Republican gubernatorial candidate attacks likely opponent for “politicizing” PERA

(Dracula declares war on Kennebunkport! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton.

In an unusual development on the gubernatorial campaign trail last week, a Republican candidate has criticized a likely opponent for “politicizing” Colorado’s public pension program.

“You know, one of my opponents claims [PERA is] a major crisis. I don’t believe it’s a major crisis,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell told Jimmy Lakey, who’s the morning host on KCOL 690-AM Friday.

“I don’t believe we should be politicizing it,” Mitchell continued. “Certainly, it has been a broken system from a standpoint that the benefits are too generous and the incentives are perverse. But I don’t believe it’s in a state of crisis.”

Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who’s expected to join the growing list of GOP gubernatorial candidates, has been highly critical of Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) for years, saying, among other things, that the program’s growth forecasts are unrealistic thereby subject the state to a potentially catastrophic unfunded liability.

In terms of news media coverage over many years, Stapleton is defined by his criticism of PERA.

Often casting himself as a rare voice of reason in a sea of nonchalance about PERA, Stapleton has even said neither the PERA board nor state judges cannot make fair decisions about PERA because they are part of the state retirement program.

Analysts point out that Stapleton’s attachment to the PERA issue could be a political liability, simply because a large majority of people have no idea what PERA is, and many of those who do want it built up, not torn down, because public employees rely on it, not Social Security, for their retirement.

On the substantive PERA issues, in contrast to Stapleton’s drumbeat of crisis, Mitchell argued on air that PERA should be reformed, but there’s not a lot to worry about anytime soon.

MITCHELL: “It’s certainly a problem. I mean, we have — in the big picture, the fund has about $40 billion of assets. It’s paying out about two-and-a-half billion dollars a year in benefits. So, it’s fully funded for the next 30 years even with a 0% return. Obviously, it has never returned anywhere near that. But the benefits are, bottom-line, simply just too generous. We’re paying people 75 percent of their last three years’ average wages. And that should be changed to a 10 year average instead of a three year average. In addition, we have got to create incentives where people leave the state workforce, that it doesn’t create a burden on PERA.”

PERA backers say the fund is stable and will be able to provide benefits to all its members.

A coalition called the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security has crunched numbers showing how PERA’s stability has improved over the past decade.

Listen to Mitchell here:



Republican Field for Governor Grows Vaguely Larger

Doug Robinson, the whitest man in Colorado.

Republicans have a new candidate for Governor in 2018: This guy!

“This guy” is Doug Robinson, a nephew of former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Aside from the fact that one of Robinson’s parents is a sibling of Romney — and that Robinson was a co-chair of Romney’s finance committee in Colorado — we can’t tell you much about the guy. John Frank of the Denver Post has a short story on Robinson’s candidacy that doesn’t say much of anything — the initial version of Frank’s story said that Robinson’s campaign declined to respond to repeated requests for comment, which is a strange way to roll out a statewide campaign — but does include some of the text from Robinson’s announcement letter sent to Colorado Republicans:

The Denver investment banker declared his candidacy for the 2018 race in a letter sent to Republican activists and launched online advertisements directed to a new campaign website [Pols emphasis]. His campaign launch is scheduled for Friday…

…His letter touts himself as a “committed Republican my entire life.” And he highlights his business background, noting that he founded his own company and then worked in technology investment banking for KPMG. “My background is in business — not politics,” he said.

A businessman, not a politician. How inventive.

If you are wondering why Robinson made such a cryptic announcement today, touting a website that says absolutely nothing, the bolded line in the Denver Post story above may provide a clue. Robinson’s campaign appears to have launched online advertisements before bothering to register as an official campaign committee, which is not exactly legal; someone may have panicked and realized that Robinson needed to make his campaign official before he started spending money on said campaign.

