Gardner Misses Bipartisan Softball on Amendment B

The final U.S. Senate debate of the 2020 election cycle — in Colorado, at least — took place on Tuesday night in Ft. Collins. The big headline of the night was Sen. Cory Gardner’s inexplicable decision to answer “YES” to the question, “Do you think President Trump is a moral and ethical man,” but Gardner also missed another opportunity on an issue that would have helped him pretend to be a bipartisan lawmaker.

Gardner frequently touts a nonsense bipartisan rating from “The Lugar Center” that has been repeatedly fact-checked as ridiculous. Gardner mentioned his Lugar Center rating again on Tuesday, but he later made it clear that he opposes Amendment B, the 2020 ballot measure that seeks to rid Colorado of the no-longer-helpful Gallagher Amendment.

Gardner’s opposition to Amendment B is interesting, because this is one of the few bipartisan safe spaces left in the 2020 cycle. Democratic heavyweights such as Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper both support repealing the Gallagher Amendment, but so do prominent Republicans such as former Sen. Hank Brown, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, former State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, and virtually every state Republican lawmaker on the Western Slope.

Because the Gallagher Amendment puts a significant strain on small businesses and local government services, including schools, fire stations, and all of our first responders and frontline health workers in Colorado, Amendment B has a broad section of support among business groups and labor unions alike. Amendment B is also particularly important for rural areas, which Gardner talks about frequently, as well as Colorado agriculture; unless Amendment B passes, farmers and ranchers stand to pay a tax rate that is five times more than what homeowners currently pay in Colorado.

If nothing else, Gardner’s public opposition to Amendment B may help clarify the issue for voters still pondering which oval to darken on their ballot.

Who Wears it Better (Theoretically)?

The U.S. Senate campaign of Democrat John Hickenlooper is out with a new Spanish-language television ad featuring former Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. As you can see yourself, there’s something…different about Salazar:

Apparently, Ken Salazar is rocking a mustache these days. Since we could all use a little lighthearted humor with the election cycle finishing up its final three weeks, we wondered how other Colorado politicians might look if they decided to change up their style by adding the ol’ face caterpillar.

Clockwise from top left: John Hickenlooper, Cory Gardner, Joe Neguse, Ken Buck, Jared Polis, Doug Lamborn

Now, we’ve long been of the opinion that politicians who want to be re-elected should avoid a mustache at all costs, but what say you, Polsters?

Click after the jump to vote on which one of these imaginary facial decorations works best…



Seriously? “Four Corners” Cory Gardner Blows Off Grand Junction

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Say Anything).

Yesterday, the Grand Junction Sentinel’s editorial board published their research into Colorado’s two U.S. Senate candidates. The newspaper didn’t endorse a candidate in keeping with their policy this year, but nonetheless made clear they were most displeased by the choice of incumbent GOP Sen. Cory Gardner to decline to meet with them.

That’s right, folks–the same Cory Gardner who regularly lambastes his opponent John Hickenlooper for “only caring about the Front Range” apparently couldn’t make time to talk with the Western Slope’s newspaper of record:

We can’t say we were surprised that Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner declined to meet with the Sentinel’s editorial board because it’s part of a pattern…

It makes sense, perhaps, that Gardner was reluctant to meet with The Denver Post, which famously took back its endorsement of his 2014 bid for the Senate. But the Western Slope is GOP-friendly territory and we were willing to reserve judgment on Gardner’s first term in the Senate until we had given him a chance to defend his positions.

…Gardner’s unwillingness to answer tough questions leaves us empty and disturbed. If he manages to retain his Senate seat having studiously avoided newspapers and townhall meetings across the Western Slope, what incentive does he have to answer directly to the people ever again? [Pols emphasis]

In contrast, Hickenlooper met at length with the Sentinel’s editorial board, and reportedly impressed them with his willingness to engage on any question including the less comfortable ones. Readers will recall that back in August when Hickenlooper announced he wouldn’t be attending the Club 20 annual conference debates, Gardner’s campaign howled ad nauseum how it proved Hickenlooper “does not care about the Western Slope.”

“John Hickenlooper does not care about the Western Slope, and his refusal to debate outside the I-25 corridor proves it,” Gardner’s spokesman, Jerrod Dobkin, said Monday morning. “Both Democrat and Republican leaders across western Colorado today are pleading with Hickenlooper to stop ignoring them, but Hickenlooper couldn’t care less.

“Colorado deserves a Senator like Cory Gardner who represents the entire state, not someone like Hickenlooper whose party bosses in D.C. call all the shots.”

Just yesterday in the Summit Daily News, Gardner said this in an op-ed:

I’ve worked hard for Colorado during the past six years, and I’m dedicated to building on the successes of my first term in office. During my time in the U.S. Senate, I’ve worked tirelessly for all four corners of Colorado, regardless of ZIP code, delivering real results for Coloradans from Sedgwick to Durango…

But not, apparently, for Grand Junction–or at least nothing worth bragging about to the Grand Junction Sentinel. Although it’s reasonable to expect that Gardner will carry Mesa County in the elections, this was an excellent opportunity for Gardner to burnish his “all four corners of Colorado” credentials, and an unforced error to refuse. After vilifying his opponent for not making himself available to the hinterland, Gardner just gave Hickenlooper the perfect retort.

Cory Gardner, once again, doesn’t practice what he preaches.

Cory Gardner Says Trump Is a Moral and Ethical Man

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has consistently trailed Democrat John Hickenlooper in both polling and fundraising in their race for the U.S. Senate. Tonight, both candidates squared off in the final debate of the Colorado Senate race, and near the end of the hour-long discussion, Gardner stuck a stake in his own heart:

Gardner had just finished talking about how he believes that Hickenlooper is not an ethical person, but he just couldn’t do it when the question came up about President Trump. Colorado voters DO NOT approve of Trump, who is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in Colorado by 14 points.

This wasn’t the moment that Cory Gardner lost the 2020 Senate race, but it certainly ends any lingering hope he might have had of making a comeback. Gardner is done.

Americans Love Them Some Early Voting

Ballots in Colorado hit mailboxes last weekend, and while it’s too early to look at ballot return numbers in our state, anecdotally we’re hearing that plenty of people have already submitted their votes for 2020. Colorado has been voting mostly by mail since 2014, so early voting isn’t a new phenomenon. But around the country, there are more early voting options than ever before, and people are taking advantage of the opportunity.

As the website U.S. Elections Project reports, nearly 12 million Americans have already cast ballots in 2020. It’s difficult to compare early voting in 2020 to any other year, primarily since no other election cycle had a COVID-19 problem, but we can logically assume that this is a very big deal. Here’s how these numbers compare to previous election cycles:

If you dig deeper into the 2020 early voting numbers, you find that voters in seven states (MN, NJ, SD, VA, VT, WI, and WY) have already cast more than 20% of their state’s total votes compared to 2016. Voters in Florida and North Dakota are knocking on that door, having cast more than 18% of total ballots compared to 2016. Voters are also shattering records for early turnout in states like Georgia and Texas.

Political observers have long predicted that 2020 will shatter the record for voter turnout in the United States. With three weeks to go until Election Day, it’s a good bet that Americans will surpass the 139 million ballots that set a record in 2016.

This is almost certainly not good news for Republicans; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is already sounding the alarm about a potential “bloodbath” for the GOP in 2020.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (October 13)

If you are a voter in Colorado, you might already have a ballot in your mailbox; check for more information. Let’s 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 an audio learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.



*Colorado Coronavirus info:
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► Just look at the picture that accompanies this New York Times story for a glimpse into the shitshow that is the SCOTUS confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate.

