blamed the “fake news” media and Hillary Clinton for the stories and sought to pivot the conversation to how the information regarding the contacts between his campaign and the Russians leaked out…

…Given the seriousness of those allegations, tweets about the Clinton campaign or the “fake news” aren’t going to cut it.  Congressional Republicans are getting more and more worried that this situation is spinning out of control and has the possibility to do serious damage to the entire party less than a month into the Trump presidency.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) — a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — has been rather quiet about the White House Russia scandal. In an interview with Denver7 on Tuesday, Gardner said…well, nothing, really. Gardner seems to be falling apart in general under the strain of his 100% voting record with Trump.

Meanwhile, Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) is pushing for a full investigation into the Trump administration’s ties with Russia. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is also pushing for an official inquiry.

 

► Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is suing Boulder County for its unwillingness to open up its lands for oil and gas drilling.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (February 14)

Happy Valentine’s Day! (unless you are in PakistanIt’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The word of the day week month year is “Russia.” Washington D.C. and the rest of the country are in a tizzy after last night’s resignation from Michael Flynn, who had served as Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor for about three whole weeks. Flynn resigned amid growing concern over his conversation(s) with Russia back in December — which would appear to be a violation of the “Logan Act” that prohibits Americans from working to undermine foreign policy goals.

President Trump’s sort-of-official response is that Trump himself asked for Flynn’s resignation (though this has been contradicted by White House sources, including Kellyanne Conway). This story is now so far out of the bag that calls for a full investigation into the Trump administration’s ties with Russia will grow louder with each passing hour. From the Washington Post:

A top Senate Republican said Tuesday that Congress should probe the circumstances leading up to the resignation of President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“I think in all likelihood it should be part of the intel committee’s review of what’s happened with Russia, yes,” said Senate GOP Conference Vice Chair Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Here in Colorado, Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is also calling for a full Congressional investigation (as House Republicans dawdle). Meanwhile, all eyes and ears are on Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who has thus far remained silent on Flynn and the Russian controversy. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gardner should have direct access to information about this growing scandal.

 

► Check out the latest episode of the “Get More Smarter Show” to learn more about the nomination of Colorado judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

 

► Former one-term Republican lawmaker Victor “Dracula” Mitchell has officially entered his name in the 2018 governor’s race. Mitchell tells the Colorado Springs Gazette that he plans to roll out his campaign with a $3 million contribution from his own wallet. The registered agent on Mitchell’s campaign finance report is former Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

 

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Sen. Bennet Calls on Michael Flynn to Resign

Shit, meet fan.

The rumor mill has been churning heavily about the potential fate of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who is accused of potentially violating the “Logan Act” in holding discussions with Russia about potential U.S. sanctions back in December. Bennet’s statement notes that there may be transcripts of Flynn’s conversations, which would certainly change the dynamic of any attempts by the Trump administration to defend the high-ranking advisor.

As the Associated Press reported earlier today:

It’s illegal for private citizens to conduct U.S. diplomacy. Flynn’s conversations also raise questions about Trump’s friendly posture toward Russia after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Moscow hacked Democratic emails during the election.

Stephen Miller, Trump’s top policy adviser, skirted the issue on several Sunday news shows, saying it was not his place to weigh in on the “sensitive matter” or to say whether the president retains confidence in Flynn.

Several other White House officials did not respond Sunday to questions about whether Trump had confidence in his national security adviser. Their silence appeared to reflect some uncertainty about the views of the president, who is known to quickly change his mind.

 

Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 2)

You dirty son of a groundhog! Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter after emerging from his palace this morning and seeing his shadow. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► There are growing concerns about President Trump’s mental and emotional fitness, and it’s becoming a problem in international relations. On Wednesday, President Trump hung up the phone during a conversation with the Australian Prime Minister. From the Washington Post:

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Also on Wednesday, Trump may or may not have threatened to send U.S. troops into Mexico.

Trump has a position on a topic, and everything else is wrong. If you are concerned about any of this, President Trump says, “Just don’t worry about it.

 

► President Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric may be fun for campaigns and television shows, but it may actually backfire in International diplomacy. From the Washington Post:

President Trump and Iran traded sharp statements Thursday, with Trump amplifying warnings over Tehran’s missile tests and a top adviser to Iran’s leader saying it was not the first time an “inexperienced person has threatened” his country.

