Another State Senate Seat May be Off the Board for Republicans

In 2014, voters in Senate District 19 (Arvada/Westminster) elected Republican Laura Woods by a margin of fewer than 700 votes. Woods replaced Democrat Rachel Zenzinger, who had been appointed to the seat vacated by Sen. Evie Hudak in the wake of the 2013 Republican recall efforts. Woods instantly became one of the most hard-right members of the Republican caucus.

Some Republicans were correctly skeptical about Woods’ ability to hold on to her seat; two years later, Zenzinger unseated Woods in the rematch despite a barrage of negative (and demonstrably false) attacks from Republicans.

Election History in SD-19

Zenzinger is running for re-election in 2020. The district’s electoral history would suggest that SD-19 will be among the top targeted races for Republicans hoping to claw back into a Senate majority, but voter registration and turnout numbers paint a bleaker picture. According to a new analysis of voter information from Colorado-based Republican polling firm Magellan Strategies, Senate District 19 may no longer be competitive for the GOP:

…back in 2014 Republicans actually had a turnout advantage with a plurality of 35% of the vote, largely due to lower Unaffiliated turnout.

And while it’s not a perfect apples to apples comparison since there wasn’t actually a Senate race in SD 19 in 2018, come 2018 that advantage is completely gone. Even with about 12,000 more voters compared to 2014, there were actually 700 fewer votes cast by Republicans. Compare that to 4,755 more votes cast by Democratic voters and 7,863 more votes cast by Unaffiliated/Other Party voters.

While that suggests a turnout problem with a fairly simple solution (get more Republicans to vote), in reality, the problem is not quite that easy to overcome. That’s because turnout in 2018 wasn’t even especially low for Republicans – 84% of active Republicans in the district voted, which matched the percentage for Democratic voters. For a midterm, it is hard to expect much better than that. No, the real problem can be seen looking back at voter registration: The numbers simply aren’t there anymore. It’s basic math. A comparative advantage for Republicans in SD 19 has been completely wiped away by increased Unaffiliated registration and increased voter turnout among both Democratic voters and Unaffiliated voters. [Pols emphasis]

Via Magellan Strategies

As you can see from the Magellan Strategies chart at right, Republican voter turnout in SD-19 has plummeted over the last two election cycles. Those trends seem to fit with what we saw in Colorado in 2018 in general, when Democrats gained a “trifecta” in state government — control of the State House, State Senate, and Governor’s office. When all of the votes were counted in 2018, Democrats had flipped multiple Republican-held seats for a 41-24 majority in the State House and a 19-16 majority in the State Senate.

The numbers in SD-19 are going to be pretty disheartening for Republicans, who need to net at least two seats in order to regain majority control in the State Senate (the House is almost certainly unwinnable for the GOP this year). Heading into this election cycle, SD-19 was among four State Senate districts widely thought to be the most competitive races in 2020 — along with SD-8 (Carbondale-ish), SD-25 (Adams County), and SD-27 (Arapahoe County). But SD-19 is the only one of these four districts with a Democratic incumbent; Republicans can’t gain ground in the Senate merely by holding onto the other three seats.

State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger

In 2016, Republican Kevin Priola barely managed to eke out a victory in SD-25, a seat previously held by Democrats, by a margin of about four points. That same year, incumbent Republican Sen. Jack Tate won in SD-27 by a nearly seven-point margin. Both Senate districts have moved closer toward Democrats in recent years. Republicans only maintain a healthy historical advantage in SD-8, where Bob Rankin is seeking election to a full term after replacing Randy Baumgardner in 2019.

Now, back to SD-19: Zenzinger entered 2020 with about $56,000 in the bank, and she has strong name ID in the district after essentially campaigning non-stop since 2013. Republican Matthew Lantz formally entered the race about 10 days ago, but he was not recruited into the race by top Republican officials and it’s unclear whether he will be able to run a strong campaign without a GOP Primary challenger. Either way, persistent polling problems for both President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner suggest that there won’t be much in the way of coattails for any down-ballot Republicans in 2020.

Colorado Republicans will have a hard time regaining control of the State Senate unless they can win in SD-19…which doesn’t seem likely at the moment. The GOP’s next best hope for flipping a seat might be in SD-26, but that’s also a tough sell; Democrats have never lost in the current iteration of this Arapahoe County seat, and they have a strong incumbent candidate in Sen. Jeff Bridges.

