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?

Ex-Colorado Senator Cries Vote Fraud

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark gave this the proper treatment last night:

—–

UPDATE: Apparently she means it:

Now would seem to be the time.

—–

Former GOP Colorado Sen. Laura “Waters” Woods of Arvada smells a rat!

If we’re understanding the theory here correctly, because Colorado voters swept Democrats into office at every level while simultaneously voting down the Amendment 73 and Proposition 110 tax increases on the ballot, it “seems like” voter fraud took place in Colorado. This dreadfully oversimplified illogic ignores Colorado’s long history of sending complicated or even contradictory messages at the polls.

Not to mention that Colorado has a Republican Secretary of State who would likely have objected.

But more fundamentally, you just don’t jump to the wild conclusion of “voter fraud” based on something this thin unless you’re completely unhinged to begin with–and during Sen. Woods’ time in the legislature, from baseless warnings of “vaccination roundups” to raging on Planned Parenthood in the wake of the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting, she helped anchor the unhinged wing of the GOP Senate caucus. With that in mind, it’s completely in character.

Weeks? Months? Whichever it is, this could be the one way to make everybody happy.

Recap: Cory Gardner’s Horrible Weekend

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

We’ve written several times in the last few days about Sen. Cory Gardner’s handling of the aftermath of last week’s midterm elections in his role as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Two close Senate races in Florida and Arizona have left Republicans scrambling to shore up their sole bright spot in Tuesday’s overall drubbing, retaining Mitch McConnell’s GOP majority–and Gardner found himself and his organization under heavy fire as Republican claims of “election fraud” were deconstructed in real time.

The result was the worst weekend of earned media for Gardner in months, if not ever–and an ominous pall over Gardner’s head as attention now turns to his own re-election in 2020.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, cast the GOP’s concern about Arizona’s handling of ballots as having been resolved by the agreement Friday…

Gardner’s comments came as he defended a statement the NRSC released just a day earlier.

The GOP’s official Senate campaign arm, in a news release Saturday, accused Maricopa County’s top elections official, Democrat Adrian Fontes, of “using his position to cook the books” for Sinema.

Gardner said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “there’s a lot of releases that are going to go out that I don’t see.” He added that he was “not familiar with this one.”

NBC News reports on the sour reaction to the NRSC’s similar claims in the Florida Senate race:

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, defended Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s charge that “unethical liberals” are trying to “steal” the state’s Senate election, in which Scott a candidate…

Democrats have blasted Republicans like Scott and President Trump for suggesting foul play, arguing that the main goal is to be sure every ballot is accurately counted.

And the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has told media that there have been no specific allegations of voter fraud and that it’s not currently investigating any foul play in the vote count. [Pols emphasis]

Despite the fact that Republicans will retain the U.S. Senate majority, the net result of all of this press for Gardner since Election Day has not been positive to say the least–either in Arizona where Democrat Kyrsten Sinema claimed victory this weekend, or in Florida where the court battles over recounts continue. And where it concerns Gardner personally, all talk today is about his own vulnerability after Colorado went strongly blue this year, and how his closing ranks with Trump has damaged Gardner’s own brand:

Gardner faces a fight for his political life in a state that appears increasingly blue. Since 2008, Democrats have won every Senate, gubernatorial or presidential race in Colorado — except for Gardner’s victory over Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in 2014.

Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016 by about 5 percentage points as Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet comfortably won re-election. Last week, Democrat Jared Polis won the Colorado gubernatorial race by about 8 percentage points.

Gardner, a first-term senator, has rarely broken with his party during the Trump administration’s tenure, despite his state’s blue lean. He voted with Republicans on a range of key measures, including repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the overhaul of the U.S. tax code and the confirmation of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Conservative columnist Jennfier Rubin at the Washington Post is considerably more blunt:

Over the weekend, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) who heads the National Republican Senate Committee, joined President Trump and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) in fanning conspiracy theories — baseless and irresponsible theories, that is — about possible vote stealing in Florida.

On Monday, a story ran in the Denver Post under this headline: “Colorado Republicans’ conundrum: Donald Trump and the unaffiliated voters who loathe him; Insiders say Cory Gardner’s re-election prospects are grim unless GOP can develop new message.”

