Once Again, So Much For That Blowout

You can look now.

It’s okay, you can look now.

With the dust settling on the 2014 midterm elections in Colorado, an election that undeniably gave beleaguered Republicans in this state victories to be proud of, a more accurate picture of this year's electorate is emerging. As we've noted in the days since as Gov. John Hickenlooper's narrow re-election and Democrats' surrender of only one chamber of the legislature by only one seat gave them reasons to cheer, the high water mark for the GOP in a year where everything was operating in their favor basically amounted to a draw–a split at the top of the ticket, and split control of the legislature by the same single-seat margin the Republicans managed in 2010.

On Election Night, the early returns in Colorado didn't reflect Democratic strongholds that were counting late into the night. As a result, the numbers in Colorado for television audiences fed the national narrative of a Republican wipeout–and excited reporters and local Republicans were only too happy to reinforce this generalization. But in Colorado, we know now that was not the whole story. The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels notes in her story this weekend about the small-ball success of Cory Gardner's field campaign:

Because many of the early returns involved GOP ballots, the initial tally showed voters kicking out Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper [in addition to Udall], and going for Republican Bob Beauprez — but the governor prevailed.

Hickenlooper won by 3.1 percentage points, Gardner by 2.1 percentage points, according to the latest ballot tallies. That's a far different narrative than initial reports showing Gardner with a resounding lead and the governor winning in a squeaker. [Pols emphasis]

And Burt Hubbard, writing for Rocky Mountain PBS, is even more blunt:

Viewers watching Colorado returns on Election Night received a skewed impression of just how results were going at the top of the ticket.

While Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner appeared to be beating Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall in a landslide, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez looked to be edging Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in a race that remained too close at midnight to call.

But with Denver and Adams counties still counting a small number of ballots Friday morning, Hickenlooper held a wider margin over Beauprez, 49 percent to 46 percent, than Gardner did over Udall, 48.4 percent to 46 percent. Each was different than first perceived as a result of slow vote counting in the Democratic strongholds of Denver and Boulder.

Fewer than 40,000 voters in seven key Colorado counties were the difference between a clean Republican Party sweep of all statewide offices, and both Hickenlooper and Udall holding onto their seats, according to an analysis by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News. [Pols emphasis]

Everything we talk about in this space about competing campaign narratives in this election, Mark Udall's mistakes, Sen.-elect Cory Gardner's audacious no-apologies political reinvention that proved stronger than any mechanism for accountability that exists in today's politics–all of this matters a great deal, and teach lessons about how to win for both sides. But as we said last week when nobody wanted to hear it, 2014 really could have been a lot worse for Colorado Democrats, and they deserve credit for holding back what proved to be an even stronger Republican national wave than 2010 was. Democrats have many mistakes to learn from, but the idea that this election has somehow vanquished them, or changed the blue-trending political dynamics in this state enough for Democrats to lose heart about 2016, simply has no basis in reality.

Kudos to the media for revisiting the Election Night spin, which didn't stand the test of time.

28 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Tazistan Jen says:

    Honestly, I don't even call a 3.1% margin a "narrow" victory – not in this state.

  2. bullshit! says:

    It's funny how the GOP spin took hold among the Colorado press. Nice to see them backtrack that.

  3. Early Worm says:

    With the way the polarization of the electorate, and the overrepresentation of older voters in off year elections, are we destined to have a republican atty general, sec. of state, and treasurer for the foreseeable future?  I am biased, but I saw Coffman as a credible candidate, but so was Quick, and Coffman won by 9 pts.  I don't like Stapleton, but he is an incumbent that did not mess up anything too bad, but he won by 5 pts.  Finally, Wayne Williams was a joke running against a much more qualified, charismatic dem, and Williams still won by 3 pts.  It is not just that we end up with republicans in these key offices, this is also where the future gov. and senate candidates come from.

    • I think we need serious voter education here.

      First, Dems regularly lose these elections, even as they win governorships, sometimes senate seats, and one or both chambers of the legislature. We need to get people to vote down-ballot.

      Second, Oregon has all mail-in balloting and they have high-60's to high 70's percentage response; voters in our state look pathetic in comparison so far.

      • Andrew Carnegie says:

        PR,  The voters were educated.  

        They still think Dem candidates sucked.

        Kind of arrogant to think the problem is they just are not educated enough.

        Maybe they don't want to buy what you are selling.

        • denverco says:

          I don't know what elections you are talking about achole, The republicans must have sucked even worse since you lost the governorship – again and could barely get control of one of the state chambers. Kind of arrogant on your part since this is the best the teabaggers could do in a wave year and you are bragging – LOL

    • gaf says:

      The state-wide offices always come in the mid-year cycle. That will always be a challenge–a disadvantage–for the Democratic party. If they came in the presidential cycle, it would be much different. Unfortunately, that is the reality we have to live with–and overcome.

  4. FrankUnderwood says:

    But….but…..but, AC and Chuck Plunkett and Sean Hannity and Ryan Call said the Democratic. Party is finished. It was the end of days.

  5. itlduso says:

    The Dems were dealt a full house (good economy, lower unemployment, low gas prices, etc.) and lost to candidates with zero vision for the future.  That's a bungled election in my book and I'm exhausted trying to defend the Dems.

