Donald Trump is Death for Colorado Republicans

Sen. Cory Gardner (right) waves to crowd behind President Trump ahead of a campaign event in West Virginia (Aug. 21, 2018)

The Washington Post has an interesting story up today about the drag of President Trump on Republicans in 2018 and 2020. The gist of the story, which features Colorado as a prominent example, is that 2018 proved Trump to be helpful to Republicans in states where people already liked Trump, but a real problem everywhere else:

“Trump just overwhelms and takes all of the oxygen out of the room and it’s all focused on him,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), [Pols emphasis] a critic of the president who declined to run for reelection…

…Republicans in rural parts of Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee were newly excited about the election, according to Democratic polling in those races, increasingly favorable toward the president and cheered by the recent confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. In suburban, wealthier parts of the country such as Northern Virginia, the opposite was happening, as moderates recoiled…

…Strategists from both parties say the president, in effect, erected a wall that broke the blue wave, allowing Republicans to hold onto key House seats and defeat Democratic Senate incumbents in conservative Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota. The same strategy, however, empowered Democrats to win decisive victories in formerly Republican suburbs in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, California and the otherwise reliably red state of Texas.

Trump’s late campaigning may have saved Republican candidates in states like Florida, where the GOP narrowly won contests for U.S. Senate and Governor. But Florida is also a state that Trump won in 2016 (albeit narrowly). In states like Colorado, where Trump lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton, the outcome was much different:

“It was very difficult to try to make a case — particularly to suburban, college-educated women who were so upset with the president — to vote for me when they felt there needed to be a greater check on his power,” said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), who lost his suburban Denver district by more than 11 points after winning by 8 points in 2016.

Coffman’s experience was certainly not unique. Republican-leaning outfit Magellan Strategies found Trump to be quite the albatross for the the GOP in 2018. From Denver7:

Thirty-four percent of respondents said they were less likely to vote for a Republican candidate in the election because of Trump’s influence, and Trump’s approval rating is far underwater among Colorado’s unaffiliated voters: His approval rating is 31 percent among the group, while 62 percent said they disapproved of the job he is doing as president and 48 percent said they strongly disapproved.

Flaherty said in his analysis those numbers made Trump’s overall approval rating “toxic” and that “it is quite clear that any association with Donald Trump and his policies harmed Republican candidates in most parts of Colorado” in this year’s election.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), the 2018 chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) added his “no shit, Sherlock” analysis in a comment to the Washington Post:

“The states where we saw the most success with the rallies were states where he won by 20 points or 30 points or 40 points,” said Gardner.

Colorado, of course, is not one of those states. It is clear that Trump was a mighty albatross for Colorado Republicans in 2018, and with his name on the ballot again in 2020, the impact may be even worse.

A Few Words About Polis Education Transition Heartburn

Bob Schaffer.

Gov.-elect Jared Polis is grappling with the first real controversy he’s encountered since his double-digit victory earlier this month, with a less-then-enthusiastic response to certain members of his “transition team.” As John Frank at the Colorado Sun reported last week:

The team includes prominent Democrats, such as former Gov. Bill Ritter, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, former Colorado State University President Al Yates, former Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio and two former Democratic House speakers, Crisanta Duran and Andrew Romanoff. The Keystone Center will facilitate the effort.

But Polis touted his transition effort as a bipartisan affair and pointed to one prominent Republican on the team, former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, a charter school leader who is a member of the education effort. Schaffer served in a similar role for Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2010, a move that drew scorn from liberals for his controversial stances in the past.

Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette elaborated further on the education team, which has justifiably rankled public school supporters:

The Polis education team — one of seven teams whose members were announced Friday — includes Jen Walmer, director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a political group that advocates for charter schools. Some education-policy liberals accuse the group of seeking to restrict teacher unions.

Another is former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, a Republican advocate for taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools and formerly a member of the state board of education.

Schaffer also is chairman of the board of the Leadership Program of the Rockies (LPR) a Republican-leaning organization that provides training on conservative principles and leadership. Its graduates include three of the former members of the Douglas County Board of Education who approved a controversial private-school voucher program in 2011. Schaffer advocated for the state board of education to endorse the voucher program.
The Dougco program led to lawsuits, including a trip all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was dismantled last year after voters elected an anti-voucher school board.