While the dust hasn’t yet settled from last week’s elections, which have steadily turned out better for Democrats as the votes were counted and now understood to be a significantly greater Democratic win than Election Night punditry suggested, one of the very first takeaways from 2018 is a broad recognition of Cory Gardner’s vulnerability going into 2020. Gardner’s high visibility during the 2018 elections as NRSC chair has given him much less room to plausibly maneuver away from Donald Trump, even though after the historic Democratic landslide in Gardner’s home state this year that’s exactly what he needs to do.

In two years, we may well be writing the story of how Gardner’s boundless ambition, which propelled him to the chairmanship of the GOP Senate campaign organization, in the end brought him to ruin.

Jared Polis Will Win Governor’s Race by Double Digits

We don’t yet know the final vote tally from the 2018 election in Colorado, but the numbers continue to grow for Democrats. Check out these totals as of 4:00 pm on Monday (Nov. 12):

The race for Governor was called in favor of Democrat Jared Polis early on Election Night, but Polis’ margin of victory over Republican Walker Stapleton has only risen as more ballots are counted. Also worth noting: Stapleton received the fewest total votes of any of the four major statewide Republican candidates.

And for the record, we called this outcome in our pre-election forecast:

A double-digit Polis win is now a real possibility.

These vote totals should also scare the crap out of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who is up for re-election in 2020. Gardner defeated Democrat Mark Udall by less than two points in 2014 with a total vote count of 965,974. In 2018, the Republican candidate for Governor received nearly 100,000 more votes than Gardner’s 2014 total…and will still end up losing to a Democrat by more than 10 points.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 13)

The 2018 election is already a week old. 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…

► Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen looks to be the next cabinet official on the way out of the Trump administration. From the Washington Post:

President Trump has told advisers he has decided to remove Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and her departure from the administration is likely to occur in the coming weeks, if not sooner, according to five current and former White House officials.

Trump canceled a planned trip with Nielsen this week to visit U.S. troops at the border in South Texas and told aides over the weekend that he wants her out as soon as possible, these officials said. The president has grumbled for months about what he views as Nielsen’s lackluster performance on immigration enforcement and is believed to be looking for a replacement who will implement his policy ideas with more alacrity.

The announcement could come as soon as this week, three of these officials said.

Trump has changed his mind on key personnel decisions before, and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly is fighting Nielsen’s pending dismissal and attempting to postpone it, aides say. But Kelly’s future in the administration also is shaky, according to three White House officials.

President Trump canned Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week, less than 24 hours after Election Day.

 

► Democrats picked up another U.S. Senate seat on Monday when Rep. Martha McSally conceded to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona. McSally could still end up in the U.S. Senate anyway, as Chris Cillizza of CNN explains.

 

► Colorado Democrats will hold 41 seats in the State House when the legislature reconvenes in January, which means that there will be more Democrats in the lower chamber than there are Republicans in both legislative chambers combined.

 

► A judge has delayed the certification of voting results in Georgia amid growing concerns of voter disenfranchisement.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Democrat Wins Arizona Senate Race

Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has won a hotly-contested U.S. Senate race in Arizona. From the New York Times:

Ms. Sinema’s victory over Martha McSally, a Republican congresswoman and former Air Force pilot, marks the first Democratic triumph since 1976in a battle for an open Senate seat in Arizona. Ms. Sinema takes the seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, a Republican who retired after publicly clashing with President Trump.

Ms. Sinema’s victory guarantees the Democrats at least 47 Senate seats. Republicans control 51, with two still undecided: Florida, where there is a recount, and Mississippi, where there is a runoff.

This is more bad news for Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) for the 2018 cycle. Gardner and the NRSC have taken a lot of criticism over the past few days for alleging — without any evidence whatsoever — that Arizona Democrats were somehow conspiring to “steal” this seat from Republicans.