The exchanges reflect the Trump administration’s toughening stance on Iran, but also point to wider changes in the White House as it advances a combative and iconoclastic ­foreign policy. The shifts appear to ­sideline traditional diplomacy and concentrate decision-making among a small group of aides who are quickly projecting their new “America first” approach to the world.

Just before the Senate confirmed Trump’s new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday, national security adviser ­Michael Flynn made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to deliver a stern warning to Iran over its most recent ballistic missile test.

Trump bangs his fists, and Iran shrugs.

 

► It’s an icy day in Metro Denver, which is something Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is growing quite accustomed to feeling. After a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos may need a tie-breaking Senate vote from Vice President Mike Pence to make it into the Department of Education. As we noted in this space yesterday, DeVos has lost the support of two Republican Senators after demonstrating during the last few weeks that she has very little understanding of what her proposed job entails.

As the Colorado Statesman reports, a growing number of state lawmakers are also voicing their opposition to DeVos.

 

The fight is on over the Supreme Court now that Donald Trump’s nominee has been announced. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wasted no time in sitting down for a meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuchwhich is more than Gardner would even consider for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

DeVos Confirmation Hangs By a Thread

Betsy DeVos.

The Hill reporting–bad news for charterizers, voucherfyers, and Amway:

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski in back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor announced Wednesday that they would oppose Betsy DeVos’s nomination to be Education secretary.

They are the first two Republicans to break with Trump on any of his Cabinet picks, and the votes could make it difficult for DeVos to win confirmation.

If all of the Senate’s Democrats vote against DeVos, she would have 50 votes if the remaining Republicans backed her — with Vice President Mike Pence potentially breaking the tie. No Democrats have backed DeVos…

That includes Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who despite his reputation as a reform-friendly education policy guy has little use for Betsy DeVos’ brand of “reform.”

“There is nothing in the conversations I’ve had with this nominee, or in her experience in Michigan or Detroit, that gives me confidence that she can lead us in the direction we need, which is to ensure that every kid in America has access to high-quality education, whether or not they are born into wealth,” Bennet said. “That is why I will vote against this nomination.”

In remarks during the Senate committee’s vote on Devos, Bennet, a former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, discussed the inequalities in the American public education system.

“While we have these partisan squabbles in the Senate, there are millions of American kids who are attending schools that are foreclosing on their future from the start,” Bennet said. “There are millions of people teaching today in America who have a job that is much harder than anyone on this panel, who are not being adequately supported in their work.”

“I was a school superintendent of an urban school district,” he added. “The last thing I wanted was the federal government telling me what to do. But I believe we have a profound national interest to ensure that more than 9 out of 100 kids born into poverty in this country are able to obtain a college degree. We also have a profound national interest to attract the next 1.5 million teachers to teach, especially in our high poverty schools in our cities and rural communities.”

It should be noted that even former state Sen. Michael Johnston, who is well right of most Democrats on education policy, is vocally opposing DeVos as well:

Our children deserve someone who understands the complexity of the challenges we face and is committed to the transparency, accountability and high standards families deserve. Being divisive is no substitute for being diligent, and being partisan is no proxy for being prepared.

At this point, it looks as though DeVos might become Trump’s first Cabinet confirmation casualty–which would cheer public school supporters, but also leave uncertainty as to who might be nominated next for this important job. There’s an argument that if you have to put an unqualified candidate in an important position, maybe they should be so unqualified that the amount of damage they can do is self-limiting.

You’re right, that’s no way to run the government. Stay tuned.

NO JUSTICE, NO SEAT: rally tomorrow to stop Trump and Neil Gorsuch

Last night, Donald Trump made another horrible mistake in nominating far-right Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

Join us tomorrow at noon at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in downtown Denver as we stand together as Coloradans to reject Neil Gorsuch. Click here to RSVP via Facebook.

Gorsuch’s fringe views on health care and contraception make him an enemy of Colorado women. On the Supreme Court, Gorsuch would be a vote to roll back abortion rights, environmental protections, and hard-won protections against discrimination in the workplace. Gorsuch has even been endorsed by the founder of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-LGBT extremist group.

We can’t forget that this Supreme Court seat was stolen from President Obama last year. No Democrat should in any way cooperate with or otherwise enable Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, including Colorado Democrats. To do so would only hand Trump another undeserved victory.

Gorsuch may hail from Colorado, but his record stands in opposition to Colorado values. Now the eyes of the whole nation are on Colorado to see if we have the courage to stand up for what’s right. We can’t let them down.