The only other thing we remember about Robinson is from a Mitt Romney appearance in Colorado during the 2012 election. Halfway through the clip below, Robinson says something off-camera and then gets a shout-out from Romney:

So, anyway, the GOP race for governor is getting crowded. Maybe it’s time to gas up the 2016 Republican Senate clown car for another tour through Colorado.

The State of the Race (for the State)

The 2018 race for Governor in Colorado is adding candidates at a rapid pace, with Democrats Ed Perlmutter and Cary Kennedy joining the field just this week. We’re keeping track of all of the big political races in Colorado through The Big Line, but with so much activity surrounding the open race at the top of the ticket in ’18, we thought it would be worthwhile to break down The State of the Race (for the State) on its own:


Looking Good

Ed Perlmutter

Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) officially joined the race for Governor with a big kickoff in Golden on Sunday. Perlmutter is the clear frontrunner here for a number of reasons:

1. Perlmutter begins the race with a strong base of support in Jefferson County, which is traditionally one of the most important swing counties in Colorado. Thanks in part to his decade of service in Congress, he is also well known in voter-rich areas like Adams and Arapahoe counties.

2. Perlmutter is both a proven fundraiser and an accomplished retail politician; there aren’t a lot of politicians in Colorado who can do both things well.

3. All he does is win. Perlmutter has been elected six times in Congressional District 7 – never by less than double digits.

Also on the upswing is former state Sen. Mike Johnston, who raked in more than $600,000 in his first fundraising period. Johnston’s next trick is to prove that he can find more than just some fat low-hanging fruit to collect. If he can churn out another strong fundraising quarter – with Perlmutter and Kennedy now in the race – Johnston could start to generate some serious momentum with less than a year to go until the Democratic Primary.


Looking Shaky

George Brauchler

Former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy has been talking about making a bid for Governor for years, so it was a bit odd that she suddenly decided to join the race one day after Perlmutter’s big rollout. Kennedy made her campaign announcement in an awkward Facebook Live video that featured the candidate driving through a wealthy neighborhood before stopping outside her Denver home. The entire performance was stilted and overly-scripted, and while Kennedy got some decent press for her campaign, she won’t generate any momentum from her Facebook Faceplant.

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler finally became a statewide candidate after years of threatening to run for higher office. Brauchler got some big help from the Denver Post in his “virtual announcement” for Governor, and he’s been burning up the right-wing talk radio circuit ever since. His platform for Governor is a bit of a head-scratcher, however. Brauchler has thus far focused his chatter on a pledge to execute convicted killer Nathan Dunlap and a promise to make dramatic cuts to Medicaid in Colorado – neither of which seem like good issues to attract new voters. Brauchler is also already waffling on plans for making it through a Republican Primary; after initially saying he would go through the convention/caucus process, Brauchler made it clear in a recent radio interview that he has not ruled out trying to petition his way onto the ballot. If you like your candidates indecisive, Brauchler is your guy.



Still Just Looking

Walker Stapleton

Current State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has been angling toward the 2018 Gubernatorial race since he was first elected in 2010. So where is he? Stapleton may not formally announce his campaign for Governor until this summer, which is a long time to cede the spotlight to the rest of the candidates already running full-steam ahead. Stapleton is not a big-enough name or personality to just wait out the race on his own timeline, and the flurry of early activity in the Governor’s race may force him to adjust his planned schedule. Stapleton is also the Republican candidate with the deepest potential donor base (he is a cousin of former President George W. Bush, after all); if he’s confident that the money will wait for him, maybe a late start won’t be a major hurdle.

Also still eying the race on the Republican side is DaVita CEO Kent Thiry, though it still looks like the chatter is more rumor than reality. Both Noel Ginsburg (D) and Victor Mitchell (R) have already laid claim to the “businessman candidate” angle for 2018.