This looks totally safe (via New York Times)

As POLITICO reports, SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett is avoiding questions from Democrats about abortion and Obamacare.


As The Washington Post reports, the domestic terrorist group accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer apparently also had their sights on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam:

During the hearing in Grand Rapids, Mich., to discuss the charges filed last week against members of a self-proclaimed militia accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor, FBI Special Agent Richard Trask revealed that months ago some of the suspects met in Dublin, Ohio, where Northam, also a Democrat, was discussed as a potential target.

“At this meeting they discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically issues with the governors of Michigan and Virginia, based upon the lockdown orders,” Trask told the court, referring to state-mandated restrictions implemented to combat the spread of coronavirus.


Another new poll shows big leads for Democrats at the top of the ticket in Colorado. Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden is up 14 points on President Trump, while Democrat John Hickenlooper holds a 10 point lead over incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). These numbers are fairly consistent with polling data that has been released since the June 30 Primary Election in Colorado.


► The fourth and final U.S. Senate debate takes place tonight in Ft. Collins. Scheduled for a 6:00 pm start, tonight’s debate is moderated by 9News’ political duo of Kyle Clark and Marshall Zelinger. The debate is sponsored by 9News, the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Colorado Politics, Rocky Mountain PBS, KRDO in Colorado Springs, KJCT and KKCO in Grand Junction and KOBF in the Four Corners.

It will be interesting to see if Sen. Cory Gardner tries to cut back on a speaking pace that is more auctioneer than real person. Tonight’s debate may also be Gardner’s last chance to attempt to live up to this infamous ad from 2014:



More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…



Morning Consult: Hick +10, Biden +14 in Colorado

The Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter relays the latest numbers from Morning Consult, showing Democratic candidates consolidating double-digit leads in the two ticket-topping races in Colorado:

Cory Gardner looks at his poll numbers.

Here’s the poll details. Comparing these numbers to Morning Consult’s poll of Colorado at the end of July, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is stable having held a 13-point lead over Donald Trump then and over 50% then and now–but Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper’s support has grown more substantially, elevating him from a 6 to a 10 point lead. For Cory Gardner, it’s very clear from these numbers that the momentum from then to now has not moved in his direction.

The six-point lead Hickenlooper saw at the end of July, and another outlier Morning Consult poll in September showing the race as close as two points, were cited as evidence that the U.S. Senate race in Colorado was “tightening”–even though there wasn’t much else to suggest that was actually happening to include corroborating polls. Today’s Morning Consult numbers, on the other hand, are back in line with consensus expectation three weeks out from the election in Colorado: which is that another massive Democratic landslide is in the offing.

Now it’s up to Colorado voters to make these numbers come true.

ICYMI: Desperate Gardner Speeds Through 3rd Senate Debate

Sen. Cory Gardner’s “this is going well” face.

The candidates for U.S. Senate in Colorado — Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Democrat John Hickenlooper — took part in the third of four planned debates on Friday evening. Sponsored by Denver7, The Denver Post, and Colorado Public Radio, this 90-minute debate was more substantial than the first debate between the two candidates but stuck out immediately because of Gardner’s frantic overeagerness to cram as many words as possible into each 60-second answer.

As Mike Littwin wrote for The Colorado Sun, Friday’s debate was a perfect example of Gardner’s overly-polished and desperate efforts to change the narrative on a race that keeps trending away from him:

Gardner would win any debate with Hickenlooper on points. He’s more stylish. He’s far better on his feet. But you have to wonder if voters see Gardner as too clever by half. [Pols emphasis] Maybe the most telling statistic in the SurveyUSA poll was the comparable favorability ratings of the two candidates. Hick came in slightly above water at 48 favorable to 45 unfavorable. Gardner was well underwater with 38% favorable and 50% unfavorable.

Gardner is indeed a slick debater, but on Friday he came off once again as a bit too slick. Gardner was talking so fast that you could hear him breathing heavily when Hickenlooper or one of the other moderators were speaking. From the very first question, Gardner sounded like his voice was stuck on fast-forward. Hickenlooper did an admirable job of keeping his composure, but eventually let out an exasperated laugh after one of Gardner’s especially strained “overcaffeinated hamster” routines.

It was hard as a viewer to not feel anxiety listening to Gardner’s rapid-fire speaking style. We broke down the first two answers from Gardner and Hickenlooper in order to compare their speech patterns. Gardner’s responses averaged about 3.4 words per second, which translates to roughly 204 words per minute (wpm). Hickenlooper spoke at a pace of about 2.5 words per second, or 150 wpm.

Now, let’s provide some context for these numbers. According to the National Center for Voice and Speech, the average conversational rate for English speakers in the United States is about 150 words per minute — or right at Hickenlooper’s pace. Gardner speaks MUCH faster; in fact, he speaks at a rate that is  closer to an auctioneer than an average person.

Gardner even speaks faster than motivational speaker Tony Robbins, whose TED talk clocks in at around 201 wpm.

Watch for yourself, if you can:

Hickenlooper, for his part, was perceptibly more aggressive in responding to Gardner than in his first non-televised debate in Pueblo just over a week ago–but even this greater willingness to engage with Gardner was a reassuring contrast between Gardner’s frenetic sales pitch and Hickenlooper’s far more personable delivery. An excellent example came about seven and a half minutes into the video above, Hickenlooper blows up Gardner’s record on health care using a fraction of the words Gardner used to make his case:

HICKENLOOPER: First, let me just take a moment. And Cory is a fast speaker, very slick. I think you’re going to hear tonight a lot of attacks. You’re going to hear distortions, exaggerations, some outright lies. Let’s answer this question. The Affordable Care Act provided not universal coverage but dramatically increased coverage in this country, and did — as you point out — provide relief for kids in that in between age. They can stay on their parent’s plan. Protections for pre-existing conditions. I believe we have to build on the affordable care act. That’s what Barack Obama built as a foundation. And I think a sliding scale, public option gets us a long way there. Cory says that he has a bill that will provide for protecting…for extending the protections for people with pre-existing conditions. There’s no there there. They’ve had a number of — five different fact checkers say, it’s a sham. Channel 9, the other station, called it horse excrement.

After Gardner’s first debate, which was streamed to a smaller audience than either Friday night’s debate or Tuesday’s debate hosted by 9NEWS, we honestly expected Gardner’s handlers to slow his cadence down to a more conversational level that would be better received by viewers. Not only did they fail to slow Gardner down, Gardner came out with his spring so tightly wound that the desperation of every answer was excruciating to listen to. At this point, like Gardner’s fatal attraction to Donald Trump itself, we don’t think Gardner can change.

Like Charlie Sheen, Cory Gardner has one speed. One gear. Go.

William Perry Pendley Says [Expletive] This Court

Still BLM Director William Perry Pendley whether you and some judge like it or not.

As the Casper Star-Tribune reports via the Colorado Sun–remember that court ruling a couple of weeks ago that ordered acting Bureau of Land Management director William Perry Pendley to stop serving as acting director, after his nomination after over a year in that position to be confirmed by the Senate as the non-acting director was pulled under a cloud? The ruling the Trump administration claimed it would abide by while it appeals, even though Interior Secretary David Bernhardt says there will be no new nominee?

If you thought anybody in Trump’s White House had any intentions to follow that court order, which under any other administration would be something you could count on, the joke’s on you:

“I have not been ousted. That is not true,” Pendley, the Bureau of Land Management’s deputy director of policy and programs, said during an interview with the Star-Tribune on Thursday…

Pendley said he firmly disagreed with the court’s decision and has continued to fulfill his duties as assigned.

