Is it just us, or was the Supreme Court the only group of partisan political people who chose not to debate today?
Monday afternoon featured two debates hosted by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce: Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez got first crack at a discussion of the issues before Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Republican Congressman Cory Gardner took to the stage.
Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff did the debate thing at 9News, which will be aired tonight at 7:00 (but not on Channel 9 — on Channel 20. And no, we have no idea what channel that is on Comcast and DirecTV). So you know what that means: It's Live Blog Time!
And now, our third blow-by-blow recap of a Coffman/Romanoff exchange (click here to read the last one).
Let's get to it!
*NOTE: The most current update appears at the top of the page. As always, unless it is in direct quotes, consider all statements paraphrased in the interest of time.
We thought that Romanoff crushed Coffman in their last debate (Sept. 23rd), but that was nothing compared to what we saw tonight. There is absolutely no way that a logical, unbiased person could have watched tonight's debate and not come to the conclusion that Andrew Romanoff is more prepared, more polished, and more statesman-like than Mike Coffman. In their last debate, Coffman was quiet and reserved, and that didn't work. In this debate, Coffman went back to being Angry Coffman, and that REALLY didn't work. If these last two debates are any indication at all of the direction this race is headed, Romanoff is going to win handily in November. The difference was that clear.
Closing statements. Coffman goes first.
"I'm very proud of my record." Says four different times that he was a Marine. Says he is a leader on Veteran's issues. Brings up his own small business experience, and then — wait, rewind — yes, Coffman just rolled his eyes at himself. This is completely bizarre. To close, Coffman brings up 'No Labels' yet again.
Romanoff's turn: "I respect your service, as I've said throughout this campaign." We need men and women of good faith in both parties who are willing to forge compromises. Coffman is making that problem worse. More affordable higher education. Equal pay for equal work. Transition to a clean energy economy. "You can't get there if you deny the nature of Climate Change."
Final question from Rittiman: Do either of you think that your opponent is wrong on ISIS, or can we put that issue to bed? What????
Rittiman has finally succeeded in bring the candidates together; both Romanoff and Coffman appear completely confused about the question.
Coffman launches into his stump speech about his time in the Marine Corps, then wanders off into the land of too many details.
Romanoff: "I think this is one area where we actually agree. ISIS is a grave threat." Coffman tries to interrupt, giving Romanoff another chance to use a line he first brought out in a debate on Aug. 17. "It's only in Washington that you can get interrupted for agreeing with someone."
Coffman's turn to ask a question: Says that Romanoff supported a public option for insurance three weeks ago, and then changed his position to supporting Obamacare. "Would you vote to repeal the individual mandate?"
This is a HORRIBLE question. Why ask a question you know that Romanoff can easily handle?
Romanoff smiles and chuckles. "This is what 'No Labels' looks like. I wonder what a 'label' would be?" Nice dig on Coffman, playing off Coffman's previous answer on the 'No Labels' group. "The truth is, we ought to be FIXING the Affordable Care Act," says Romanoff confidently. "Not repealing it and allowing insurance companies to once again discriminate against families based on pre-existing conditions, or charging women more than men…" Says Democrats and Republicans should be taking on the insurance industry.
Coffman is apparently watching some other debate in his head, because he interrupts and says, "So, the answer is no?"
Romanoff: "I just gave you the answer, Congressman. We haven't gotten any answers from this Congress." Coffman is laughing as though he just landed a solid blow, apparently oblivious to the fact that Romanoff handled the question with ease.
Time for candidates to ask their own questions.
Romanoff to Coffman: Why did you vote for a budget that gives tax breaks to millionaires and makes the middle class pay more?"
Coffman: What it does…something something…marginal rate…something something…growing businesses…something something. Is Coffman even paying attention?
Question: Why do people hate Congress?
Romanoff: "I think there are some examples of why here on this stage tonight. Americans…see politicians in Washington who aren't working for them." Returns back to message of being a middle class champion. Romanoff is really doing a remarkable job of staying on message tonight.
Coffman: "I'm in a group called 'No Labels.'" Coffman may not be aware that the "No Labels" group was shown to be a bit of a sham when Cory Gardner claimed to be endorsed by "No Labels" a few months ago.
Coffman refuses to answer a question about whether he agrees with Colorado law to give drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants.