Bob Schaffer, the failed 2008 GOP U.S. Senate turned headmaster of a politically conservative charter high school in Fort Collins, is not the only member of Polis’ education team drawing criticism. There’s also Mike Johnston, who lost to Polis in the Democratic primary largely due to his authorship of a much-reviled “teacher effectiveness” bill that since passage in 2010 has contributed directly to a shortage of teachers in Colorado with no discernible impact on student performance. For the large number of Democratic voters who think supporting public schools is predicate to “reforming” them, these people are more than bad choices: they’re the bad actors in public education base Democrats thought they were voting against. We said the same thing when John Hickenlooper appointed Schaffer to his education transition team, and it’s no less true today.

Since 2010, however, the landscape of education politics in Colorado has significantly changed. The Douglas County religious school voucher program was stymied in court and then soundly rejected by Douglas County voters who threw out the conservative board. The conservative education “reform” movement hit its zenith in 2013 after a slate of far-right school board members took power in Jefferson County, only to be overwhelmingly recalled from office two years later. Johnston’s rejection by Democratic primary voters despite massive infusions of cash from out-of-state education “reform” interests further underscores where the power has shifted on education in the last decade.

In 2004, Polis founded the New America School charter high schools with the specific purpose of “empowering new immigrants, English language learners, and academically underserved students.” Far from the predatory cherry-picking suburban charter schools (rightly) vilified by neighborhood school supporters, NAS is an example of a niche need charter schools can gainfully fill under the right circumstances. Will that experience manifest as a blind spot for Polis with regard to charter schools that aren’t so well-intentioned? That remains to be seen. But this is a charter school doing more good than harm.

With all of this in mind, and especially with Democratic majorities in both chambers of the legislature, the potential harm from appointing Schaffer and “ed reform” Democrats to Polis’ transition team is self-limiting–more so than when Hickenlooper appointed Schaffer to the same committee eight years ago. Polis himself takes pride in engaging with all sides, including those he has little to nothing in common with. The best response is for public education supporters to be loud in their opposition, and back that up with a strong presence in the legislature next year to ensure their policy goals are upheld.

And be assured, Colorado’s public schools are in better hands than the alternative.

“Radicalifornia” Endnotes

California.

As readers know, the state of California factored oddly heavily in the 2018 midterm elections in Colorado. Colorado Republicans attempted to capitalize on the “threat” of Colorado becoming more like the Golden State in all kinds of ways, from the horrors of life in San Francisco to the supposedly wrecked California economy–and, of course, a generous helping of dog-whistle subtext about hippie liberals and their “alternative lifestyles.”

But as it turns out, the states of Colorado and California did have something in common in the 2018 elections. For Republicans in both states, 2018 was an historic wipeout that has left the state’s Republican establishments wondering what the future (if any) looks like. As Politico reports:

In the wake of a near-political annihilation in California that has left even longtime conservative stronghold Orange County bereft of a single Republican in the House of Representatives, a growing chorus of GOP loyalists here say there’s only one hope for reviving the flatlining party: Blow it up and start again from scratch.

That harsh assessment comes as Republicans survey the damage from the devastation of a “blue tsunami” in California which wiped out five GOP-held House seats — with more still threatened — while handing every statewide seat and a supermajority to the Democrats in both houses of the state legislature this week…

For anyone with an understanding of California politics, the idea of the conservative bastion of Orange County failing to send a single Republican back to Congress for 2019 is practically unthinkable. California’s Democratic majorities in the State Assembly and Senate are now supermajorities–a critical hurdle since California requires a two-thirds legislative majority to pass a budget. California’s blue wave, like Colorado’s, delivered a sweep of statewide races to the Democrats.

“I believe that the party has to die before it can be rebuilt. And by die — I mean, completely decimated. And I think Tuesday night was a big step,’’ says veteran California GOP political consultant Mike Madrid. “There is no message. There is no messenger. There is no money. And there is no infrastructure.” [Pols emphasis]

It’s striking to us how you can change the name “Mike Madrid” to any number of veteran Republicans in Colorado, and the quote above would remain generally accurate. When Colorado Republicans warned that Colorado would become “like California” if Colorado Democrats won, it wasn’t just a warning about the culture.

They foresaw their own destruction. And they were right.

As we said during the campaign, demonizing California was a strategy fully dependent on cultural prejudice and a kind of weird talk radio intra-American xenophobia that was never going to appeal to a majority of Colorado voters. In 2016, less than 43% of Coloradans were born in the state at all. Not only did the “Radicalifornia” message miss the mark, it helped cement the Colorado GOP’s image of being ignorant and out of touch.