“We are going to recognize that authority of the court and will obey it,” he said, adding, “now the Secretary (Bernhardt) is signing all of our (BLM) documents.”

Last weekend, Michael Karlik of the Colorado Springs Gazette interviewed Interior Secretary Bernhardt who defended Pendley’s record as acting BLM director, while promising again that the administration would obey the judge’s order removing Pendley from his position despite disagreeing with it. But it’s clear at this point that neither Bernhardt nor Pendley had any intention of complying with the spirit of U.S. District Judge Brian Morris’ ruling, and that a change in who signs off on decisions that continue to be made by Pendley is not going to mean anything.

Asked about Pendley in a debate last week, as E&E News reports, Sen. Cory Gardner predictably dodged the question:

Asked whether Pendley should still be in BLM’s leadership at all — he is officially BLM’s deputy director of policy and programs — Gardner skirted the issue.

“He hasn’t been confirmed, hasn’t had a hearing yet,” Gardner said.

Moderator Anne Trujillo, a Denver7 news anchor, reiterated the question: “Should he still be in a leadership role?”

Gardner replied: “He’s not been confirmed, and the courts have said he’s not.”

Trujillo responded: “That’s not the question, sir.” [Pols emphasis]

Gardner replied: “We have to have a hearing on this.”

Now that Pendley is bragging about how the court ruling that gave Gardner room to dodge questions about Pendley during Friday’s debate is meaningless, this is a matter Gardner has to address now. Is Gardner actually going to call for hearings into Pendley continuing to run the Bureau of Land Management in all but title?

That would be news, folks.

As for Pendley himself? Short of sending in the marshals, for which critics of the Trump administration have already formed a lengthy fruitless queue, there’s only one way to drain this swamp–three weeks from tomorrow. Pendley, and the troubled record of the “leaderless” Bureau of Land Management during Donald Trump’s term in office, are the voters’ problem to resolve now.

Denver Post (Mostly) Exorcises Itself of Cory Gardner

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

Six years ago, the Denver Post editorial board delivered an endorsement of Cory Gardner to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in the 2014 U.S. Senate race that outraged and demoralized Colorado Democrats ahead of an election they went on to lose by less than two percent of the vote.

Although the relative value of newspaper endorsements is perennially disputed by the side who doesn’t get the nod, in retrospect it is generally acknowledged that the Post’s endorsement of Gardner was indeed a factor in Gardner’s narrow victory–in no small part due to specific assurances offered by the editorial board that concerns about Gardner’s threat on “culture war” issues was overblown:

If Gardner had been a cultural warrior throughout his career, we would hesitate to support him, because we strongly disagree with him on same-sex marriage and abortion rights. But in fact he has emphasized economic and energy issues (and was, for example, an early supporter among Republicans of renewable energy).

For that matter, his past views on same-sex marriage are becoming irrelevant now that the Supreme Court has let appeals court rulings stand and marriage equality appears unstoppable. And contrary to Udall’s tedious refrain, Gardner’s election would pose no threat to abortion rights.

In March of 2019, following Gardner’s about-face on President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to obtain funds for construction of Trump’s wall on the southern U.S. border, the Post’s editorial board admitted that for this and so many other reasons brought to light by Trump’s presidency, their 2014 endorsement was a mistake:

We endorsed Sen. Cory Gardner in 2014 because we believed he’d be a statesman. We knew he’d be a conservative voice in Congress, to be certain, but we thought his voice would bring “fresh leadership, energy and ideas.”

We see now that was a mistake – consider this our resolution of disapproval.

In today’s endorsement of former Gov. John Hickenlooper to unseat Gardner, the Post’s institutional regret for their 2014 endorsement of Cory Gardner, widely credited rightly or wrongly with steepening the Post’s circulation decline in subsequent years, is blisteringly apparent:

Gardner declined to meet with The Denver Post editorial board for our endorsement process. In part, we are sure, that is because of a harsh editorial we wrote in 2019 after he didn’t join 12 other Republicans to repudiate the fake emergency declaration President Donald Trump used to steal congressionally appropriated funds from the Department of Defense. “Gardner could still prove to be a great senator for Colorado, a man who puts his state and his principles above party and politics,” we wrote concluding it was a mistake to endorse him in 2014 if he was not going to stand on principle when the nation needed him most.

Gardner traded unyielding party fealty for election-year favors: the Arkansas Valley Conduit, moving dozens of Bureau of Land Management employees to Colorado, and securing billions of dollars a year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to purchase additional public lands and pay for a backlog of projects in our nation’s parks.

The price for these wins was too steep at the federal level. [Pols emphasis] President Donald Trump reigned unchecked — crashing through norms, knocking down constitutional protections, stirring up racial animus, leaving American allies abroad out in the cold, and claiming more and more authority for the executive branch of government. Gardner had many opportunities to oppose the administration’s “burn it down” approach to governance. Instead, he joined the enablers who turned a blind eye to Trump’s corruption.

It’s troubling that nowhere in this endorsement does the Post address the enormous mistake they made in 21014 in declaring that “Gardner’s election would pose no threat to abortion rights.” The solidification of a conservative majority on the Supreme Court since Trump took office, now on the verge of a 6-3 majority, has placed abortion rights in Colorado and across the nation in immediate danger–a shift Gardner is directly responsible for with his actions as a U.S. Senator. The case made by the Post to remove Gardner from office for his fealty to Trump over Colorado is correct, but missing a crucial detail directly relevant to Coloradans’ votes–both for Gardner and Proposition 115, the abortion ban measure on the ballot this year.

For today, though, the Post has done a great deal to put this regrettable decision six years ago by a different editorial board behind them. Gardner’s victory in 2014, against the prevailing political trends in the state before and since, damaged reputations and ruined friendships across Colorado’s political class. Gardner’s defeat next month, assuming the polls are correct, marks the end of the greatest electoral error by Colorado in a generation.

Throwback Thursday: Four Years Ago Today

Four years ago today, as the controversy raged one day after a recording of then-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump surfaced with Trump making a series of comments that crudely boasted of his supposed ability as a celebrity to commit sexual assault with impunity, Sen. Cory Gardner issued a statement that seems unthinkable today: calling for Trump to withdraw from the presidential race in favor of vice presidential candidate Mike Pence.

Donald Trump and Cory Gardner embrace in Colorado Springs, February 20, 2020.

Gardner’s statement was unequivocal: “I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women.” Here it is in its entirety:

Millions of Americans are set to choose between two people to lead this nation,. One candidate is a danger to our constitution, freedoms and security, and would sell our national security to the highest bidder and finalize the destruction of the rule of law. The other – a candidate whose flaws are beyond mere moral shortcomings and who shows a disgust for American character and a disdain for dignity unbecoming of the Presidency. I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women.

I am committed to defeating Hillary Clinton. The only way this is now possible is with a new nominee that reflects the values of our country and our party. I will not vote for Donald Trump. If Donald Trump wishes to defeat Hillary Clinton, he should do the only thing that will allow us to do so – step aside, and allow Mike Pence to be the Republican Party’s nominee. If he fails to do so, I will not vote for Hillary Clinton but will instead write-in my vote for Mike Pence.

Four years later, Gardner’s assertion that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would “would sell our national security to the highest bidder” and “finalize the destruction of the rule of law” apply so perfectly to the President’s own conduct in office that the words are downright chilling. But in the time that Trump has lived out the predictions Gardner made about Hillary Clinton, Gardner has “evolved” from calling on Trump to withdraw from the race to a national symbol of loyalty to Trump even at the expense of one’s own political future.