Clark for Coffman: You were praised for supporting a bi-partisan effort to end last fall's government shutdown. But when it came time to actually work with Democrats and force a vote, you chose not to. "Isn't there a difference in saying you are for bi-partisanship and actually doing the hard work of bi-partisanship?"
Coffman is flailing, badly. Says Washington has a spending problem. Then he says, "When I saw that there weren't negotiations, I stepped forward publicly and said, 'This has to end, and let's move forward.'"
So, to recap, Clark asks about saying one thing and doing another. Coffman says that he says one thing and does another. Huh?
Angry Coffman interrupts Romanoff. "To claim now that you are a fiscal conservative is an out-and-out fraud."
Romanoff sees the pitch and knocks it out of the park. Again. "Using all of these words over and over again doesn't make them true," says Romanoff. "It just discourages people from voting — maybe that's your goal."
"The truth is, the math works," says Romanoff. "What doesn't work is a plan like Congressman Coffman's that forces Middle Class families to pay more, that forces Seniors to pay more," and that increases student debt.
Clark interrupts, again, but this time he sounds like a boxing referee trying to stop a massive beating. "Okay, I think we can see the clear deliniation."
Rittiman for Romanoff: You've cast yourself as a fiscal hawk, and in the state legislature, you are mandated by law to do that. When have you shown fiscal constraint when you weren't forced to do so by the law?
What? Maybe we should go back to the book questions after all.
Romanoff: Says he opposed automatic spending increases in Colorado budget, and brought them down when he was Speaker of the House. [Now Romanoff is rolling]: We can't balance the budget on the backs of the middle class. This is to me the real distinction in this race. The budget that Coffman supports would make middle class families pay more and the wealthy less.
Coffman: Angry finger-pointing rant about Romanoff running the same kind of campaign he ran against Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010. Then: "It takes courage to balance the budget in Washington D.C., and so I've cast some tough votes to do so…I think it's absolutely gutless to say that you are for a balanced budget and then not show what kind of path you're going to take to get there." Coffman says that he has consistently voted for a balanced budget, and that Romanoff "has squealed about every one. Talk about what you are going to cut."
This is dangerous territory for Coffman. He's trying to take credit for voting for legislation that may have balanced the budget (theoretically) but was not politically feasible. He also really needs to stop the Angry Coffman routine.
Romanoff: "If Congressman Coffman is done with his personal attacks, I'd like to answer the question I think he posed at some point: How do you balance the budget?"
Romanoff gets into the weeds a bit, then hits Coffman with a right hook. "You're right, Congressman, I do think we need to crack down on tax evasion. I don't know why you would want to let corporations or the wealthiest individuals in America off the hook." [Coffman tries to interrupt, but Romanoff keeps going] "I don't know why you would want to let drug companies off the hook…"
Clark turns into Captain Moderator again and interrupts Romanoff, who was getting to the very point Clark wants him to make. "Let me lay out the math for you," says Romanoff. He does, and sounds very much like someone who knows exactly what he is talking about.
Home Run Grand Slam for Romanoff.
We're going to stop listing every question and answer at this point — we'll stick to the more interesting stuff.
Rittiman (seriously): What are the last two books you read?
Romanoff: I'm reading a book called "The Unwinding," which is about the failure of institutions that once supported the middle class.
Rittiman: "And prior to that?" [Both Clark and Rittiman are far too concerned with the candidates answering the questions specifically. It's important in a debate to prevent candidates from ducking questions, but do we really need to go out of our way to make sure we find out the name of the second book?] Romanoff names another book, but nobody cares anymore.
Coffman: Book by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Then says he read a book about the American West. Good enough — we don't need full bibliographies here.
Clark: Jefferson County School District has been in the news recently. Did you ever participate in an exercise of civil disobedience?
Coffman: "No, but I respect those throughout history who have."
Rittiman: When was the last time you fired a gun, and can you tell us what kind?
Romanoff: I think it was in high school. Rifle practice?
Coffman: "I'm an expert in the M-16…" and another gun. He last fired a gun 6 months ago.
Glad we cleared this up.
Kyle Clark listens to himself talk for awhile, then asks Coffman: Is there a Democrat who you voted for?
"I think I was a Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, overseas. I voted for…Anderson? For President? Ouch, that hurts. I can't remember his first name."
WHAT. THE. F***. DID THAT REALLY JUST HAPPEN?
Clark tries to help. "Are you talking about 1980, against Reagan?"