The Denver Post Should Be Embarrassed

The front page of today’s Denver Post

Democrat Ed Perlmutter launched his campaign for governor on Sunday in front of a large crowd in Golden. This was a big deal, regardless of your political affiliations, because Perlmutter is the obvious frontrunner in the race for Colorado’s top job in 2018. Perlmutter’s announcement also opens up his Congressional seat in CD-7 for what is likely to be a crowded affair for both Democrats and Republicans. In other words, there’s a lot going on here.

Yet, somehow, the front page of the Denver Post today is all about…buttons. Most of today’s front page is dedicated to a story about the 49th annual Colorado State Button Society show and sale that apparently took place in Denver over the weekend.

[We’ll pause here while your adrenaline rush dissipates]

Five other stories are headlined on the front page today — but none of them mention anything about the 2018 race for governor. Not. A. Peep.

Front page of the Denver Post from April 5, 2017

This is particularly odd when you consider that the front page of the Post from last Wednesday featured a breathless account of news that Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler would seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. Brauchler didn’t even hold a big event to kick off his campaign — and he’s not even the clear frontrunner in his own party — yet the Post fell all over itself to blare the news across its front page.

Look, the Denver Post can do whatever it wants with its front page. But if the idea of this newspaper is to practice actual, you know, journalism, then virtually ignoring Perlmutter’s gubernatorial announcement is farcical at best. This is a joke, and if you work for the Post, you have every right to feel ashamed today.

Ed Perlmutter Will Run for Governor in 2018

Ed Perlmutter will run for Governor in 2018.

The Jefferson County Democrat will officially declare his intentions at 1:00 on Sunday in Golden, and he will immediately become the frontrunner for the top job in Colorado.

Rumors of a potential Perlmutter candidacy have been circulating for months, becoming all but inevitable in late March when former Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced publicly that he would not seek the Democratic nomination himself.

The 2018 field for Governor is going to be a crowded affair, and may well end up as the most expensive statewide campaign in Colorado history. But as we’ve said in this space before, no other potential candidate — in either party — can match Perlmutter’s combination of experience and results as a campaigner. Perlmutter is wildly popular in Jefferson County, always one of the most important counties for any statewide candidate, and he has established a reputation as both a brilliant retail politician and a consistently-strong fundraiser. Consider this: Perlmutter has won six consecutive races for Congress in CD-7, and no opponent has ever come within single digits on Election Day.

Perlmutter’s decision to run for Governor will also set off a chain reaction in CD-7 that should attract numerous candidates for Congress, including Democratic lawmakers Andy Kerr and Brittany Pettersen, but that is a story for another day. In a gubernatorial field full of recognizable names, none is as big (literally and figuratively) as Perlmutter.

Irony Eludes George Brauchler in Silly Teaser Video

Screenshot image from George Brauchler’s “teaser” video on Facebook.

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler has been hinting and hemming and hawing about making a run for higher office in Colorado for literally years now. Brauchler now appears to be close to actually running for statewide office in 2018…but he’s still going to screw around with the possibility for a few more weeks/months.

It has been widely assumed in Colorado political circles that Brauchler will seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018. Today, Brauchler posted a video on Facebook that appears to be a teaser for such a campaign. Enter, irony:

“Here in Colorado…we’re frustrated with weak elected officials that continue to dodge difficult decisions.”

Yes, that’s correct. The guy who can’t decide whether or not he will actually run for higher office is on a rampage about elected officials who “dodge difficult decisions.” The absurdity of Brauchler’s video was not lost on local political reporters:

For much of 2015, Colorado Republicans waited on Brauchler to announce that he would seek the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016. Brauchler spun himself in circles before  anticlimactically announcing that he was going to pass on the 2016 race, which made him look like a putz — even moreso than he already looked ridiculous — and set Colorado Republicans scrambling to find someone to challenge incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.

Brauchler was certainly not the GOP’s top choice to run for Senate in 2016, but by the time he finally announced his decision, he was about the best option left for Republicans. Here’s what Brauchler had to say in late September 2015 after waffling for months over the idea of a Senate bid:

“I got pretty far down the field. I just couldn’t do it to my family.”