Gardner has never once been made to explain how he progressed from being unable to support a candidate “who brags about degrading and assaulting women” to one of Trump’s most steadfast allies and early endorsers. It’s a question we hope gets posed to Gardner in an upcoming debate, because there really is no good answer: if Gardner believed what he said in 2016, nothing has happened subsequently that should have changed his unequivocal position that Trump is unfit to serve as President.

Is it an old question? Yes. But the only answer Colorado voters have ever been given is a shrug. “Of course Gardner supports the President,” the jaded pundits say. “He has to.”

Maybe. But that doesn’t make it right. Or politically survivable.

The reckoning fate decreed on October 8, 2016 has arrived.

Right Wing Militia Groups are Terrorists. Full Stop.

Armed protestors try to enter the Michigan House of Representative chamber in Lansing, Michigan on April 30, 2020.

There is some terrifying news out of Michigan today that should force many Republican elected officials and candidates to reconsider their support for right wing militia groups. As The Detroit Free Press reports:

The federal government has charged six people with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to newly unsealed court records. [Pols emphasis]

The FBI became aware early in 2020, through social media, that a militia group was “discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law enforcement components,” and “agreed to take violent action,” according to a sworn affidavit.

Members of the group talked about “murdering … tyrants” or “taking” a sitting governor, according to the affidavit. One of the relevant meetings the FBI monitored was held June 20 in Grand Rapids. the affidavit alleges. Another meeting was held at a home in Luther, Mich.

Discussions included using 200 men to “storm” the Capitol Building in Lansing, kidnap hostages, including, Whitmer and try the governor for treason, according to the affidavit.

The group met for field exercises and training this year and conducted surveillance of the the governor’s vacation home on at least two occasions in late August and September, the affidavit alleges. They also purchased an 800,000-volt Taser for use in the kidnapping plot, according to court records and members of the plot said they wanted to complete the kidnapping before the Nov. 3 election, according to the affidavit. [Pols emphasis] 

This is more than just a bunch of gun nuts dressing up like G.I. Joe and carrying assault rifles in public places. These people were actively working on a plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan and to take “violent action” against the government. They weren’t just talking; they were practicing.

This also puts a new perspective on the armed demonstrators who stormed the Michigan State Capitol in April; at the time they were described as being angry about coronavirus-related lockdowns, but it’s clear that there were other grievances bubbling beneath the surface. And don’t for a minute think that these armed yahoos weren’t feeling validated by the words of President Trump, who is happy to stroke their egos because he thinks it benefits him politically.

Let’s not kid ourselves here. If you think this news out of Michigan is unrelated to the inflammatory rhetoric from certain Republicans, then you’re lying to yourself. If you think it’s not happening here in Colorado, you’re lying to yourself. We’ve already seen threats of armed militias descending on the State Capitol in Denver.

Republican elected officials cheer these assholes forward with their social media accounts and public statements, so OF COURSE some of them are going to take that encouragement seriously. When Trump tells the “Proud Boys” to “stand back and stand by,” they listen and they salute.

Rep. Ken Buck, wearing a “Kill ’em all all, let God sort ’em out” t-shirt.

This includes the likes of Rep. Ken Buck, the Greeley Congressman who moonlights as State Republican Party Chairman (or vice versa). Buck has spent a lot of time grandstanding on the threat of “Antifa,” which the FBI acknowledges isn’t even an actual organization; meanwhile, Buck is happy to rile up actual armed militia groups with campaign videos of him playing with guns and criticizing mask-wearing precautions. When elected officials and state party leaders are encouraging violent behavior, it is music to the ears of the kind of extremists who are desperately looking for that kind of validation. We certainly wouldn’t take Buck seriously, but there are enough people who would — and that makes his rhetoric truly dangerous.

When House Minority Leader Patrick Neville promotes his self-serving lawsuit fundraiser against Gov. Jared Polis because Polis is trying to make sure we don’t all die from COVID-19, there are plenty of people who think Neville is being serious and not just running another grifting operation. When Neville and other right-wing radio sycophants insist that Denver is a burning trash heap that needs to be defended by “patriotic citizens,” they are hyping up the sort of people who already want to do this.

Republicans lose their damn minds when someone uses spray paint in a public place, but they go silent when people are parading around with assault rifles. You don’t think these militia types notice when the 17-year-old guy from Illinois who killed two people in Kenosha, WI is hailed as a hero instead of denigrated as a murderer?

Lauren Boebert at a “freedom rally” on May 23.

Republican congressional candidate Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert OPENLY EMBRACES MILITIA GROUPS, publicly accepts their support, and has reportedly even asked them to provide “security” for her campaign events. Look at this interview with Boebert from

REAL VAIL: Gun-toting militia members in Michigan just stormed the state capitol (on April 30) and unsuccessfully demanded access to the floor of the legislature. Some lawmakers said they were intimidated by the show of firepower. Was that appropriate?

BOEBERT: I didn’t see that happen, but … I don’t see why they’re not allowed to. Denver, you can’t open carry in Denver, but right there at our Capitol doors, there’s metal detectors so the public can’t go in there with their firearm. However, even that is a violation of the way the laws read — whenever you are going to restrict law-abiding citizens to come into a public building like that with a firearm.

Boebert doesn’t see why armed people shouldn’t be allowed to storm their State Capitol whenever the mood strikes them. What the actual fuck?

Boebert is also a cheerleader for insane conspiracy theories promoted by the likes of QAnon, but she’s not alone; 17 Republican Members of Congress recently voted NO on a resolution condemning QAnon. If you’re afraid to speak out against these dangerous lies, then you’re complicit in feeding the mindless fury that drives them.

What almost happened in Michigan is abhorrent. You can’t blame these actions directly on provocateurs like Trump and Buck, but ask yourself this: Would it have happened if right-wing politicians hadn’t been egging them forward and calling them “patriots”?

The rhetoric of elected officials and candidates can — and does — have real consequences beyond the results of an election. It’s past time for Republican politicians to start taking this responsibility more seriously.

Senior Trump Campaign Advisor John Pence Stumps With Colorado Republicans

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senior Trump campaign advisor John Pence (left) prepares to speak at his first of multiple campaign events in Colorado today.

Senior Trump campaign advisor and Vice Presidential nephew John Pence is stumping for Colorado Republicans’ campaign events today. He joined state senate candidate Doug Townsend at a small front yard event in Denver’s Montclair neighborhood. In his introduction Townsend noted that Pence, “works closely with the White House Office of Political Affairs and the Republican National Committee to organize the President’s political activities.”

Pence spoke in broad strokes about the need to vote Republican, not only at the statehouse level but for Cory Gardner and Donald Trump.

“Your great Senator Cory Gardner needs to be sent back to Washington for six more years,” said Pence. “He’s fighting for common-sense, pro-growth policies. He’s also fighting for the beauty of Colorado. He championed the Great American Outdoors Act- the largest piece of environmental legislation to be passed since the days of President Roosevelt.”

Pence characterized the election in the direst of fundamental terms:

“My uncle likes to talk about how usually elections are about Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, but this election is about whether America remains America. Whether we see the greatness that is this country. Whether we stand for this land of the free because of the brave, or whether we accept the notion that America is systematically this or systematically that.” [He may have meant ‘systemically.’]

He also emphasized “law and order,” and decried the property damage that accompanied some of the widespread protests against police brutality. “There’s a freedom of expression in America,” Pence warned. “There is not a freedom of destruction in America.”


LISTEN: Cory Gardner at Peak Ridiculousness

Is this the face of a man who is about to feed you a tractor full of manure? Well, yes, it is.

Anyone who reads this website or follows Colorado politics in general is well aware that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) really has only one political superpower: Obfuscation.