Join us at noon tomorrow to say NO to Donald Trump and Neil Gorsuch. And forward this alert to everyone you know who can make it. We have to speak out right now before the Trump administration can ram this nomination through.

Ken Buck Only Member of Colo. Delegation to Back Travel Ban

Rep. Ken Buck presses whatever button President Trump prefers.

Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) has generally refused to answer reporter questions about his position on Donald Trump’s travel ban for immigrants, leaving local news outlets such as Denver7 and the Denver Post to guess about his position on one of the more pressing issues in the country. But Ernest Luning of the Colorado Statesman will not be denied; as Luning reports, Rep. Buck on Monday offered his unqualified support for the Muslim travel ban:

“Our country has always offered hope for the oppressed and homeless, but hope also requires safety and security,” Buck said. We should not let people into this country unless we can thoroughly vet them. America welcomes Muslims from 190 countries and temporarily bans all individuals from 7 countries. The President’s executive order is a temporary effort that addresses a serious issue with terrorist hot spots.”

Congressman Buck is the only member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation to offer his full support for Trump’s travel ban. Even Colorado Springs Rep. Doug Lamborn made it clear that he opposes Trump’s Executive Order creating the travel ban.

Get More Smarter on Monday (January 30)

Forget travel bans; if Donald Trump continues on this same path in the White House, soon nobody will want to come to America anyway. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Donald Trump says he will unveil his choice to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court at 6:00 pm on Tuesday in the season premiere of “The Apprentice: White House.” Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are uniting in opposition to Trump’s potential nominee. From Politico:

Senate Democrats are going to try to bring down Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick no matter who the president chooses to fill the current vacancy.

With Trump prepared to announce his nominee on Tuesday evening, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview on Monday morning that he will filibuster any pick that is not Merrick Garland and that the vast majority of his caucus will oppose Trump’s nomination. That means Trump’s nominee will need 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate.

“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley said in an interview. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”

It’s a move that will prompt a massive partisan battle over Trump’s nominee and could lead to an unraveling of the Senate rules if Merkley is able to get 41 Democrats to join him in a filibuster. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also reminded her Twitter followers on Sunday night that Supreme Court nominees can still be blocked by the Senate minority, unlike all other executive and judicial nominees.

Any senator can object to swift approval of a nominee and require a supermajority. Asked directly whether he would do that, Merkley replied: “I will definitely object to a simple majority” vote.

Senate Republicans are already crying foul here, but it’s hard for the GOP to generate much sympathy after the Senate refused to even hold a hearing on President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court in 2016.

It is still unclear just who might be Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, though a handful of names seem to be emerging as finalists. Depending on who you ask, Trump could be leaning toward Thomas HardimanWilliam H. Pryor, or Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch.

 

► Backlash continues to grow around President Trump’s weekend Executive Order banning immigrants to the U.S. from several largely-Muslim countries. Donald Trump’s  Twitter Account, which may or may not be making autonomous decisions about the fate of the free world, has been busy trying to defend his poorly-received travel ban.

Meanwhile, Republicans are breaking ranks and openly criticizing Trump’s travel ban, as Politico reports. The list of outspoken GOP lawmakers includes Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who said that “a blanket travel ban goes too far.” Colorado Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) are still not commenting on Trump’s travel ban.

And as the New York Times reports, the Trump administration left several key officials in the dark in its weekend rush to enforce the “don’t-call-it-a-travel-ban” travel ban.

 

► Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) says he is adamantly opposed to the nomination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Said Bennet on Friday:

“The U.S. Attorney General must ensure equal justice under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Jeff Sessions has repeatedly opposed efforts to protect the rights and liberties of all Americans. I cannot support his nomination.”

 

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Bennet Says “Hell No” To Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

A press release from Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet’s office earlier today, not unexpected but strongly worded in its announcement that he Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator will not support fellow Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination to serve as President Donald Trump’s Attorney General:

“The U.S. Attorney General must ensure equal justice under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Jeff Sessions has repeatedly opposed efforts to protect the rights and liberties of all Americans. I cannot support his nomination. [Pols emphasis]

“On a variety of issues, Senator Sessions falls short. He has blocked bipartisan efforts to expand voting rights, protect women from harassment and violence, and reform our criminal justice system. In 2013, when a bipartisan group of senators crafted principled and compassionate comprehensive immigration reform legislation, Senator Sessions was its most outspoken opponent. During that debate, he used fear and falsehoods to derail our best chance in years to fix a broken system.