It’s entirely possible that the best-case scenario for Colorado Republicans in 2020 is to just not lose any more ground in the State Senate. That’s a hard slogan to fit onto a bumper sticker.


Fresh Off New Hampshire Win, Bernie Coming To Denver

FOX 31’s Eric Ruble reports, Colorado will “Feel The Bern” this weekend as Sen. Bernie Sanders rallies in downtown Denver after taking New Hampshire and kinda-sorta-probably winning the disastrously executed Iowa caucus:

Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders will hold a rally in downtown Denver on Sunday.

According to the official campaign website, the rally will be held at the Bellco Theater inside the Colorado Convention Center.

Doors open at 4 p.m. Sunday and the event begins at 6 p.m.

Denver’s Bellco Theater seats up to 5,000, and we doubt Sanders will have any trouble filling the venue to capacity. The historical record of the winners of both Iowa and New Hampshire ending up the nominee for their respective party bodes well for Sanders today, with the principal caveat being that the Iowa caucuses became more of a story of technological fiasco than a triumph for anybody with a (D) after their name.

Ballots are arriving right now in mailboxes across Colorado, and resilient support among Colorado base Democrats means a Bernie repeat win here remains the oddsmaker’s choice–unless the unaffiliated vote taking part in a Democratic presidential contest for the first time in Colorado militates strongly in another direction. Anyone hoping to meaningfully alter this trajectory should consider themselves on notice: this state is in all likelihood Sanders’ to lose, but our newly open primary leaves a wild card no one can ignore in play.


Wednesday Open Thread

“In order to govern, the question is not to follow out a more or less valid theory but to build with whatever materials are at hand. The inevitable must be accepted and turned to advantage.”

–Napoleon Bonaparte


2020 New Hampshire Primary Open Thread

UPDATE 6:35PM: AP reports that Sen. Michael Bennet’s presidential campaign is over.


UPDATE 6:20PM: With 20% reporting, Sen. Bernie Sanders is in the lead with 27.7% ahead of Pete Buttigieg by a narrow margin, and Amy Klobuchar having a surprisingly good night moving into 3rd place with 20.5%.

As of this writing, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is 87 votes to the good. That’s total votes, not a typo.




The GMS Podcast: You’ve Got Questions; These Aren’t Answers

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, hosts Jason Bane and Alan Franklin preview the New Hampshire Democratic Primary; discuss a wacky vacancy committee for Republicans that doesn’t bode well for their hopes in 2020; and delve into Sen. Cory Gardner’s impeachment debacle. House Majority Leader Alec Garnett joins us once more in our regular “Smart Alec” crossover, talking about kill committees; confusing abortion bills; and how Republican lawmakers are rolling out “Hate Week” under the Gold Dome.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at

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Gardner Invents Conflict with Local Media Outlet

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)

As we’ve found over the years, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) does not possess what you would call a strong moral compass. We’re talking about a guy who said in October 2016 that could not support Donald Trump for President — “I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women” — yet two years later became the first Republican Senator to publicly support President Trump’s re-election campaign. His unequivocal support for Trump in the face of impeachment cemented Gardner as a politician who is really only interested in what he thinks is good for Cory Gardner.

Gardner typically ducks reporters in Colorado and Washington D.C., then emerges to spew red meat gibberish on right-wing radio shows and national conservative outlets like “Fox & Friends.” But that conduct has morphed from evasion to flat-out hostility toward reporters who are just trying to ask obvious and relevant questions. Late last week, Gardner granted an “exclusive” interview to Joe St. George of Fox 31 News in the aftermath of his impeachment vote…then started putting words in the mouth of the reporter so that he could deflect a question with manufactured outrage.

We’ll get back to that in a moment; first, take a look at Gardner’s opening discussion during an appearance on KNUS radio (yes, that one) on Saturday during the show “Wake Up With Randy Corporon“:

CORPORON: Are you back in town?

GARDNER: I am. I was all over the Front Range of Colorado yesterday, and the day before, and today I’ll be out and about again. We were in Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins. So it’s good to be back home.