Gardner has mastered the ability of saying many words in a particular order so that the end result is a completely nonsensical response to your question. It doesn’t matter what issue is on the table — Gardner will say nothing about anything, from health care and coronavirus to gun safety and immigration.

Gardner’s powers of obfuscation have begun to fail him in recent years, forcing him to adopt a Plan B that is basically just running away from the questioner. But a new story from The Huffington Post reminds us of Gardner’s abilities when he was still operating at peak ridiculousness:

Facing an uphill battle for reelection in a state where two-thirds of registered voters polled last month said they favored a Senate candidate who promised “aggressive action” on climate change, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) has billed himself as a “national leader” on climate issues and run three separate ads casting himself as a pragmatic environmentalist.

But in a 2017 audiotape HuffPost obtained, Gardner squirms out of questions about what is causing climate change, instead leaning into conspiratorial thinking that efforts to curb carbon emissions are part of a larger plan to “control the economy.”

“There are people who want to control the economy as a result of their belief about the environment,” Gardner said in a previously unpublished interview with a local newspaper columnist in his native Yuma County in rural eastern Colorado. “Absolutely, there are.”

This 2017 interview with Gardner was conducted by Gregory Hill, a novelist who lives in Gardner’s hometown of Yuma and writes a weekly column for the Yuma Pioneer. The interview has not previously been made public, as Huff Post reports, because Hill was essentially bullied into backing off by Gardner staffers:

Following their testy Tuesday morning call three years ago, Gardner’s team contacted Tony Rayl, the editor of the Yuma Pioneer, to complain about the columnist’s tone and ask whether Hill truly worked for the paper. Hill, who said he is on the autism spectrum and reacts angrily when someone appears to be evading simple questions, was embarrassed at losing his temper.

“I felt like a failure,” he said in a phone call with HuffPost. And in a county of roughly 10,000 people, he didn’t want his mostly conservative neighbors to see him as “the shrill, hysterical version of the liberal that they already have in their mind.”

The senator’s staffers reinforced that feeling. “It felt like this intimidation thing that worked,” Hill said. “It worked on me more than anybody.” So the interview didn’t run in 2017.

Gardner’s office did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

I just do this and words come out.

We’d encourage you to listen to the entire exchange, which is embedded below, to get the full flavor of Gardner’s obfuscation. You can practically hear his shit-eating grin in excruciating back-and-forth dances like this one:

“I certainly think that the climate is changing,” Gardner said.

“I’ve heard you say that before,” Hill responded. “But here’s my question: Is it changing as a consequence of the human introduction of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds into our atmosphere?”

“Well, I don’t think there’s any doubt that humans have an impact on the environment around us,” Gardner said.

Hill grew audibly frustrated. “Let’s be clear, because when I step outside and exhale, I’m having an impact on the environment. But are humans essentially causing climate change?”

“I think that humans do have an impact on the environment,” Gardner repeated.

Take a listen, and make sure to stick around until the end when Hill replies cheekily, “Well, maybe I’ll see you at a town hall, then.”


Hick or Gardner? And What’s the Spread?

Sen. Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper.

We’ve been asking this question since July, and the results have generally been about the same: Colorado Pols readers seem to think Democrat John Hickenlooper will have little trouble beating Republican Cory Gardner in November.

Ballots will depart for mailboxes on Friday, so we ask again: Who is going to win Colorado’s marquee race, and by how much?

This is obviously not a scientific survey, but Colorado Pols readers have traditionally been pretty accurate in predicting the outcomes of big races in Colorado. As always, we want to know what you think will happen here — not what you want to happen or who you personally might support. If you had to place a bet — right now — on one of the following options, what would you select?

Click after the jump to cast your vote…



Hick Blows Every Colorado Fundraising Record Away

Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland reports on a Q3 fundraising haul for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper that is nothing short of historic:

John Hickenlooper, Colorado’s Democratic candidate for U.S Senate, raised $22.6 million dollars during the latest fundraising quarter, more than four times the amount of his previous campaign haul of $5.2 million, according to figures released by his campaign. The reporting period is from July 1, September 30. Going into the final stretch before Election Day, Hickenlooper’s campaign said he will have $7.2 million cash on hand.

Hickenlooper is locked in a tight raise to unseat first-term Republican Senator Cory Gardner. Gardner’s campaign said the Senator is still waiting for his third quarter fundraising figures and will release them by the October 15 deadline. Throughout the campaign Gardner has had more cash on hand, but Hickenlooper has outpaced him in fundraising each quarter.

“I am incredibly grateful for every single one of our grassroots donors and volunteers who have joined our campaign during these difficult times,” said Hickenlooper. “Coloradans from every corner of our state are fired up and ready to flip this seat because they are fed up with Cory Gardner’s lockstep support of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.”

To put Hickenlooper’s Q3 in some kind of perspective, in 2014, Sen. Mark Udall raised just over $20 million dollars for the entire election cycle. There’s really no objective yardstick to employ, because no one has ever come anywhere close to raising this amount of money in a single quarter for a Colorado race. Hickenlooper’s $5 million Q2 was the previous Colorado record, and that record has now been more than quadrupled. Hickenlooper reports some 485,000 individual donors in this report–that’s almost half a million people opening their wallets–with 97% of the contributions under $200.

The only way that this Q3 total is not absolutely mind-boggling is in the context of other competitive U.S. Senate races around the country in 2020, where similarly massive hauls are being reported–$28 million for the Democratic candidate in North Carolina, Cal Cunningham, and record numbers expected from Mark Kelly in Arizona and Jaime Harrison in South Carolina–a state just moved by Cook Political Report to a toss-up.

What we have here is a wave of money like nothing we’ve ever seen, invested by an historic number of donors large and small, to produce another wave–a wave of votes.

Cory Gardner Can’t Hide Behind Michael Bennet, Either

A new ad from Sen. Cory Gardner’s sputtering re-election campaign has no need for its full thirty second run time, since the first two seconds convey the whole message:

Using a photo of your counterpart from the opposing party is a bold gambit, like Gardner does with Sen. Michael Bennet above, and Gardner goes even farther–citing a quote from his opponent John Hickenlooper at some point in the past saying something favorable about. Presumably there’s return service of their mutual affection somewhere in the record of them both serving in office over the past decade, but that’s not what this ad is about.

In a state which has shed most of its remaining “purplish” image over the past two elections, evolving into something much closer to a Democratic-dominant blue state, Gardner trying to appeal to voters by noting the past approval of Democrats including his own opponent makes a kind of contrived sense. It’s a little…incongruous to have the same John Hickenlooper Gardner has been vilifying relentlessly suddenly held up as a character witness, but that’s what you do when you’re down by double digits in the polls.

The other risk inherent to invoking the enemy as a character reference is, they don’t have to play along:

Ouch–but it’s hard to have much sympathy for Gardner, having left the proverbial door open.

All told, this latest ad is an interesting if transparently desperate play by Gardner, for which points for effort though not actual votes should be awarded. If the polls prove right on Election Day, consistent with the steady progression to the left this state has undergone since Gardner’s narrow 2014 victory, Colorado has moved past the phase of needing to pretend what it wants politically–and that’s the role Gardner is trying to fill.

Colorado is now the wrong state for it, and 2020 is in every way the wrong year.

Republicans Tell Economists, Voters to Get Bent on Stimulus

UPDATE #2: The stock market reacts accordingly.


UPDATE: No relief for you!

It has been nearly five months since the House of Representatives passed the “HEROES Act” to provide additional relief for Americans still struggling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. No further relief has been made available to Americans, however, because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus have persistently refused to entertain any sort of compromise on the matter.