Now, let’s fast forward to November 2016. Less than 24 hours after Election Day, Brauchler took pains to suggest a potential bid for governor during an interview with a local radio station. Since that time, Brauchler has been trying to attract attention through some dunderheaded social media diatribes while refusing to actually say if he will or won’t run for governor. According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, Brauchler’s “George for DA” campaign committee was terminated on February 13, 2017, but as of today there is no filing for a gubernatorial campaign for Brauchler.

So, anyway, if you’re looking for a gubernatorial candidate who is willing to make the tough decisions…George Brauchler might eventually be your guy. If and when he decides to run, of course.

Cynthia Coffman Trolls Race for Governor

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is almost certainly not running for governor in 2018, but she would really like it if you would pretend that she might. This is very, very lame…

“You know I am at least looking at governor” [Pols emphasis]. This is what Coffman told Denver Post reporter Mark Matthews today in Washington D.C. If you are unaccustomed to the language of politics, please allow us to translate:

I don’t actually plan on running for governor, but please float my name so that I can use these rumors to generate support for my re-election bid for Attorney General. 

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman

We noted back in January that Coffman was trying to gin up interest for a potential bid for governor. From everything we’ve heard, that effort didn’t go anywhere and Coffman has since indicated privately that she will seek re-election as Attorney General. That won’t stop her from continuing to troll the rest of the potential field for 2018, however.

Coffman may not particularly like her current job as AG, but there is no path for her to win a Republican primary for Governor. Coffman is not what you’d call a beloved figure in the Colorado GOP — certainly not enough to elbow her way into a Republican Primary that is already expected to include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler (in addition to a wealthy self-funder in former legislator Victor Mitchell). It’s also important to note that Coffman’s biggest financial backer in 2014 was the Republican Attorney General’s Association (RAGA), a group that obviously doesn’t care about the Colorado race for Governor.

Now, if Coffman could figure out a way to create an office of “Chief Troll” for Colorado, she’d have to be considered a frontrunner.

Walker Stapleton Term Limits Rally a Very Expensive Fizzle

Walker Stapleton.

That was the scene on the West Steps of the Colorado state capitol building today, as Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s long-hyped rally for congressional term limits took place on an unseasonably warm Thursday afternoon. As we’ve discussed in this space and readers have seen in site ads for weeks, this event had a very large promotional budget. After all the thousands of dollars spent advertising the rally and especially Stapleton’s attendance, the estimated 150 or so who turned out is nothing short of an embarrassment (unless you consider $700 per person a good investment).

Today’s rally for congressional term limits always struck us as a contrivance, a vehicle for Stapleton to get face time ahead of his widely-expected run for governor in 2018. It’s clever in theory given that the term-limits pitch has a defiant anti-politician ring to it, which could feed off the large protests against President Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress since January. But as soon as you find out this is all just a ploy to boost George W. Bush’s cousin electorally, it loses its rebellious allure.

Please clap.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 9)

Ask your boss if you can work outside this afternoon. Let’s go ahead and see if we can Get More Smarter. 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.


► Colorado lawmakers are getting closer to approving legislation that would put a tax increase on the November ballot in order to fund necessary transportation infrastructure upgrades. As the Denver Business Journal reports:

Following eight months of negotiations, the Colorado Legislature’s leaders late Wednesday introduced a 20-year transportation-funding bill asking voters to approve a sales tax hike to generate some $677 million per year for highway and transit projects — without making significant cuts to existing state revenues.

Observers, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, quickly referred to House Bill 1242 as a starting point, saying they expect details about everything from the size of the tax hike, to the allocation of new revenues, to be up for debate in the two months that the Legislature has left in its 2017 session.

But House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and state Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, both expressed gratitude at finding a compromise they believe can muster support of their two parties’ lawmakers before they take their case to voters.