CORPORON: Well, not according to Joe St. George of Fox News. You don’t really get out in Colorado very much…

GARDNER: [Laughing] Well, only if I go where Joe St. George wants me to go is he happy. Apparently the people in Morgan County aren’t important enough to hold town hall meetings with…[Pols emphasis]

Corporon plays a clip of St. George’s interview with Gardner, and then then discussion continues:

CORPORON: You must get so tired of the bias that you get, that’s built-in and inherent in so many of these questions.

GARDNER: It is incredible. You know, I get told by certain media personalities that I should just go back to Yuma and sell tractors. You hear from somebody like that [St. George] who says, ‘Well, you haven’t done a real town hall.’ A real town hall is apparently only in the cities. [Pols emphasis]

And you see CNN — I don’t know if you saw this.  It was in — It was astonishing!  A Don Lemon episode where somebody went on and started making fun of people for not being able to read or write or spell because they supported Donald Trump. I mean, and they wonder why parts of the state wanted to secede years ago. This is — it — it’s — it’s embarrassing to think this country has reached a point where certain segments –half the people — look down on the other half of people because of where they live and who they support politically.

Well, guess what? St. George didn’t actually denigrate Fort Morgan. It was Gardner who picked the fight to make it look that way:

We’d encourage you to watch the clip yourself; it’s pretty unambiguous. Here’s the transcript:

GEORGE: Sir, here in Colorado, many Coloradans want to ask you questions in person about impeachment. You have not held a town hall – public town hall – in this state for two years…

GARDNER: Well, that’s not true, Joe. Just out in Fort Morgan this summer we did a town hall. I know that may not count in terms of the Front Range.

ST. GEORGE: But not…well, exactly. Front Range. People in Denver…

GARDNER: Oh, so the people in Fort Morgan don’t count.

ST. GEORGE: No, people in Fort Morgan count…

GARDNER: That’s where we did a town hall, Joe, and if you’re going to tell people of Colorado that they don’t matter, [Pols emphasis] and I think that’s what’s frustrating with so many people across the state. [Gardner keeps talking over St. George attempts to clarify and then complains about CNN]…

ST. GEORGE: So why no town halls in Denver?

GARDNER: We have continued to do outreaches…to meetings and local businesses, town halls at local businesses…

ST. GEORGE: Not public town halls, though.

GARDNER: We continue to reach out. Joe, there are many ways that we reach out to people. We reach out to people via tele-town halls, their places of work, in individual meetings. We do countless meetings. In fact, I’ll be doing more tomorrow reaching out to Coloradans. We’ve received thousands of pieces of mail, and I’m excited about that. I know the left really wants to push on this, and I’m just not going to take that talking point while we continue to do what’s right by the people of Colorado.

First off, you need to understand that Sen. Gardner has literally not held a town hall meeting in Colorado in more than two years. This is inarguable. The “Fort Morgan” event that Gardner is referring to was a speaking engagement with the Morgan County Republican Central Committee, which is, of course, absolutely NOT a town hall. This nonsense claim from Gardner and his staff has been debunked repeatedly by news outlets.

But the bigger point here is that Gardner is accusing a local television reporter of bias and putting words in his mouth in an effort to make it appear that he denigrated the people of Fort Morgan. Gardner did this last week, and then he went on Corporon’s radio show to weave a bullshit story about media bias that NEVER HAPPENED. Joe St. George didn’t say that people in Fort Morgan “don’t matter.” This is inexcusable conduct from a United States Senator, and we have little doubt that other media outlets in the state will be taking note of Gardner’s actions.

Gardner is mimicking Trump in how he deals with the media. It was bad enough that Gardner was refusing to even return the calls of journalists, but this is something else entirely. Gardner is intentionally creating conflict and putting words in the mouths of other reporters so that he can appear to be some sort of cultural warrior for the right wing. 

It’s wrong. It’s disgusting. And it might only be the beginning for an increasingly-belligerent and cornered Republican Senator in deep trouble in 2020.


Particularly Stupid Anti-Vaxxer Bill Dies

State Rep. Lori Saine, State Sen. Vicki Marble.

CBS4 Denver reported last night on the life and death of Senate Bill 20-084, a bill sponsored by everybody’s favorite madcap GOP duo Sen. Vicki Marble and Rep. Lori Saine, which met its fate in the Senate State Affairs committee. This was a bill that would have prohibited health care facilities in the state from requiring their employees be vaccinated against preventable transmissible diseases.