“This week’s executive orders on immigration make clear that Senator Sessions’ views will shape the Trump administration’s policies. We need a chief law enforcement officer who protects the civil rights of every American, not one who perpetuates fear and undermines our obligation to ensure equal justice under the law.”

As a member of the so-called Gang of Eight attempt at bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform in 2013, Bennet certainly should harbor some resentment toward anti-immigration Senators who gave the House cover to let the bill die after Senate passage–not to mention some particular ire for backsliders like Sen. Marco Rubio who were pressured out of supporting the effort.

But as you can see, Sen. Bennet’s criticism of Sessions goes much deeper than just immigration reform. Bennet’s inference that Sessions “perpetuates fear and undermines our obligation to ensure equal justice under the law” is one of the more scathing indictments as we’ve heard from anyone against Sessions–and considering what happened to Sessions last time he face Senate confirmation, that’s saying quite a bit.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 19)

It’s your last night in the White House, so you know what that means…who is picking up the keg? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Congressional Republicans continue to push ahead in trying to repeal (and possibly replace, maybe) Obamacare despite the fact that public opinion polls regularly show rising support for the Affordable Care Act. As the Washington Post reports, this has led to a political strategy whereby GOP elected officials go out of their way to avoid talking about the issue to other people:

After Sen. Thom Tillis said he would be talking to constituents live on Facebook Wednesday, more than 200 people submitted questions — many of them pointed queries about his views on health care.

While Tillis’s office had advertised a 30-minute event, the senator ultimately appeared on camera for 11 minutes, answering eight questions read to him by a staff member…

…Tillis did not acknowledge any of the follow-up questions that popped up in the comments alongside his video, including requests for more details on the GOP replacement plan. But he did avoid the sort of viral spectacle that many of his fellow lawmakers have encountered over the past week as the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act got underway in Washington…

…Seven years after unruly Democratic town halls helped stoke public outrage over the Affordable Care Act, Republicans now appear keen to avoid the kind of dust-ups capable of racking up millions of views on YouTube and ending up in a 2018 campaign commercial. Only a handful of GOP lawmakers have held or are planning to host in-person town hall meetings open to all comers — the sort of large-scale events that helped feed the original Obamacare backlash in the summer of 2009.

There is definitely a very good plan somewhere, so don’t you worry about that. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wouldn’t lie to you, now would he? Jason Salzman calls on Colorado media outlets to be specific in their questions for Republicans about actual replacement specifics.

 

► Congressman Tom PriceDonald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services, took a heavy grilling on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in his first batch of Senate confirmation hearings — with a good deal of discussion focused on Obamacare and the mythical Republican “replacement plan.” Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) sounded fed up with this vacant talk of a replacement plan and absolutely went off on Price.

 

► If you are planning on attending the “Women’s March” in Denver on Saturday, the Denver Post has some suggestions for navigating the event. More than 40,000 people are expected to descend on Civic Center Park on Saturday morning.

 

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Sen. Michael Bennet Shreds Price on Price of Obamacare Repeal


Jezebel’s Julianne Shepherd reports on a fiery exchange today between Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Heath and Human Services. The subject was the large budget deficit forecast to be incurred from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, which you would think good conservatives like Rep. Price would have qualms with:

[W]hen Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) opened up his line of questioning with the kind of genial chit-chat we’ve gotten from the Republicans, you could be forgiven for your surprise, especially from a Democrat who’s held nominees’ feet to the fire for the past few weeks.

Well, it was a ruse. Turns out, his friendliness was a lead-in to an impassioned delivery about the hypocrisy of Republicans in their efforts to repeal ACA last week, and in doing so he contextualized the knotty relationship between the ACA and the budget better than anyone I’ve seen. His vehemence and anger really hammered home how alarming the Republicans’ proposal was—and it also seemed to shake Rep. Price to a tangible degree.

Jezebel has the full seven-minute exchange posted with their story, and we recommend watching the whole thing. The transition from congenial small talk to demanding an answer to this question is remarkable, showing a flash of resolve from the often-reserved senior senator from Colorado that we expect did indeed catch Rep. Price off-guard. That Republicans are suddenly willing to accept huge new deficits from the repeal of Obamacare, when the law was reducing deficits before, is just one of many thorny contradictions they have yet to explain–relying on invective and diversion avoid having to answer the question.

Thanks to Sen. Bennet we now know that on the high cost of repealing Obamacare, Republicans don’t have an answer.