We still have a couple of months of negotiating before any proposal moves toward the ballot, but this is a good sign that the Republican caucus has at least a few adults in the room who aren’t going to continue to pretend that we can finance major infrastructure projects with magic fairy dust and generic speeches about financial belt-tightening.


► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) held a telephone “town hall” meeting on Wednesday night that included a smackdown of President Trump’s plans for a border wall with Mexico. As Eli Stokols reports for Politico:

“We do need security on the border,” Gardner said. “That may mean personnel. It may mean a fence. That may mean an electronic fence,” the first-term lawmaker said. “But we shouldn’t just build a wall and add billions of dollars because that’s what somebody said should be done.” [Pols emphasis]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also scoffed Thursday morning at Trump’s claim that he will be able to get Mexico to pay for the wall.

“Uh, no,” McConnell said.

McConnell’s comments this morning about a proposed border wall are getting a lot of attention from national media outlets.


Trumpcare has passed two initial hurdles by limping through a couple of House committees, but Senate leaders continue to take a wait-and-see approach until cost and coverage estimates are available:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said lawmakers need to see the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of how the bill will affect the federal deficit.

“I think we need to know that,” McConnell said at a breakfast sponsored by Politico, adding that the CBO report could be released by Monday.

McConnell was the first in growing chorus of high-ranking Senate Republicans to question the wisdom of moving forward on the health bill without an official budget tally. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), whose committee will help craft a Senate response to the House legislation, told reporters on Thursday that he believes CBO score is a valuable tool.

The New York Times has more on Republican backlash to the Trumpcare proposal. Here in Colorado, the Bell Policy Institute outlines how Trumpcare would be a major problem for our state.


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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 7)

Go away, wind. Let’s go ahead and see if we can Get More Smarter. 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.


► House Republicans finally unveiled their healthcare plan, which is basically a bizarro-Robin Hood scenario: Steal from the middle class to give tax cuts to the rich! As the Washington Post reports, Republicans are going to have trouble getting this bill past several competing factions within their own party:

As they roll out their Obamacare replacement plan, Republicans are quickly finding out what Democrats learned eight years ago: Even if you win control of Congress and the White House, there are still plenty of obstacles to passing laws that, in principle, your whole party agrees with.

Several factions within the Republican Party don’t like some key details about this new health-care plan. In fact, there’s enough opposition that these Republicans could derail the bill as it stands. It’s something President Trump appeared to acknowledge when he offered up in a tweet Tuesday morning the opportunity for “review and negotiation.”…

…Assuming no Democrats in either chamber support the bill, Republicans can’t lose more than two GOP senators or 21 Republicans in the House. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room. Which means the factions opposed to Obamacare suddenly have a whole lot of leverage.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is apparently not immune to the concerns of constituents, even if he refuses to meet with them. On Monday Gardner signed a letter from a handful of U.S. Senators defending Medicaid expansion, which would be gutted under the House repeal-and-destroy healthcare plan. This is odd for Gardner, who voted against Medicaid expansion in late 2015.

Meanwhile, poll after poll shows that Americans are increasingly nervous about gutting Obamacare:

Fully 68% of Americans want to keep what works and fix the rest, while just 32% prefer the GOP’s repeal and replace approach, according to polling from Hart Research. Moreover, the polling showed most Americans — including 54% of President Trump’s voters — have a favorable view of the Medicaid system, which would face steep cuts under the Republican plan.

The Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, meanwhile, considers the House bill to be nowhere near an acceptable “repeal” of Obamacare.


► The new Republican healthcare bill is still missing two very important points: It does not have an official score from the Congressional Budget Office, nor does it offer any sort of estimate on how many Americans would be covered under its plan. With those two major points still unknown, Politico takes a look at who wins and loses in this version of healthcare “reform.” Medicaid beneficiaries, hospitals, and Planned Parenthood are among the big losers, while rich people make out famously.


► President Trump’s new travel ban is succeeding in causing lots of confusion for students in Colorado. Business leaders, meanwhile, are concerned about a potential scarcity of labor as a result of the travel ban.