Coffman is squinting at the camera and making a weird face. Either Coffman needs to poop, or he just realized that he sounds like an absolute moron: "…Yeah."
Clark: "I don't know that he was a Democrat."
You might recall that Ronald Reagan defeated A SITTING PRESIDENT in 1980. The Democrat's name? Jimmy Carter.
Romanoff smiles. Clark smiles. Rittiman smiles.
[LONG AWKWARD PAUSE]
Coffman: "No, he was an Independent."
Same question for Romanoff. "No, I can't recall," he says about voting for a Republican.
Short question time, apparently. Clark says that some are YES/NO questions, and others are meant for just short responses. He says the candidates should know which are which. Has Kyle Clark never actually watched a political debate before?
Rittiman: What single issue does Congress spend too much time arguing about?
Romanoff: [Laughs] "Congress does nothing but argue. If Congress would simply do its job…I think it would have a lot more confidence from the American people." Great answer from Romanoff; aligns him with other viewers, and draws contrast with Coffman.
Clark, trying again to be the big-bad moderator, demands that Romanoff answer the question specifically. Romanoff actually gave a good answer, but apparently it wasn't what Clark thought he should say.
Romanoff: I think Congress spends far too much time trying to decide who should get the credit for something.
Now Coffman gets to answer: "Well, certainly, naming post offices," he mumbles with a weird little laugh. Then Coffman says, "I'm proud of my record on Veteran's issues…" and launches into his stump speech. This seems to trouble Clark not a whit, so we just move on to the next question.
Did we mention how much blue there is on the screen?
Next question for Romanoff from Clark: You have taken PAC money before, but not in this campaign. How is it that PAC money has corrupted your opponents over this time but not your campaign? This is a pretty sharp elbow from the moderators.
Romanoff says that the influence of special interests have corrupted the process in general. "Do we want to be part of the solution, or do we want to be part of the problem?" Pretty good response.
Both Rittiman and Clark seem annoyed at the direction Coffman is taking the debate already. Next question is about Personhood and abortion, and specifically, why and how a Congressman's position on these issues is still relevant. This is actually throwing Coffman a bone, but Angry Coffman just robotically responds with his Personhood and pro-life talking points. Clark interrupts Coffman to re-state the question, and Coffman blubbers something about a bill he's voting for that would include exceptions and not exceptions.
Coffman is already drowning — in just three inches of water.
Romanoff quickly jabs back at Coffman, saying that Coffman didn't even try to defend his votes to ship job overseas.
"You're just distorting my record," yells Coffman.
"How?" responds Romanoff.
Coffman replies…by again not answering. He says the biggest issue for driving jobs overseas has to do with tax codes.
Time to find out if we should expect Angry Coffman (from debate #2) or Comatose Coffman (from debate #3). And…drumroll…it looks like Angry Coffman tonight!
"You're distorting my record," says Angry Coffman as he jabs a finger toward Romanoff.
Romanoff looks down at his podium with a slight smile on his face. He was hoping for Angry Coffman.
When Coffman is finally pressed to answer the question about most important issues, he says tax reform (yawn).
Rittiman asks about top issues in the campaign. Romanoff says its the economy and outsourcing jobs. Says that Coffman claimed he couldn't remember casting votes to outsource in a previous debate, and so Romanoff's campaign provided that information.
First question is about today's historic Supreme Court non-ruling on same-sex marriage, but we're mezmerized by the utter blue-ish-ness of the studio. We don't mean that in a metaphorical sense. Most of the entire screen is filled with a bright blue background with the 9News logo on top. Andrew Romanoff is on the left, Mike Coffman on the right. There is an American flag on the left, and a flag of Colorado on the right. And a LOT of blue.
Kyle Clark asks a long-winded question about gay marriage and the course of history and Coffman being on the wrong side of it all. Coffman mutters something about not being a member of the judiciary.
Clark then asks Romanoff about a "freedom on conscious" exception, which probably makes sense to about 5% of the audience. Romanoff brings up the famous Martin Luther King, Jr. quote about the moral arc of the universe. Clark stops him there to ask Romanoff to "answer the question." Clark wants to show he isn't going to take any shit tonight…but perhaps he should cut some sentences out of his questions first. Romanoff says he believes in full equality of the law.
Okay, so maybe this debate really is live. That's what the announcer voice said as the show began, anyway.
Our moderators tonight are 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman and news anchor/reporter Kyle Clark.