    • BlueCat says:

      Amen. Have already commented on this many times and at length and I too  am exhausted with the whole sorry subject.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      I am careful these days to make sure I am blaming Democrats for the right things. We must never blame Democrats for the obstruction caused by Republicans. They are counting on that and it only encourages them to obstruct more.

      I personally believe that at least half of public anger at Dems and Obama is the result of Republican obstruction that Dems get blamed for. I will never fall into their trap again if I can help it…

      • BlueCat says:

        Dems deserve the blame for running from getting that message out for fear of not looking bipartisan enough. And it starts with Obama who, from the very first negotiations of his first term, went out of his delusional way to charm the obstructionist Rs, publicly pledged to deny him anything that could look like a victory on anything, while casting blame on "extremists" in his own party. Gee how bipartisan of him. Too bad it didn't charm a single R and pissed off a whole lot of Dems. No wonder Dems in congress have never been  enthusiastic about going out on a limb for the guy who dissed them from the start, while devoting so much wasted energy to trying to hold hands with Rs who had no intention holding hands back. 

        No matter how much of the blame legitimately belongs to the party of obstruction, it's the party of cowards that's afraid to do a damn thing to combat the totally false "extremists on both sides equally at fault" narrative.  Dems pols got exactly what their spinelessness deserved this cycle. Dem voters got screwed by their own pols. Republicans are just doing their thing and why shouldn't they if Dems let them?

  6. Andrew Carnegie says:

    I think the Dems did just fine.

    I hope they do equally well in 2016.

    Don't worry, be happy.

    I heard the people that didn't vote, just like Barack, and trust me they said do the exact same thing in 2016.  It works.

    • denverco says:

      achole, you also predicted  a 150,000 vote margin for the gop in Colorado. 2016 won't be a gop wave year. Your rash has addled your tiny brain – why didn't the gop do better this year, I'm sure you have some good excuses.

    • BlueCat says:

      Time to start scrolling right past you again, Piss An.t You're appearance as a thoughtful and not completely dickish human was so brief I almost missed it. Bu-bye.

      • The realist says:

        I've been scrolling past for months – it's easy, and you really miss nothing.

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        Time being time, whenever was the time that it wasn't time?


        (Although there are many very good blog sites . . . 21st century blog sites, that is . . . that allow users to block viewing of other posters they choose, I guess that the time for that here at Colorado Pols — circa 1994 — hasn't arrived yet?)

    • dustpuppy says:

      Hey AChole, why aren't you banned for continuing to instigate people.

      Ada, I'll give you $50 if you get rid of the moron. Also, use that money to buy a real comment program.


  7. "Fewer then 40,000 voters in seven key counties…" What counties they came from makes zero difference. They could have been 625 voters from 64 counties, or all from one. This idea that statewide races hinge on certain swing areas is bunk. In off years, persuading the swing areas and turning out the base areas are both vital.

  8. Zappatero says:

    ColoradoPols continues to be misguided in their obsession with poll numbers and margins of victory. By doing this they are in effect defending the unfocused campaign of Udall/Bennet team and letting them off the hook for a loss that was not foreordained.

    Udall's election was winnable even given the number of negative factors. While key Democratic candidates lost across the country, key progressive policies won:

    The AFL-CIO has post-election data that shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans favor Democratic Party progressive positions– from a more specific one like raising the minimum wage to a more amorphous one like reducing the power of Wall Street and Big Business. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka says that there's a disconnect with voters because over half of them agreed that "politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties do too much to support Wall Street financial interests and not enough to help average Americans." That explains why most of the pain and suffering Tuesday was among members of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party– Blue Dogs, New Dems and other corporate whores– and, with a few exceptions, not among normal progressive Democrats. "If a candidate goes out with a strong economic message, and says, 'Here’s how I’m gonna solve your economic problems,' that candidate’s gonna do well," said Trumka. "It doesn’t matter whether they’re a Democrat or Republican. But the economic message that voters heard, they heard stronger from the Republican side than from the Democrats."

    Udall and others couldn't get far enough away from an improving economy and a somewhat decent health care revamp, and his incessant repetition of Republican economic ideas and unrealistic economic policies was as stupid politically as it was economically. Mark Udall was always going to be that "Boulder Liberal", no matter how hard he tried to play the moderate and yearn for that elusive bipartisan cred. 

    You don't see any of the new Republicans seeking bipartisan ponies, do you?

  9. NotHopeful says:

    Unfortunately, tragic losses in American politics are not too uncommon. One example occurred in 1980 in Idaho, when the great Frank Church was not reelected – replaced by a no-name, non-descript Republican named Steve Symms.

    Even Republicans have felt this pain. For example, in 2010 they lost a great senator in Richard Lugar.

    My point is this: Mark Udall is and has been a good U.S. senator. He is reasonable, thoughtful, smart, and considerate and, while he did not run a good campaign, I think you would probably find even some Republicans who would say some nice things about him. He isn't a Floyd Haskell, who really did not make much of a mark in his single term in the Senate. He's more like Tim Wirth, who is still remembered as a statesman-like legislator. I believe Colorado will remember his service in that manner and that he will go down in history as a guy that we should have reelected.

    A few years of Cory Gardner's immaturity, dishonesty, extremism, and malleability to lobbyists will certainly help to remind us of that.

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