In response to Trump’s travel ban, Colorado legislators have proposed the “Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act.”


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No Opinions for You, Larry Crowder!

State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa). No broken thumbs visible in this image.

State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) has tried to stake out his own positions on several key issues since first winning election in 2012, and this has not made him particularly popular with Senate Republican leaders. Crowder has broken with GOP leadership on the Hospital Provider Fee and TABOR reform, and last week he tried to go in a different direction on a bill intended to modify the composition of the PERA Board…until his mind was apparently changed for him.

On Thursday, Senate Bill 17-158 (Modify Composition Of PERA Public Employees’ Retirement Association Board Of Trustees) passed through the State Senate on an 18-17 vote. Crowder eventually voted YES on the legislation, but not before he gave an impassioned speech about why he OPPOSED the bill. Check out what Crowder said on the Senate Floor on Thursday morning:

What we’re doing here…we’re making it more politicized instead of less…

…I’ve thought a lot about this and I appreciate the sponsor bringing it forward, because I think his intentions were very pure and what not. But I do not see that this is going to correct anything…

…Unfortunately, I just don’t think this is the way to go. Both sides need to come together on how to fix this instead of making it a political statement one way or the other.

As soon as Crowder finished his speech, three other Republicans quickly descended and pronounced their full-throated support of SB-158 (for a longer explanation of the bill, read this story in the Colorado Springs Gazette). Senators Kevin LundbergTim Neville, and Jack Tate all made specific mention of Crowder’s comments and explained why their colleague was wrong, which is not all that uncommon in a legislative body (you can listen to the full audio exchange below).

But then…take a look at how Crowder voted:

After taking five minutes on the Senate floor to explain his opposition to SB-158, Sen. Crowder somehow ended up as a YES vote on the legislation.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 1)

March is definitely arriving in lamb form — in the Denver Metro area, at least. Let’s go ahead and see if we can Get More Smarter. 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.


► President Trump delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening (full text here). As Eli Stokols writes for Politico, Trump displayed a less-angry version of himself during his prime time address, but was no less vague on his many policy proposals:

Not an official “State of the Union” address, Trump’s first speech to Congress was an attempt to stabilize his administration and improve his standing with the public, which views Trump more unfavorably than any other president after only a month in office. Beyond showcasing a more presidential posture to the largest national television audience he’s had since his inauguration, Trump also sought to set out some shared goals for the Congress that will largely determine the nature and scope of his eventual accomplishments…

…After such a rocky first five weeks, Trump needed to present himself to members of Congress, many of whom have recently been met by anti-Trump mobs at town hall meetings, as a reasonable collaborative partner as they begin a long legislative journey. He spoke not of past grievances, but of a future full of opportunity. For an hour at least, beefs gave way to bright banalities. [Pols emphasis]

For the most part, the president’s specific policy prescriptions were as broad and vague as they were sweeping and ambitious. Trump called on Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that “expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better healthcare.” He laid out a broad outline of what an alternative would look like, but steered clear of specifics that could jam up negotiations among congressional Republicans.

“Bright banalities” is a nice way to summarize Trump’s policy ideas on Tuesday. Trump stuck to his usual fact-free statements to introduce most proposals, and as Karen Tumulty writes for the Washington Post, he avoided the kind of specifics that Congressional Republicans were hoping to hear:

Nor did the president give his Republican allies in Congress what they had wanted to hear, which was a sense of clarity on how he plans to achieve the ambitious agenda he promised. There were few detail offered and no nod to the complexity of the issues nor the fact that achieving his goals will require navigating deep fissures within his own party…

…Trump’s address was also notable for some of the standard Republican themes it did not include. He mentioned the federal debt only once, and the deficit not at all.

There’s plenty of reaction to Trump’s speech on the Internet tubes. Here are five key takeaways from the New York Times. Check Politico for more fact-checking on the President’s speech. Denver7 compiles some of the local reaction to Trump’s speech.