“What,” you’re probably thinking? And the answer is yes, really:

There’s a new twist in the debate over vaccinations at the Colorado State Capitol. A Senate committee heard a bill Monday that would bar employers — including health care facilities — from requiring employees to get vaccinated…

The federal Civil Rights Act requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for workers with religious objections. The state bill would go further and make it against the law for an employer to require anyone to get an immunization.

In the sadly persistent debate over vaccination in the United States, misinformation has created a small but highly vocal subset of the public which rejects the overwhelming scientific consensus that vaccination is not just a net positive, but an integral component of maintaining public health and preventing formerly epidemic diseases. It’s one thing to argue about whether, when, and specifically what vaccinations should be given to children. To deny health care providers the ability to ensure their own employees are not a threat to the public is outrageously bad policy.

State Rep. Yadira Caraveo, who is also a doctor, says health care workers take an oath to put their patients first.

“I see newborns every single day. I see babies in the NICU. I see people whose immune system is compromised, and that includes parents who are on chemotherapy and have compromised immune systems. And they really shouldn’t worry about coming to the doctor and contracting an illness from me.” [Pols emphasis]

If this isn’t obvious to you, the seven out of ten Americans who support mandatory vaccination of all children most likely do not want you either legislating health care policy or taking care of their kids in a medical setting. If it’s necessary to “accommodate” pseudo-scientific and religious objections to vaccination in the health care industry, accommodate them in a way that doesn’t put patients at risk.

That seems as basic to us as “first, do no harm.”


Who Will Win the New Hampshire Primary?

Assuming that this is an answer that can actually  be known (thanks a lot, Iowa), we should have a better idea after tonight about which Democratic Presidential candidates are starting to get on a roll. So, what do you think?

Remember, as with all of our totally non-scientific polls here at Colorado Pols, we want to know what you think will happen, not who you support or what outcome you would prefer. Think of it like a placing a wager on a sporting event; if you had to put money on the winner in New Hampshire, who would you pick?

Who Will Win the New Hampshire Democratic Primary?
Bernie Sanders
Elizabeth Warren
Pete Buttigieg
Joe Biden
Amy Klobuchar
Michael Bennet
Someone Else
View Result

Tuesday Open Thread

“If a statesman is one who looks to the next generation and a politician one who looks to the next election, a political consultant must be one who looks to the next tracking poll.”

–James Carville


Anti-LGBT Parade Of Horrors Hearing Thursday

TUESDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Saja Hindi:

For Rep. Stephen Humphrey, R-Severance, the legislation is about doing what he says his district expects of him. As a Christian man, that includes preserving what he views as religious freedoms. Humphrey introduced two bills that would affect LGBTQ people: House Bill 1272, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and only allows adoptions by heterosexual couples; and House Bill 1033, which would let businesses refuse to serve LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs.

It’s a matter of “religious freedom” to outlaw marriages and families that exist happily today? That doesn’t seem like anything Jesus would do.


Rep. Shane Sandridge (R-Transphobic).

This coming Thursday afternoon in the Colorado House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, a marathon and intestinally challenging hearing will review (and barring something bizarre and unexpected, kill) a slew of Republican-sponsored bills featuring some of the more overt discriminatory intent in any legislation we’ve seen in Colorado in recent years. A press release from LGBT advocacy group One Colorado a few days ago warned these were coming:

During the second regular session of the 72nd Colorado General Assembly, House Republicans have introduced a total of six anti-LGBTQ bills in the first three weeks of session. The most recent, introduced on February 3rd, are HB20-1273 “Equality And Fairness In Youth Sports Act” and HB20-1272 “Colorado Natural Marriage And Adoption Act.” One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families, released the following statements:

“This is the most aggressive slate of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced in the past decade. [Pols emphasis] In the first few weeks of this legislative session, we have seen attacks on transgender Coloradans, same-sex parents, LGBTQ youth, and the list goes on. These bills do not represent who we are as Coloradans, and One Colorado will fight these bills every step of the way.” – One Colorado Executive Director, Daniel Ramos

“Some say it’s not the government’s role to interfere with personal liberty. Some would say this is textbook overreach. I would say it’s time to work on actual issues that improve people’s lives here in Colorado.” – Representative Alex Valdez (D-Denver), Chair of the LGBTQ Caucus

Rep. Steve Humphrey (R-Gynotician)

House Bills 20-1114 and 20-1273 both have Rep. Shane Sandridge of Colorado Springs as their primary sponsor, because apparently transgender people really keep him up at night. These bills strike at the heart of basic rights for transgender people by making pertinent medical treatments a felony if given to minors, and excluding transgender people from sports events in the event a participants gender is “disputed.” Rep. Stephen Humphrey, the GOP House minority’s leading “gynotician” sponsor of perennial abortion ban bills, is the prime sponsor of the “Colorado Natural Marriage And Adoption Act,” which says that the U.S. Supreme Court can stuff it on marriage equality–and families with children adopted by same-sex couples should be broken up.