We’ve noted before in this space the absurdity of claims from McConnell and other Republicans that it is somehow House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s fault that the Senate can’t get anything done. It is looking even less likely that the Senate will make any movement on another coronavirus relief package now that a COVID-19 outbreak has sickened at least three GOP Senators. As POLITICO reported on Saturday:

Three Republican senators announced positive coronavirus diagnoses in the past 24 hours, including one, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, on Saturday morning. Three more GOP senators have said they are quarantining after potential exposure to the virus, which significantly narrows the GOP 53-member majority.

The Senate had been scheduled to come back to Washington on Monday to begin advancing other judicial nominees, but McConnell has been forced to recalibrate those plans as the pandemic hit his caucus.

While the Senate won’t be back in Washington D.C. for regular business, McConnell and leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee have promised to plow ahead with the confirmation process for President Trump’s newest Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. But as The Hill newspaper reports, McConnell and friends are doing the exact opposite of what the American people would prefer:

An overwhelming majority of voters believe the Senate should prioritize coronavirus relief over confirming Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, a new Hill-HarrisX poll finds. [Pols emphasis]

Seventy-four percent of registered voters in the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 survey said the Senate should first pass a new COVID-19 relief bill…

…Eighty-eight percent of Democrats, 77 percent of independents and 55 percent of Republicans were in favor of the Senate passing another stimulus package first.

Via CNBC (10/6/20)

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is pleading with lawmakers to do something big with another stimulus bill in order to stave off economic disaster. As The New York Times reports:

Powell delivered a message to his fellow policymakers on Tuesday: Faced with a once-in-a-century pandemic that has inflicted economic pain on millions of households, go big.

“Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses,” Mr. Powell said in remarks prepared for virtual delivery before the National Association for Business Economics.

“Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy, and holding back wage growth,” he said. “By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller.”

While the unemployment rate has fallen more rapidly than many economists expected, dropping to 7.9 percent in September, millions of Americans remain unemployed as the coronavirus pandemic keeps many service industries operating below capacity. Consumer spending is holding up, but Mr. Powell underlined — as he has before — that the economy’s resilience owes substantially to strong government support for households and businesses. [Pols emphasis]

Economic experts want the U.S. Senate to MOVE on another coronavirus stimulus bill. Polling suggests that 3 out of 4 Americans want the U.S. Senate to MOVE on another coronavirus stimulus bill. Senate Republicans, however, are really only interested in confirming another SCOTUS nominee.

If Democrats are able to flip the U.S. Senate in November, there won’t be any confusion about why Republicans lost their majority.

Get More Smarter on Monday (October 5)

Happy “World Space Week.” Please celebrate responsibly. Let’s 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 an audio learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.



*Colorado Coronavirus info:
CDPHE Coronavirus website 

*Daily Coronavirus numbers in Colorado:

*How you can help in Colorado:

*Locate a COVID-19 testing site in Colorado:
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment 

*Register to vote or get other election-related information:


As you may have heard by now, President Trump has COVID-19 and is being treated at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. According to White House officials and Trump’s team of doctors, the President’s condition is somewhere between “mostly dead” and “totally fine.” White House officials had been suggesting over the weekend that Trump could be released from the hospital as soon as today, though actual doctors find that scenario to be highly unlikely.

As The New York Times updates today, “Trump’s condition remains unclear.”


President Trump briefly rode around in a car on Sunday night to prove that he was still alive, which did not make the Secret Service very happy. As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, it was all very weird and very Trump:

Donald Trump’s unannounced — and wildly unnecessary — drive-by of his supporters outside Walter Reed medical center on Sunday night aptly summed up his presidency to date: An entirely self-focused political (and PR) stunt with little regard for the impacts on people other than himself.

That’s the only logical explanation for the decision by the President of the United States to task two Secret Service agents with driving him by supporters who had gathered outside the hospital to show their support for him as he continues to battle Covid-19.

“That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack,” tweeted Dr. James Phillips, who works at Walter Reed as an emergency physician, on Sunday night. “The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play.”

He added: “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”

Yes. That. All of it.


The candidates for U.S. Senate have now debated twice since you stopped working before the weekend: On Friday in Pueblo and on Sunday for Univision. Friday’s debate was live streamed; the Univision debate will air on Tuesday.

As the first U.S. Senate General Election debate of 2020, Friday’s showdown was widely covered by Colorado media outlets. Here’s our analysis of the Pueblo debate; the short version is that Sen. Cory Gardner came off as agitated and desperate, while former Gov. John Hickenlooper calmly fended off Gardner’s attacks and focused much of the discussion on health care issues.

The Senate candidates are scheduled to debate two more times: On Friday, Oct. 9 (Denver7/DenverPost/CPR) and on Tuesday, Oct. 13 (9News/Ft. Collins Coloradoan).


The Pueblo Chieftain endorses Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush for Congress in CO-03 and doesn’t mince words on their opinion of Republican candidate Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert:

“She has no business in Congress.”

     — The Pueblo Chieftain editorial board on Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert

Sure, Boebert can hold news conferences and be a darling on Fox News, but she would be ineffectual in Congress with that attitude. And that’s where we need success. Air time on conservative networks doesn’t help Colorado.

Mitsch Bush, on the other hand, would be well-respected from day one, drawing significant committee assignments and she would begin working her way up the seniority ladder. That’s how the system works, and that’s how Colorado would benefit in terms of representation and legislation that helps our state.

Boebert has made quite the name for herself in far-right circles, especially in opening her Shooters Grill in Rifle, where men and women dress up like cowboys and cowgirls, strap on their guns and wish they could have been extras in “Tombstone”.

Fine with us. We think that’s where she should continue to hold court. She has no business in Congress.


More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…



Rope-A-Dope: Cory Gardner Tries Too Hard In First Debate

Friday evening, as readers know, Colorado’s U.S. Senate candidates met in Pueblo for the first of several scheduled debates. Friday’s event was not televised, but was live-streamed with somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 people tuned in at any given time. The relative lack of viewership compared to subsequent debates which are expected to be televised made this first outing a useful warm-up for both sides, and a preview for those of us following the race closely of what’s coming when voters are paying attention.

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports, from the opening bell Sen. Cory Gardner was single-mindedly on the offensive against former Gov. John Hickenlooper, managing to turn practically every question into a confrontation from one of Gardner’s factually-challenged attack ads–with an earnest determination that as the hour wore on began to visibly straddle the line of, well, desperation:

Gardner, a Yuma Republican who is trailing in every poll, is the better debater, and Republicans are hopeful he can gain ground during this month’s forums. On Friday night, the freshman senator pressed Hickenlooper on two ethics violations, his refusal to comply with a subpoena in June and an ensuing contempt citation…

Hickenlooper, a Denver Democrat and former governor, spent much of his time on the defensive, pushing back against an almost endless barrage of attacks from Gardner on topics from ethics to energy to his former judicial nominations. Hickenlooper tried to keep the focus on health care, specifically an effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act, a health law Gardner considers unconstitutional.

John Hickenlooper at Friday’s debate.

The Colorado Sun recounted Gardner’s sound and fury, and Hickenlooper’s low-key strategy for managing it:

Republican Cory Gardner hurled attack after attack at his Democratic rival John Hickenlooper, from the opening minutes of the first debate in the U.S. Senate race to his closing statement…

Hickenlooper rolled his eyes, said his opponent was lying and repeatedly dismissed the broadsides as a “wall of words of untruth and distortion” without addressing them.

Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

Gardner was more often on the offensive, posing direct questions to Hickenlooper multiple times. He hammered on ethics complaints against the former governor and attacked Hickenlooper’s character. Meanwhile, Hickenlooper referred to Gardner as a “liar” more than once, and argued he is aligned too closely with Trump rather than Coloradans, especially when it comes to his votes in support of repealing Obamacare.