► The Washington Post points to the influence of Ivanka Trump and chief strategist Steve Bannon for Tuesday’s “Teleprompter Trump.”


President Trump is delaying the rollout of a new travel ban proposal on account of the fact that people didn’t completely hate his first big speech as President:

The decision came late Tuesday night as positive reviews flooded in for Trump’s speech, which struck a largely optimistic and unifying tone.

Signing the executive order Wednesday, as originally indicated by the White House, would have undercut the favorable coverage. The official didn’t deny the positive reception was part of the administration’s calculus in pushing back the travel ban announcement.


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Walker Stapleton and the World’s Saddest Blog Post

The “Walker Stapleton face.”

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is not funny. Not intentionally, anyway.

We feel compelled to point this out after reading a particularly-sad attempt at political spin from a local right-wing blog that is harder to swallow than a tennis ball.

Stapleton was interviewed last week by Kyle Clark of 9News, not long after Deputy Treasurer Jon Forbes resigned from the job after telling the PERA board to “go f*** themselves,” and the likely GOP gubernatorial candidate was asked some pretty direct questions that he did not answer well.

The entire interview, which you can view below, is not a good look for Stapleton, who says he “understands” the frustration with the PERA board that would prompt his former Deputy to fire off profanities as he storms out of the room. Stapleton also claims at one point that he has attended “at least 90 percent” of PERA board meetings in his six years as State Treasurer, a claim that is easy to disprove. The interview is obviously not a net positive for Stapleton, which is clear just from reading the video description provided by 9News: “Great moments in awkward question asking today when we asked Colorado’s Treasurer whether it’s the official position of his office that the pension board (PERA) members should go f— themselves.”

So it was that on Monday, the right-wing blog Colorado Peak Politics tried very hard to spin the idea that Stapleton is a really funny guy who is great at deflecting difficult questions with humor and a quick wit. Um…yeah:

There are a lot of reasons that people like state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, but perhaps the most obvious is his dry, often sarcastic, sense of humor. Last week, he sat down with 9News’s Kyle Clark, and in the face of some relatively trivial “gotcha” questions Stapleton showed off these winning attributes. It’s worth watching, especially if you’re like us and keeping a close eye on the moves of potential gubernatorial candidates.

When asked about the semantics of how he described his involvement in the drafting of a bill to change the makeup of the board for the Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA), Stapleton replied that while he “didn’t follow Sen. Tate into the drafting room” (ha!) he has long supported the idea and been a champion for the legislation… [Pols emphasis]

…By using sarcasm, Stapleton is able to diffuse needing questions and in many cases point out their silliness.

Hee-larious! If any of this was meant to be a joke — and it’s not clear that Stapleton is even trying to be funny here — we’re not ashamed to admit that we missed the humor entirely. Clark does ask some tough questions of Stapleton, but the questions are both fair and largely predictable. Stapleton’s answers are not very good nor particularly funny.

This is not a “gotcha” interview. This is just a straightforward sit-down that Stapleton does not handle well, which is how a conservative blog ends up writing a ham-fisted defense that reads like something Stapleton himself might have invented.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (February 21)

You have only one shopping day left until George Washington’s birthday. Now, let’s see if we can’t Get More Smarter. 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.


► Congress is taking a break for its annual President’s Day Recess, but that doesn’t necessarily mean elected officials such as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) are likely to make themselves available to constituents. As the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports, local residents are so incensed with Gardner’s inaccessibility that they are planning their own town hall meeting as protest. The Denver Post has more on Friday’s town hall meeting (sans Gardner):

Organizers invited U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who declined, but Farnan said it’s important to hold it anyway so that residents can share their ideas and demonstrate that town halls still matter.

“You should be standing in front of your constituents and hear what they have to say as long as it’s civil and respectful,” Farnan said.