Finally, there’s the “Live and Let Live Act,” a returning bill to “roll back protections for LGBTQ Coloradans in the areas of adoption and foster care, healthcare, housing, employment, and public spaces on the basis of religious freedom.” Back in 2018, Humphrey described this as legislation to “ensure that tolerance is a two-way street,” which we assume is an attempt to morally equate one group’s right to exist with a another group’s right to hate the first group.

There was a time, not so long ago, when at least a faction of Colorado Republicans pleaded with the wedge-issue warriors in their midst to stop these gratuitous insults and threats against a segment of the population most Americans believe should have the same rights and protections as anyone else, correctly arguing that politically it is doing more harm than good. With the GOP’s lurch right accelerating under President Donald Trump, that good advice seems more dated and forgotten than ever.

And like reproductive rights, it’s a reminder that the unthinkable is never more than one election away.


Get More Smarter on Monday (February 10)

Valentine’s Day is on Friday; you’re welcome. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


President Trump is making his swamp…swampier. Still basking in the orange glow of a Republican Senate cover-up for his impeachment crimes, Trump is taking out his anger on administration officials and staffers who dared speak the truth. As The Atlantic explains in a story titled, “The Crime of Doing the Right Thing“:

Trump managed to wait two days after his Senate acquittal before taking care of family business, as Michael Corleone would put it, with respect to those who had upset him in the Ukraine affair.

[On Friday] he removed from the National Security Council staff Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman—along with Vindman’s twin brother, who served as an NSC attorney, for good measure. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman had had the temerity to object to Trump’s “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and then committed the unforgivable sin of telling the truth about the matter when the House impeachment investigation sought his testimony. The brothers were, according to reports, escorted out of the White House complex…

…Trump also fired Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who had tried to play both sides—testifying in a fashion that upset Trump while being cagey at first and thus raising questions to House members about his candor. Sondland had managed to please nobody, and his presence on the scene at all was, in any event, a function of his large donation to the presidential inaugural committee. He had bought his way into service at the pleasure of the president and, having done so, proceeded to displease the president.


► After spending the end of last week bumbling and fumbling for a coherent message on why he voted to acquit President Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) threw some red meat around in an interview with “Fox & Friends.” Gardner needs these softball interviews, because he keeps bombing with local news reporters asking relevant questions.


► Voters in New Hampshire cast their ballots in Presidential Primary race on Tuesday; on the Democratic side of the ledger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders looks like the frontrunner.

Meanwhile, we finally found out who won the Iowa caucuses and associated delegates — well, mostly. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg won the most delegates, while Sanders appears to have won the popular vote. The Sanders campaign is indicating that it will ask for a remcanvass of votes in at least some districts; the current results would assign 14 delegates to Buttigieg and 12 delegates to Sanders. The New York Times breaks down how the Iowa caucuses went so awry for Democrats.

Here in Colorado, mail ballots for the Presidential Primary races will start going out this week; Jesse Paul of The Colorado Sun has more on what to expect in your mailbox.


► The Trump administration budget is rolling out its new budget proposal, which seeks to cut domestic spending on the backs of Americans relying on Medicaid and food stamps, while also slashing foreign aid by a considerable amount. Via Politico:

As with his previous budget proposals, Trump is once again seeking deep and unrealistic cuts to most federal agency budgets, according to the budget summary tables. The cuts are unlikely to be embraced by Congress.

For example, the administration is seeking an 8 percent cut to USDA’s budget over current funding levels. Trump’s plan would cut the Commerce Department by 37 percent, the Education Department by 8 percent, the Energy Department by 8 percent, the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 15 percent, and the Department of Health and Human Services by 9 percent.