Sen. Gardner came into this debate as the universally-acknowledged “better debater”–that is, better than Hickenlooper at delivering a pre-scripted message and staying on that message no matter what externalities get in the way. Hickenlooper’s objective was much simpler: knowing that Gardner was going to turn the debate into a bellicose string of endless attacks, Hickenlooper’s job was to not get stuck in the weeds of those attacks, and allow Gardner to press his case past the point of plausibility–thereby turning Gardner’s intensely negative message against itself. Hickenlooper’s refusal to take Gardner’s bait on all but a very of Gardner’s lines of attack visibly frustrated Gardner, who responded by ramping up the invective–a cycle that ended with Hickenlooper holding the high ground.

And when it came time for Hickenlooper to deliver the blows that mattered, as KUNC reports, Hick’s proverbial powder was dry:

Hickenlooper responded saying Gardner hasn’t offered a feasible health care plan. He also said it was the issue the two men have the biggest disagreement on.

“You know what’s the cruelest lie of all, it’s that Cory Gardner says he has a plan to protect people with pre-existing conditions,” Hickenlooper said.  [Pols emphasis] “We need to get to universal coverage. It’s not going to cost a fortune. It’s not going to break the bank.”


“The problem is that Cory Gardner is not just lying to all of you watching this debate. He’s lying to 2.4 million Coloradans. That bill has 117 words in it. It does nothing to say that insurance companies have to take people with preexisting conditions,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s almost like Swiss cheese.”

It is precisely this dynamic–Gardner’s relentless sales pitch versus Hickenlooper’s easygoing charm–that early supporters of Hickenlooper’s U.S. Senate bid foresaw would be Hick’s greatest asset in reclaiming one of Colorado’s last statewide Republican-held offices. Debates are not won by word count, or by negating every single argument of your opponent, or amount of energy expended by either candidate–they’re won by who comes across, in the final analysis, as more relatable.

That is and has always been Hickenlooper’s sweet spot, to the frustration of opponents who try much harder.

The Senate Debate Is Still On. What’s Cory Gardner Going To Say?

UPDATE: The tests have been taken:


Donald Trump, Cory Gardner.

CBS4 Denver reports ominously:

There are new coronavirus concerns surrounding Amy Coney Barrett’s meetings with U.S. senators including Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado’s junior senator. Barrett has tested negative for COVID but she met with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah on Tuesday, the same day as Gardner, and Lee has now tested positive…

Gardner is scheduled to debate his challenger John Hickenlooper on Friday night. A spokesperson for Gardner’s office told CBS4 that will still happen.

The latest news reports suggest that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who Sen. Cory Gardner met with earlier this week, was diagnosed with and recovered from COVID-19 earlier in the summer. That’s potentially good news for Gardner, though we have no way of knowing whether Gardner was in close proximity with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who has now tested positive–not to mention the President himself. At this point, we’ll have to take Gardner at his word that he doesn’t need to be quarantined, and we’re looking ahead to watching tonight’s streamed debate from Pueblo at 7:00PM.

Which brings us to what might happen in tonight’s debate. It’s no secret that Gardner has been hoping for a face-to-face showdown with former Gov. John Hickenlooper, a chance for Gardner’s quick thinking and polished delivery score badly needed points in a forum that no one would call Hickenlooper’s strong suit. Unfortunately for Gardner, the events of the past few days have resurfaced many of the worst sins of last decade of Republican control and the Trump administration, and these issues are going to be front of mind in tonight’s debate. From the pandemic’s deep damage and recent resurgence to Gardner’s own role in denying Barack Obama the choice to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court back in 2016, it’s been a hellish week for Gardner in a race he’s already losing.

We can start with the assumption that most of Gardner’s answers about the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be talking points we’ve heard before: masks from Taiwan, tests from South Korea–Gardner’s anecdotal relief efforts meant to distract from the administration’s failure to supply emergency equipment–and even commandeering Colorado’s order for ventilators. Now that it’s known Trump was fully aware of the dire impending situation in early February, Gardner has to explain holding a rally in Colorado Springs with Trump and thousands of Republican faithful on February 20th, which wrecks Gardner’s own claim that he was concerned about the pandemic as early as January.

With respect to health care, Gardner’s vote this week with Democrats against a lawsuit Gardner has previously supported seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, a vote forced by Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer’s resistance campaign against confirming a new Justice before a new President is sworn in in January, obligates Gardner to explain why he has spent the last decade trying to achieve the goals of that lawsuit. Because Gardner is very adept at sidestepping his long record of opposition to protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, whom Gardner only started caring to protect from GOP repeal efforts when polls showed it was a major political liability, it’s going to be up to the Hickenlooper (and the moderators, naturally) to not let Gardner off the hook here.

The Supreme Court confirmation controversy is of course a subject we expect to be thoroughly aired in tonight’s debate, and in addition to health care several other questions central to Gardner’s record are sure to come up. Gardner’s refusal in 2016 to allow Merrick Garland a fair hearing will be contrasted unfavorably against rushing Amy Coney Barrett through just weeks before the election this year, and Gardner will have to own that under cross-examination. But perhaps more importantly, the game Gardner was able to play in 2014, in which his “personal views on abortion” supposedly did not translate into a proximal threat to abortion rights, is a bitter punchline today.

If there’s time, we think it would be interesting to revisit Gardner’s own words from October of 2016: “I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women.” An honest answer from Gardner as to how he was able to “evolve” from that position to backing Trump to the bitter end in 2020 would be…very interesting.

The aggregate weight of the case against Cory Gardner is so strong that the result tonight will be determined simply by how well Hickenlooper and moderators hold Gardner to the facts about his and Trump’s record. Gardner’s ability to stay on message no matter what obstacles stand in his way will be sorely tested in this debate, and on so many of these questions there simply are no truthful answers that are also survivable.

For all of these reasons, we’ll be tuning in our small screens. Watch this space for updates.

The GMS Podcast Gets More Weiser

Attorney General Phil Weiser (D)

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, we get more Weiser thanks to an interview with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

Your hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii talk with Weiser about his time serving as a clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and his thoughts on how a new SCOTUS confirmation should proceed.

We also talk about what looks to be another blue wave in Colorado; President Trump and Cory Gardner using the same fake healthcare playbook; and Rep. Ken Buck’s persistence to make an ass of himself at any and every opportunity.

Catch up on previous episodes of The Get More Smarter Podcast at

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

“Blue State Bailout” BS Is Stopping Your Stimulus Check

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner.

Reports are varying out of Washington this afternoon over the state of negotiations over another round of economic relief legislation, which has been stalled for months as the economy sputters and Americans tighten their belts–and is nearly out of runway with Congress’ pre-election recess looming. Politico:

[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi cast serious doubt on the likelihood of an agreement during a private call with House Democrats Thursday, stressing multiple times that Republicans don’t “share our values” on the need to provide trillions of dollars in health and economic relief to Americans impacted by the pandemic.

The California Democrat also outlined several key areas where Democrats and Republicans remained far apart, including a child tax credit, where she said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has refused to approve even one dollar in new spending while Democrats have sought tens of billions of dollars for the initiative. The two parties have also been at odds over additional aid for state and local governments — a Democratic push — and Republican demands for liability protections for businesses and schools…

“We come from two different places,” Pelosi told reporters at a press conference later Thursday. “Hopefully we can find our common ground on this and do so soon.”