Aides to Gardner said the Republican senator has meetings this week with the Colorado Space Coalition, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Colorado Health Care Association — to name a few — but no public forums. [Pols emphasis]

But they defended his outreach efforts and noted his past use of telephone town halls, a tool that has become an increasingly popular substitute on Capitol Hill.

You may not have any real access to your own U.S. Senator, but if you’re lucky, you might get invited to listen to him talk on the telephone! That’s pretty much the same, right?

Unfortunately for Sen. Gardner, this routine is wearing thin across the state. In the meantime, Colorado residents show no sign of letting up on demonstrations and protests.


► Before leaving Washington D.C. last week, House Republicans released a vague outline of a proposal about what to do with Obamacare if they end up repealing the health care law. On Monday, former South Carolina governor and current Rep. Mark Sanford admitted in a television interview that he could not guarantee that the Republican health care plan would allow all Americans to keep their current health insurance coverage.

As The Hill explains, Republicans may have a hard time convincing constituents that this vague new plan is even half-baked.


► We all know that campaign finance loopholes are big enough to accommodate whatever metaphor you prefer, but some paid campaigns are so brazenly sketchy that it’s hard to believe they could exist. For example, this barrage of advertisements promoting Walker Stapleton’s campaign for Governor apparent interest in term limits. The intent is so obvious that even Republican-aligned groups like Compass Colorado can’t help but applaud the name recognition boost for Stapleton.


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

Walker Stapleton Rides The Term Limits Pony: Please Clap!

TUESDAY UPDATE: GOP-aligned advocacy group Compass Colorado spills the beans in an email update today:

Our Colorado State Treasurer, Walker Stapleton, is now the voice behind a new ad campaign promoting term limits. The ads will run across the state. Considering that Treasurer Stapleton is a likely gubernatorial candidate, the campaign will help boost his name ID across the state. [Pols emphasis]

Which is the whole point of course, but you’re not supposed to say so.


Regular readers are no doubt aware of the ad that’s been planted at the top of our site more or less continuously for a number of days now, advertising a rally on March 9th at the state capitol for usual-suspect conservative message group U.S. Term Limits:

About a week into the ad campaign promoting this “grassroots” rally, the art switched to a new theme: join Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton at the term limits rally, which is still paid for by U.S. Term Limits:

So, for starters, we can dispense with the notion that U.S. Term Limits exists to propose any kind of workable limit on the terms of members of Congress. Such a major change to the legislative branch would require a constitutional amendment, either through ratification by two-thirds of the states or by a “convention of states”–the latter being the official position of U.S. Term Limits, though it has never actually been used in American history. USTL claims further that their convention would be restricted to their pet cause, but there’s no legal way they could actually guarantee that.

Meaning the whole exercise is silliness, based on the one overriding fact that term limits poll well with (no nice way to say this) low-information voters. In states like Colorado where we have term limits in our own General Assembly, the effects of the policy are overwhelmingly negative–creating a climate in which lobbyists and political pressure groups have more experience running the government than lawmakers themselves.

Some of our longtime readers will remember a previous ad campaign from U.S. Term Limits, a large buy in support of U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer in 2008. Their “Thanks, Bob” ad (which said nothing about term limits) was parodied and laughed at generally in a race Schaffer went on to badly lose, as well as provoking an FEC complaint. But it was a good lesson in the true purpose of the organization–which is to support favored Republican candidates of Howard Rich, a New York real estate developer and member of the board of the much larger right-wing advocacy group the Club for Growth.

With protests related to government…you know, stuff (better for Walker Stapleton to keep that as vague as possible) raging throughout the land, we can understand why this “grasstops” organization run by and for well-heeled Republicans is trying to insert itself in the action. Once the organization’s true motives are unpacked, though, it’s pretty easy to understand that this is a cynical campaign vehicle–funded by a New York billionaire to support George and Jeb Bush’s cousin’s political ambitions.

And that could dry up the grassroots enthusiasm.