The administration is also seeking a 13 percent cut to the Interior Department, a 2 percent cut to the Justice Department, an 11 percent cut to the Labor Department, a nearly 21 percent cut to the State Department and a 13 percent cut to the Department of Transportation. The EPA’s budget would see a nearly 27 percent chop, the Army Corps of Engineers would see a 22 percent reduction and the Small Business Administration would see an 11 percent decrease.

As Greg Sargent writes for The Washington Post, this seems like an odd election-year strategy for Trump:

This new budget is being widely described as a blueprint for Trump’s argument for a second term. It’s actually a very good argument against a second term.


Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)


Gotta Love That GOP Grassroots, HD-38 Edition

Rep.-designate Richard Champion (R).

Last weekend, outgoing Trump administration bound GOP Rep. Susan Beckman in House District 38 was replaced by the mayor of the teensy high-income enclave of Columbine Valley, Richard Champion–though the loser of the appointment Brenda Stokes vows to fight on in a primary–and as the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Michael Karlik reports, the very fine Republicans of HD-38 were feeling frisky about their preferences:

“I want a representative that’s not going to be following the rules of Lenin,” said Sandra Galpin of Centennial.

“I just know that I wish Polis would drop dead and we’d have good Republicans,” added Lucille Strohl, also of Centennial… [Pols emphasis]

Thomas McCoy of Littleton, who voted for Champion, said he would have been satisfied with either candidate, but that “Mr. Champion was the only one that addressed the solid backing of President Trump.” McCoy felt it was important for a state representative to vocally support Trump because “his values are good for the country. The state representatives should at least emotionally be on board with President Trump. If they oppose him, then what good are they to me, to us?”

After Rep. Beckman was re-elected to her seat in 2018 by fewer than 400 votes, she was understandably happy to grab an alternative brass ring when it came by instead of defending the seat again in 2020–an escape route that other Republican legislators in competitive districts have taken like ex-Rep. Clarice Navarro of Pueblo. After narrowly and controversially losing her bid to lead the Colorado Republican Party to Ken Buck, we’d guess Beckman is ready to trade in the rough and tumble of elected office for a cozy home in the D.C. swamp.

We’ll be watching to see how Rep. Champion fares in this closely divided swing district with his Lenin-free Polis-drop-dead “emotionally on board with President Trump” mandate from the HD-38 GOP vacancy committee.


Cory Gardner: Evasion at Home, Red Meat on Fox & Friends

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Following the vote last Wednesday afternoon by the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate to acquit President Donald Trump, Sen. Cory Gardner has been on a tear of press avails both in Washington, D.C. and back home in Colorado–more availability (voluntary availability, that is) than Gardner has seen fit to grant reporters in either location for a very, very long time.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Jacy Marmaduke sat down with Gardner on Friday to discuss a range of issues from the novel coronavirus outbreak to the recently-concluded impeachment trial. And on the matter of impeachment the Coloradoan pursued Gardner commendably on the essential question he still refuses to answer:

Coloradoan: […] Do you feel that the question here did not at all address whether a president can use political influence to pressure another country for his political gain?

Gardner: I think the question before us was whether we … have a right to investigate how those taxpayer dollars are being used. The policy difference of whether you can or can’t or should or shouldn’t was really the heart of this debate. And a policy difference, a difference of opinion on where the policy could lead you in that question, is not something that should be used for grounds for impeachment.

Coloradoan: Where do you stand, then, on whether a president should be permitted to pressure another nation’s leadership for political gain?

Gardner: I certainly don’t support foreign interference in our elections, if that’s the question. [Pols emphasis] But the question here was about whether or not we have the ability to investigate how our taxpayer dollars are being used.

Of course that was not the question, the question was and is whether a president should be allowed to manipulate foreign policy for domestic political advantage. It’s the same question Gardner spectacularly failed to answer in a nationally-rebroadcast impromptu interview in Denver last October soon after the Ukraine scandal broke. The pretext for Gardner’s evasion may have changed with the end of the impeachment trial, but it’s clear that Gardner is no better prepared to answer this essential question than he was months ago. Like the Denver Post editorial board said last week after the vote to acquit:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner either thinks it’s OK for a president to pressure a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen for personal and political gain or he’s too afraid to criticize this president for doing just that.