The Washington Post reports that the House will proceed to vote on Democrats’ latest stimulus proposal, which is a compromise effort reduced by $1.2 trillion-with-a-T from the original HEROES Act passed all the way back in May. But it’s still meeting heavy resistance that calls into question the good faith of Republican negotiators at a pretty basic level:

The legislation expected on the House floor Thursday evening is a slimmed-down version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act the House passed in May, which Senate Republicans and the White House dismissed as excessively costly. Republicans are leveling the same complaints against the new bill, but moderate Democrats, in particular, were eager to try to advance a new piece of legislation before returning to their districts to campaign for re-election.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted that plans to vote on the new bill did not preclude reaching a deal with Mnuchin. In the past several days the two have resumed bipartisan negotiations that collapsed in early August, though without reaching agreement so far…

There is overlap in what Democrats want and the $1.62 trillion offer Mnuchin made to Pelosi on Wednesday, which included $1,200 checks, $400 weekly unemployment benefits, and $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing, among other provisions, according to two people familiar with its contents who spoke on the condition of anonymity to confirm it. There’s also $250 billion for state and local governments, but Democrats want more.

Here in Colorado, the question of aid to state and local governments to offset massive revenue losses from the economic pause to fight the COVID-19 pandemic is an extremely important matter, one that will directly impact our state’s already strained budget for essential services depending on whether Democrats in these negotiations or Republicans get their way. Aid from the CARES Act is the only thing that saved the legislature from having to make much greater cuts in this year’s abbreviated session, and that fiscal bloodbath is waiting if federal aid is withdrawn before the economy can recover enough to supply pre-pandemic levels of revenue.

If you’re asking why Democrats are holding out, this is the answer–and although Republicans know it’s not as politically lucrative as $1,200 checks made out to every American taxpayer, it’s really important that aid to local governments to keep basic functions of government functioning be a part of this bill too.

For Sen. Cory Gardner, who briefly became known by the nickname “Santa Cory” in the spring for his enthusiastic support for stimulus measures he panned under President Barack Obama, this impasse is poorly timed. Colorado voters know that the sticking point here is not a “blue state bailout,” but necessary support for all the services states and local governments provide for their residents.

It all boils down to this: one side wants to help, and the other side wants to help less.

In 2020, the politically desirable position seems obvious.

Gardner Takes Both Sides of Both Sides on ACA Lawsuit

FRIDAY UPDATE: As The Hill newspaper reports, Gardner sorta commented on his vote Thursday:

Another bill, sponsored by Gardner, called the “Pre-Existing Conditions Protect Act” would actually let insurance companies refuse to sell coverage to people with preexisting conditions, experts say. If an insurer did decide to sell a policy to someone with preexisting conditions, under Gardner’s bill it could not refuse to not cover services related to that condition or charge them more based on their health status.

Gardner told The Hill in a statement he voted with Democrats on Thursday because “it would have provided an opportunity to vote on my bill to protect coverage with pre-existing conditions.”

“I support having this important dialogue with my colleagues,” he said. His office did not reply to a follow-up question about whether he supports the GOP’s lawsuit. [Pols emphasis] 


Cory Gardner’s smile

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner weaved his way into Congress on a singular issue: His fervent opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He once called the ACA “the worst government boondoggle” in American history and said that the government should not provide coverage protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

In February 2018, a group of Republican states — with the support of the Trump administration — filed a lawsuit to repeal the ACA altogether. That lawsuit is expected to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in November.

As The Hill reported in August 2019:

Asked if he supported the lawsuit, Gardner replied: “That’s the court’s decision. If the Democrats want to stand for an unconstitutional law, I guess that’s their choice.”

Gardner was again asked about his position on the ACA lawsuit back in March 2020. Again, from The Hill newspaper:

The office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) did not respond to a request for comment on if he supports the lawsuit.

And don’t forget Gardner’s interview on July 1 with Ryan Warner of Colorado Public Radio, in which the Yuma Republican dodged direct questions about his support of the ACA lawsuit 6 TIMES!

Why are we reminding you of this? Because as Igor Bobic of The Huffington Post reports, Gardner voted today to advance legislation that would cut off financial support for the Department of Justice’s anti-ACA lawsuit:

This maneuver pushed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was previewed by POLITICO on Tuesday. It was designed to force vulnerable Republicans to take an on-the-record vote on the ACA lawsuit, and it worked. A total of six Republican Senators voted ‘YES’ on this proposal (Collins, Ernst, Gardner, McSally, Murkowski, and Sullivan). Senator Lindsey Graham — another increasingly-endangered Republican — was listed as “Not Voting.”


This procedure put Gardner in a tough spot as he fights for his political life with about one week left until ballots start going out in Colorado. Gardner could a) Vote ‘NO’ and re-affirm that he supports the ACA repeal lawsuit, or b) Vote ‘YES’ and start trying to pretend that he opposes the ACA repeal lawsuit.

Gardner apparently chose the second option, which is interesting since his recent ploy to pretend to be in favor of protecting pre-existing medical conditions failed so miserably. We’re curious to see how Gardner tries to explain today’s vote and if he attempts to claim that he is now against the ACA repeal lawsuit. Gardner could always just come out and say he opposes the lawsuit — he didn’t need today’s vote as an impetus — but that would contradict everything he’s said (and not said) about the lawsuit in the last two years.

Gardner knows that the ACA is popular in Colorado, so it’s bad politics for him to keep calling for its demise. But Gardner also backed himself into a corner on this issue a LONG time ago — opposing the ACA is a foundational piece of his political narrative. And if he says he now opposes the lawsuit, then it makes it weird for him to continue to support a new Supreme Court Justice who may soon be voting on said lawsuit.

As for Schumer’s proposal, it ultimately failed to get enough votes to invoke cloture, so the measure is dead. The votes are now public record, however, and Gardner is going to have to figure out how to spin this favorably.

Good luck with that.

Another Indication that Gardner’s Days are Numbered

Hi, I’m calling about the job opening posted online…

Last week, the Cook Political Report changed its ratings for Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, moving their prediction to the left from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democratic.”

Today, another national handicapper made an even bigger change: Sabato’s Crystal Ball has adjusted its ratings for Colorado from “Leans Democratic” to “Likely Democratic.”

As Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman write for Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Last week, the Crystal Ball downgraded the prospects of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — we now rate the four-term Maine senator as an underdog against her Democratic challenger, state House Speaker Sara Gideon. Aside from Collins, the only Republican senator running in a Clinton state this year is Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). Colorado, at least in 2016, voted a couple of points more Democratic than Maine, and Gardner hasn’t had decades to cultivate a personal brand — as Collins has — so we’ve had his race at Leans Democratic since February.

The picture for Trump is not good in the Centennial State: as of Wednesday, polling aggregates from FiveThirtyEight give Biden a clean 51%-41% advantage. As one Republican operative summed up in July, “Jesus Christ himself couldn’t overperform Trump by double digits.” Senate polling since then has born this out: while Gardner generally performs better than Trump, he often lags his Democratic challenger, former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), by high single-digits…

…Even before the court vacancy, Gardner’s opposition to the ACA seemed to be hurting his electoral standing. So the coverage of the court hearings may emphasize two issues where Republicans are out of step with the Colorado electorate. This pushes our rating to Likely Democratic and emphasizes, in our ratings, that Gardner is clearly the most vulnerable Republican senator.

Of course, this does not mean that Colorado’s Senate race is over — but it’s moving quickly in that direction. Organizations like Cook Political Report and Center for Politics are usually pretty conservative in adjusting their probabilities for individual races; they want to be able to boast in December that their predictions were largely accurate. With a low number of undecided voters in Colorado, Gardner himself seems to be acknowledging this reality.