In both states, the results speak for themselves.

Weekend Open Thread

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

–Matthew 16:26

Get More Smarter on Friday (November 16)

If you lived in Canada, you would have already celebrated Thanksgiving (and, presumably, you wouldn’t be the only person still in your office today). It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump is no match for the First Amendment…at least for today. As CNN reports about CNN:

CNN’s Jim Acosta will return to his post at the White House on Friday following a court ruling that forced the Trump administration to reinstate his press pass.

The ruling by federal judge Timothy J. Kelly was an initial victory for CNN in its lawsuit against President Trump and several top aides. The suit alleges that CNN and Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated by last week’s suspension of his press pass.

Kelly did not rule on the underlying case on Friday. But he granted CNN’s request for a temporary restraining order. And he said he believes that CNN and Acosta are likely to prevail in the case overall.

Speaking outside the court, Ted Boutrous, an outside attorney representing CNN, said “this is a great day for the First Amendment and journalism.”

 

► As the Denver Post reports, Colorado is on the verge of adopting new standards for vehicle emissions:

A Colorado commission appears likely to decide that new cars sold in the state have to emit fewer greenhouse gases and get better gas mileage starting in 2022.

The nine-member Colorado Air Quality Control Commission is scheduled to vote Friday on a set of low-emission vehicle standards proposed by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The Democrat mandated in June that the commission — composed of his appointees — adopt the rules by the end of the year.

Opponents say the new statewide standard, which is based on California’s rules, would make cars a lot more expensive without making them a lot cleaner.

Opponents say the proposed standards will raise the average price of vehicles in Colorado, while supporters of the change say drivers will save thousands of dollars on fuel costs.

 

► The margins of victory in many Colorado races have changed quite a bit since Election Day. Updated numbers from the Colorado Secretary of State show that Democrat Jason Crow defeated incumbent Republican Mike Coffman in CO-6 by better than 11 points.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is sounding more and more like President Trump every day. Gardner has been on the post-election talk radio circuit and is working very hard to convince himself that 2018 was not a wave election for Democrats. Gardner’s talking points aren’t backed up by reality, as Republican-aligned polling outfit Magellan Strategies explains. Unaffiliated voters in Colorado made themselves very clear in 2018.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Jason Crow Beat Mike Coffman By 11 Points

Earlier this week we wrote about the updated numbers in Colorado’s gubernatorial race, which show Democrat Jared Polis defeating Republican Walker Stapleton by a double-digit margin. If you thought those numbers were surprising, then this is really going to bake your noodle: Democrat Jason Crow beat Republican Mike Coffman in CO-6 by more than 11 points!

Take a look at how the margins in CO-6 have changed since the district boundaries were redrawn prior to the 2012 election cycle:

 

In the 2016 Presidential race, Democrat Hillary Clinton carried CO-6 by 9 points over Republican Donald Trump. Clinton’s margin was hard to square with Coffman’s 8-point win over Democrat Morgan Carroll in the same election…so how do you explain 2018?

Many Democrats have long assumed that holding CO-6 would be a tougher challenge than taking it from Coffman in the first place, but Crow’s 2018 margin may flip that thinking. Trump obviously hurt Coffman in 2018, and he wasn’t even on the ballot like he will be in 2020. What these numbers indicate is that Colorado’s 6th Congressional District may actually be out of reach for Republicans until at least 2022.

Post-Mortem Poll: Trump Led Colorado GOP To Slaughter

The Denver Post’s Jon Murray reports on a post-election poll from GOP-aligned pollster Magellan Strategies out today, documenting how backlash over President Donald Trump’s election and controversial term in office since 2016 directly translated to historic defeat for Republicans at every level in Colorado in 2018:

The phone poll, conducted by a Republican firm Nov. 7-9, confirmed that unaffiliated voters — whose participation surged to historic levels for a midterm election — broke with tradition by favoring Democrats by huge margins on Nov. 6. Unaffiliated voters who turn out in midterms in Colorado tend to break for Republicans, while leaning left in presidential elections.

And unlike previous Democratic electoral routs, the poll suggests, it’s less likely Republicans will be in a position to bounce back in two years, when Trump is up for re-election.