We’re not sure which is worse. [Pols emphasis]

On the matter of additional witnesses, which Sen. Gardner voted against hearing, Gardner claims “[The House] said it was overwhelming and airtight, even though they then asked for additional witnesses. I don’t think an 18th witness would’ve done anything.” Of all of the retorts offered by Republicans in defense of their handling of Trump’s impeachment, rejecting witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton because the House somehow “didn’t make their case” is probably the most disingenuous. New evidence continued to flow in well after the House passed the articles of impeachment, and the explosive confirmation of the worst in Bolton’s forthcoming book was simply not known at the time of the House investigation. There’s little reason to expect that Gardner’s answer to this question will ever improve, but the voters of Colorado who supported the impeachment process will never consider this to be a satisfactory answer. It’s part of the reason why Gardner is even less popular in Colorado than President Trump.

As readers can imagine, however, Gardner had a much easier time on the notoriously pro-GOP softball Fox & Friends Thursday morning–a forum where Republicans appear knowing that President Trump himself is probably watching live. After a bit of “come together” platitudes and some damning faint praise for Sen. Mitt Romney, who Gardner bashed indirectly by suddenly remembering all the mean things Democrats said about Romney back in the day, Gardner had a wide-open chance to sling some red meat to the Republican base–and when the interview turned to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pre-recycling of Trump’s State of the Union address, Gardner let his inner nasty slip out:

This is a solemn, constitutionally prescribed occasion, the State of the Union is. And to see a Speaker premeditated embarrassingly rip the State of the Union apart really shows what the House of Representatives is willing to do to our country. [Pols emphasis]

Got that? The House wants to literally tear up the country. Never in history have a dozen sheets of printer paper counted for so much! But this final over-the-top anecdote is illustrative of the dilemma Gardner faces, and has not gone away simply because the impeachment process has reached its foregone conclusion. He remains painfully unable answer the questions that matter, and shoveling irresponsible red meat to the nationwide faithful on Fox & Friends only further alienates Gardner from the majority of Colorado voters.

Trump remains President, but Cory Gardner’s downward spiral continues.


Super Tuesday Season Heats Up In Colorado

CBS4 updates on an expanding campaign and bumped-up ad spending for Sen. Bernie Sanders ahead of Colorado’s big date with Super Tuesday, after Sanders raised $25 million in January:

In addition to adding new staff in Colorado, Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said they will be spending $5.5 million on television and digital ads in Colorado and seven of the other Super Tuesday states: Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. They will also expand ad buys the campaign already made in California and Texas, the two largest states voting on Super Tuesday.

Meanwhile, several campaign stops for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign this weekend will be hosted by former fellow Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro, including a debate watch party in downtown Denver Friday evening–and then on to Colorado Springs, KOAA-TV reports:

Julian Castro, who served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, will hold a canvass launch and Meet & Greet event in Manitou Springs Saturday.

Castro will meet with volunteers at the Manitou Art Center, at 513 Manitou Ave., to receive training before the campaign’s first canvassing event in the community.

And if that’s not enough presidential attention for you, actor Sam Waterston of Law and Order and more recently Grace and Frankie fame will be in Aurora and Colorado Springs stanning for Mike Bloomberg this weekend. And there’s plenty more to come: we’ve still got three weeks until the March 3rd primary ends, so Colorado voters eligible to take part can expect all the chances they desire to meet and greet the campaigns before returning their mail ballot.

As for the candidates, you’ve only got three weeks until the primary, and mail ballots in Colorado go out next week! While Coloradans can make our choice at leisure in the comfort of our own homes, or even register to vote right up until the polls close, every minute campaigns waste instead of reaching out to both Democratic and unaffiliated voters, as of the middle of next week when ballots arrive, means votes taken out of circulation. Complacency is not recommended.

It’s a novel experience getting Super Tuesday-level attention, Colorado! Let’s milk it for all it’s worth.


Get More Smarter on Friday (February 7)

Remember that old joke about how your (grand)parents had to walk 10 miles a day to school in the snow, and it was uphill both ways? Yeah, well, your kids won’t be able to use that one. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


► The 2020 “Thanks for Covering Up for Me on Impeachment” tour is coming to Colorado. President Trump will stump for himself (mostly) and Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado Springs on February 20. If you’ve always wanted to see the Big Orange Guy bloviate in person, this could be your last chance; Colorado isn’t what you’d call a “winnable state” for Trump in 2020, so he may not be back.