There are still two undecided Senate races in Florida and Mississippi. The latter will be decided in a runoff election on Nov. 27 (for retiring Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat), while Florida is in the middle of a recount. If just one of those races are won by a Democrat, Gardner and the Republicans will have failed to gain a single seat despite beginning the 2018 cycle with one of the most favorable Senate maps in decades.

That’s not a conversation Gardner wants to have with donors as he starts hitting them up to support his own re-election in 2020.

It’s a 41-Seat Democratic Colorado House Majority

Updating on close Colorado House races that were at least technically undecided at the start of the long holiday weekend, none of which appear to be as of this writing–after Rochelle Galindo’s come-from-behind victory in Greeley’s HD-50 race, the Pueblo Chieftain reports that Bri Buentello in Pueblo County’s HD-47 is pushing her race out of recount territory:

The other race that has been unfinished is the state House District 47 contest but the additional ballots counted Friday lengthened Democrat Brianna Buentello’s lead over Republican Don Bendell.

In that contest, Buentello’s total vote is now 16,204 to Bendell’s 15,898 —a difference of 304 votes.

If Buentello’s lead grows, the race may not require a mandatory recount as was expected. That only happens if the victory margin is a half-percent or less.

With Buentello securing her victory in HD-47, the 41st member of the Colorado House majority will be Rep.-elect Brianna Titone, after Republican opponent Vicki Pyne conceded the HD-27 race on Saturday–Colorado Public Radio:

Brianna Titone declared herself the winner of the race to represent House District 27 in Arvada on Friday. Her opponent, Republican Vicki Pyne, conceded on Saturday.

Titone became Colorado’s first transgender lawmaker, and one of the first nationwide.

Titone said she didn’t focus on her gender identity while campaigning. But in a political climate with a federal administration that has sought to roll back protections for transgender people, Titone does acknowledge that her win is meaningful.

These three late Democratic House wins put the finishing touches on an historic 2018 election for Colorado Democrats, leaving them in total control of the state’s executive and legislative branches. These will all be competitive races in two years, of course, but the strength of their wins positions them all as strong incumbents.

It’s a very big deal, and it’s (almost) official.

We Told You So (Apparently)

dealinwalkerfinA Colorado Pols reader reminded us over the weekend that we had long ago predicted that Republican Walker Stapleton would not be the next Governor of Colorado.

We had honestly forgotten about this, but everything that we wrote in this May 2015 post — “Walker Stapleton Shows (Again) Why He’ll Never Make it to Higher Office” — held up pretty well in 2018. For example:

Walker Stapleton [is] Colorado’s “gold standard” when it comes to the stereotypical, fast-talking, bullshitting politician. Stapleton has made such a caricature of himself over the last couple of years that it he hardly seems real. Surely, you think, nobody can truly be this transparently smarmy and exist as an actual human politician…or can he?

The State Treasurer doesn’t traditionally generally get a lot of press in Colorado, and Stapleton has been no exception to the norm. But when Stapleton’s name does end up in the news, the odds are pretty good that it’s because he did something stupid. Stapleton is good at stupid.

When we wrote about Stapleton in May 2015, it was in relation to his bizarre attempt to claim that he had opposed a controversial PERA-related bill — nevermind that he wrote a letter in support of the legislation and even testified in favor of HB-1388. We marveled at the fact that Republicans were looking at Stapleton as a contender for higher office in the future despite his obvious shortcomings:

Stapleton is pretty good at fundraising, largely because of his family connections (he’s directly related to the Bush family), but he’s otherwise a complete political dunce who frequently stumbles into obvious potholes. Stapleton was re-elected as State Treasurer in 2014, but it was an unexpectedly close race due entirely to his own idiocy; when an open records request revealed that Stapleton rarely bothered to show up at his office, he made ridiculous excuses and then wouldn’t stop talking about it.

We wrote after the November election that Stapleton’s panicky errors and laughable TV ads should remove his name from future discussion about higher office; since then, Stapleton has done nothing to prove us wrong. Democrats can only hope that Stapleton is someday the Republican nominee for Governor or Senate. [Pols emphasis]

Walker Stapleton was always the candidate that Democrats hoped they would face in November 2018. As the Republican candidate for Governor, Stapleton was exactly who we thought he would be.