Top Ten Stories of 2016 #3: One Sorry Slate of Senate Candidates

Sen. Michael Bennet and GOP nominee Darryl Glenn in the most anti-climactic race of 2016.

El Paso County Commissioner and 2016 Republican Senate nominee Darryl Glenn may very well have been the worst statewide candidate in Colorado history. Amazingly, there were 12 other GOP candidates who might have been worse. In a year in which Republicans had huge electoral gains across the country, a ridiculously bad group of candidates helped the Colorado GOP to completely botch one of its best pickup opportunities in years.

At one point last spring, there were 13 different Republican candidates seeking the nomination for U.S. Senate. Before you read any further, let’s play a little game: How many Senate candidates can you name?

Robert Blaha, Ryan Frazier, Darryl Glenn, Jack Graham, Jon Keyser, Peg Littleton, Jerry Natividad, Tim Neville, Michael Kinlaw, Tom Janice, Charlie Ehler, Jerry Eller, and Don Rosier. All of these people, to one degree or another, made an effort to capture the GOP Senate nomination in 2016. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet was considered to be the top pickup opportunity for Republicans in the entire country, which caused virtually every member of the Colorado GOP to start dreaming about becoming a U.S. Senator. The only thing Republicans couldn’t find was a top-tier candidate who could actually give Bennet a run for his seat.

It was clear from the first debate of the cycle — held at the University of Denver — that this was going to be a long nomination process for Republicans. Go back and read our “Debate Diary” from February if you forgot just how completely insane this field had become.

The Republican field of candidates for U.S. Senate was such a mess that people like Jerry Natividad were jumping into the race just one month before the state GOP convention. Republican strategists were scrambling trying to find a candidate — any candidate — who could pose a serious challenge to Bennet in November. Eventually, they just ran out of rocks to look underneath.

Jon Keyser, moments before flushing his political future down the toilet in a media interview.

By April, national pundits were already changing their tune on Bennet and moving the race into the “Likely Democratic” range of outcomes. Weeks later, the little-known Glenn inexplicably took control of the GOP Senate race by virtue of being the only candidate to emerge from the State Convention with enough votes to get his name on the primary ballot. State Senator Tim Neville, who once seemed likely to carry the right-wing banner in 2016, never even came close to just earning ballot access.

By May, the GOP field had narrowed to five names: Robert Blaha, Ryan Frazier, Jon Keyser, Jack Graham, and Darryl Glenn. Graham limped onto the June ballot through the petition process, followed by Keyser, Blaha, and Frazier, though the last three had to deal with lingering questions about petition signatures. National Republicans were crossing their fingers that Keyser could put together a decent-enough campaign to get him through the GOP Primary, but his campaign soon imploded in spectacular fashion amid questions about forged petition signatures and the candidate’s absolutely-epic meltdown in front of Denver7 reporter Marshall Zelinger.

The five Senate campaigns muddled along toward June — at one point Blaha’s campaign manager abruptly resigned with just a few weeks remaining, and Keyser’s campaign essentially just stopped functioning altogether. Glenn ended up winning the five-way Primary with 37.5% of the vote, thanks in part to a late surge of support from well-known conservative names such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

National Republicans basically threw in the towel on Colorado’s Senate race soon after Glenn’s surprising Primary victory; it was clear just a few weeks later that nobody was going to make any real effort to assist Glenn, who consistently trailed by as much as 18 points in head-to-head polls with Bennet.

Bennet ended up defeating Glenn by six points in November, a margin much closer than polls predicted in large part because Bennet’s campaign never even really tried to go after the GOP challenger (it’s silly to argue that Glenn could have won this race with more help from Republicans, because any such movement would only have prompted Democrats to push harder). On the plus side, Glenn’s campaign did provide us with one of the most ridiculous political advertisements in recent memory.

Michael Bennet ran a solid re-election campaign in a difficult year for Democrats, but Colorado Republicans will be kicking themselves for years at missing this opportunity to at least run a competitive challenge to an incumbent Democrat.

Trump Confirms ExxonMobil CEO as Secretary of State Choice

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of State

On Tuesday, the transition team for President-elect Donald Trump made official one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington D.C. in the last week: ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is Trump’s pick to serve as Secretary of State.

It has been reported in numerous outlets that Trump and Tillerson could be in for a tough battle on the road to confirmation from the U.S. Senate. From FiveThirtyEight.com:

Russia will soon become an axis of conflict between President-elect Donald Trump and the U.S. Senate. Trump may have a difficult time securing Senate confirmation for Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, his pick for Secretary of State, because of Tillerson’s ties to Vladimir Putin and Exxon Mobil’s business interests in Russia. Furthermore, the Senate may soon launch an inquiry into possible Russian interference in the presidential election, something that Trump opposes.