“What is still the most important voting bloc is all of the unaffiliated voters,” said David Flaherty, the founder and CEO of Louisville-based Magellan Strategies. “And the bottom line is that boy oh boy, they did not like what Republicans were offering up. And boy oh boy, they do not like this president. … It could not have been a darker day.”

Midterm losses for the party holding the White House are almost always certain, but there’s a reason why the “blue wave” of 2018 crested higher in our state than most. Despite the fact that Trump lost Colorado in the 2016 presidential election, Colorado Republicans deliberately embraced Trump on the campaign trail. This began in earnest during the Republican gubernatorial primary, in which eventual nominee Walker Stapleton made “supporting President Trump” his principal message to the party faithful. Whether motivated by sheer hubris or a misguided calculation that holding the Republican base together was more important than alienating swing voters hostile to Trump, the result was disaster.

Colorado Republicans willfully, consciously, happily followed President Trump into the abyss. Responsibility for this mistake is both broad and deep. From Stapleton to the state party brass to every Republican candidate who made the choice either to stand with the President or remain silent–they earned this outcome. They chose it.

And the unaffiliated voters of Colorado who decide elections will not soon forget.

Thursday Open Thread

“He who puts out his hand to stop the wheel of history will have his fingers crushed.”

–Lech Walesa

Gardner’s Troubled NRSC Tenure Mercifully Ends

President Trump (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Roll Call reports, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado is officially handing off chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) after Senate GOP leadership elections this morning:

Sen. Todd Young was elected on Wednesday to be the next chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a much more difficult cycle for incumbent protection on the Republican side.

The Republican from Indiana was the only candidate for the post, which is being vacated by Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado. Gardner is himself in what is expected to be among the most hotly contested races of the 2020 cycle.

Young and the GOP look to be on defense in at least 21 Senate seats while Democrats will be defending just a dozen, virtually the reverse scenario from 2018.

Sen. Gardner’s term as NRSC chairman was marred by more than just the GOP’s mediocre results in 2018, with an embarrassing loss in Arizona and an as-yet undecided race in Florida shorting Republicans of bragging rights. The NRSC’s fundraising suffered early under Gardner’s term as GOP donors shunted their money into candidates they preferred instead of the NRSC’s first choices–which the committee scandalously tried to compensate for by poaching fundraising lists from fellow Republican campaign organizations.

But for Gardner personally, lashing himself to Donald Trump in 2018 as the NRSC chairman, and joining in Trump’s conspiracy theorizing in close Senate races, just adds to Gardner’s vulnerability going into his own (presumed) re-election campaign in 2020. Running in a state that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and just delivered the strongest rejection of Trump possible without Trump actually being on the ballot, Gardner’s term at the NRSC saddles him with even more baggage that he brought entirely upon himself.

Now he gets to explain it all to the folks at home.

Colorado’s Voter Turnout (Almost) Leads Nation, Again

Denver7’s Blair Miller logs another historical note on the 2018 elections in Colorado that should make our state’s winners and losers alike proud to play the game:

Colorado had the nation’s second-highest turnout rate in the 2018 midterm election, according to the latest figures from the secretary of state’s office and the Florida-based United States Elections Project.

As of Tuesday, 2,581,426 Coloradans voted in last Tuesday’s election, though the signature-curing process and counting of military and overseas ballots won’t be finished until Wednesday. Some counties were still in the process of “duplicating” some ballots as well…

At 61.9 percent of that population, Colorado ranked second behind Minnesota, which turned out 64.3 percent of its voting-eligible population. The U.S. Election Project says the voting-eligible population “represents an estimate of persons eligible to vote regardless of voter registration status.”

Colorado’s extremely high rate of voter participation is made possible by having arguably the most accessible and flexible election system in America–with mail ballots, same-day registration of unregistered voters, and pre-registration of teens so their ability to vote is automatic when they reach voting age. Colorado’s outgoing Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who began his term in office with preposterous alarmism on Fox News about the insecurity of Colorado’s mail ballots, became a proponent and even a reliable debunker of his own party’s misinformation as the state’s experience validated the efficacy of the reforms Williams and his fellow Republicans had campaigned against.

The stark contrast between Colorado’s election system, designed to facilitate participation, versus other states whose unapologetically partisan election laws leave millions of voters effectively disenfranchised cannot be overstated. It is the literal difference between the small-d democratic values America claims to stand for, and making a mockery of those values.

Have we mentioned recently how much we love living in Colorado?