Russia hasn’t been a focal point for policymaking in the Senate over the past several years outside of a few resolutions passed by unanimous consent. Therefore, there aren’t a lot of votes to indicate which senators might take the most hawkish positions toward Russia. However, we can look at two recent developments to get a sense for which senators might be most willing to hold the line against Trump…

Guess who makes the list of Republican “hawks” on Russia who could take a prominent role in Senate confirmation of Tillerson? Hint: His name rhymes with Mory Fardner:

There aren’t a lot of surprises on that list. It includes three of the most well-known Russia hawks in the Senate — Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida — along with Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of the few Republicans to represent a state won by Hillary Clinton. [Pols emphasis] There’s also Portman, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Three of those Republicans — Rubio, Gardner and Johnson — are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will vote on State Department nominees before their names go to the entire Senate. [Pols emphasis] Republicans will have just a one-seat advantage on the committee, so any GOP defections could potentially scuttle Tillerson’s confirmation.

What do I think about Rex Tillerson? Well, I’ll tell you, but…hey, look over there!

But as James Hohmann writes for the Washington Post, Gardner may be reluctant to oppose Tillerson’s nomination in part because he needs to raise big money from the oil and gas industry:

Cory Gardner will be reluctant to upset the energy industry, not just because he’s from Colorado but because as NRSC chairman he’ll need to aggressively hit up oil executives for money the next two years.

Is Rex Tillerson really a good choice for Secretary of State? Who cares so long as the oil and gas industry says so!

What does Sen. Gardner have to say about Tillerson’s nomination? As the Colorado Springs Gazette reports…not much:

We asked whether Gardner had a position yet on Tillerson and were told by Communications Director Alex Siciliano: “Senator Gardner will carefully consider whomever is nominated for Secretary of State on their merits, and their merits alone.”

Hopefully you weren’t holding your breath waiting for something more substantial from Gardner, who really just wants to make sure that Donald Trump takes him off of his “naughty list” for being completely unhelpful during the 2016 election. If Gardner is concerned about Russia’s growing ties to the incoming administration, don’t expect to hear it from him anytime soon.

 

Guess Who Hasn’t Voted Yet?

TUESDAY UPDATE: As of this morning, still no returned ballots for the Coffmans or Sen. Gardner.

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Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) once promised to spill the beans on his choice for President “when ballots go out.” Denver Post reporter Jon Murray followed up with Coffman’s campaign recently to see if and when the Congressman would make his choice at the top of the ticket, and we’re still waiting:

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 1)

MoreSmarterLogo-ElectionWe don’t care what your friend says; it’s not socially acceptable to still be wearing your Halloween costume today. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Got ballot? If you don’t — or if you know someone who still hasn’t received a ballot — then you had better do something about it. Go to JustVoteColorado.org to start investigating the problem and contact your county clerk for answers. You can always vote at a polling place as well, whether or not you have received a mail ballot (but only if you haven’t already submitted a completed ballot).

Officials are encouraging voters to drop completed ballots at any number of collection sites rather than putting them in the mail as Election Day nears. Check here for your nearest polling and ballot crop-off locations. The Colorado Independent has more on mail ballots and deadlines.

 

Early ballot returns still favor Democrats in Colorado by nearly 30,000 votes. As we’ve noted in this space on multiple occasions, it is unprecedented for Democrats to be at all ahead of Republicans in early voting.

 

► Local postal workers joined with Governor John Hickenlooper on Monday to dispel the notion from Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump that there could be ballot problems in Colorado — specifically the idea that postal workers could somehow see through envelopes and discard ballots that favored the GOP nominee. Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State, meanwhile, continues to publicly challenge Trump’s suggestion of ballot fraud in our state.

 

► With Election Day just eight days away, campaign surrogates for both major party Presidential candidates continue to make stops in Colorado. Labor Secretary Tom Perez is in Colorado today, along with Chelsea Clinton, to stump on behalf of Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will also make another stop in Colorado sometime before Election Day.

On the Republican side of things, Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence will campaign on behalf of Donald Trump in Loveland on Wednesday.

 

► Can’t wait for the results on Election Day? Check out the Halloween edition of the Get More Smarter Show for a sneak preview of the outcome next week.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)