Gardner could use all the help he can get for his re-election bid; he’s getting absolutely hammered in Colorado for his inept explanations about why he supported Trump’s acquittal. As the editorial board of The Denver Post writes: “Coloradans deserve better than Cory Gardner.”


President Trump held court in front of a microphone at the White House on Thursday for an airing of grievances related to his impeachment acquittal. As Chris Cillizza of CNN explains, everyone who was in attendance should be ashamed of themselves:

Less than 24 hours after formally being acquitted by the Senate, President Donald Trump riffed for over an hour from inside the White House — a vengeful, angry, fact-challenged spew of score-settling that even for this most unorthodox of presidents was eye-opening in its tone and jaw-dropping in its boundary busting…

…It felt like watching a bully beat up a helpless kid. Sure, the bully is to blame. But the crowd of people surrounding the beating and either cheering or doing nothing at all are far worse.

Trump is Trump. While he stepped beyond where has gone before in many respects during Thursday’s “celebration,” it hard to say that no one saw this coming.

But the complicity of those in attendance — the most powerful people within the Republican Party — is what was truly astounding. Yes, the Republican Party threw in its lot with Trump (and his forced takeover of it) long ago. But to sit by or even celebrate while Trump used the White House as a combination of a campaign venue, or a bathroom wall on which to write his darkest thoughts about those who oppose him, was beyond unforgivable. [Pols emphasis]

Interestingly, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner did not warrant a special shout-out from President Trump:

Meanwhile, President Trump is working on ousting all dissidents — the honest people on payroll — from his administration, as The Washington Post reports.


Surrogates for Democratic Presidential candidates are scheduled to tool around in Colorado this weekend. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro is stumping for Elizabeth Warren today and tomorrow. Former “Law & Order” actor Sam Waterston will help open new field offices this weekend for Mike Bloomberg.

Elsewhere in Democratic Presidential candidate news, the campaign for Bernie Sanders is hiring more staff in Colorado and increasing its advertising budget; and State Sen. Julie Gonzales is endorsing Elizabeth Warren.


Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)


Trump/Gardner Revenge Tour: In Your Face, Colorado!

UPDATE: The Colorado Democratic Party responds via CBS4:

Cory Gardner’s a spineless yes-man who’s sold out Colorado to Donald Trump time and time again. Whether it’s their numerous attacks on Coloradans’ healthcare or raiding millions of dollars from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, it’s no wonder they’re both so profoundly unpopular here in Colorado. We rejected Trump in 2016, and we’ll reject him and his enabler Cory Gardner at the ballot box this November.


President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

As the Denver Post’s Jon Murray reports, Republican morale is running high in the wake of President Donald Trump’s entirely expected acquittal on two articles of impeachment tried in the U.S. Senate–so high, in fact, that President Trump and America’s Most Vulnerable Senator™ Cory Gardner are set to headline a rally later this month (Feb. 20) in Colorado Springs at the 8,000-seat Broadmoor World Arena:

“Sen. Gardner is looking forward to joining President Trump to tout all the great accomplishments they have delivered to Colorado, including the BLM headquarters, Space Force, delivering clean drinking water to 50,000 Coloradans, record low unemployment and more,” Dobkin said. “Senator Gardner is hopeful both Democrats and Republicans will want to celebrate these successes.”

Gardner is up for reelection in November, too. The campaign of one of his Democratic rivals, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, seized on the rally announcement Thursday night by sending out a fresh fundraising appeal to supporters…

And as the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reminds us, Trump is keeping a promise he made to Cory Gardner after Gardner came out early to endorse Trump for re-election in 2020–an endorsement that also could be considered a liability in a state where Trump is deeply unpopular:

Gardner has said he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, but he offered the president an early endorsement for Trump’s reelection campaign this time around.

Trump vowed in December to visit Colorado often to rally support for Gardner. “We have a great senator in Colorado, we have to get him extended. I’ll be there a lot,” Trump said.

Polling has shown that both Trump and Gardner’s Colorado approval ratings are low.

We’ve thoroughly explored in this space the fundamental reason why Gardner is lashing himself tightly to Trump’s prow, even as the state’s increasingly blue election results make that appear politically counterintuitive. Without the Republican base, Gardner has no core constituency to build a majority coalition around. The “success” conservatives have enjoyed in peeling the Republican base away from credible information sources has created a political environment without wiggle room: either you stand with Trump and survive in the conservative information bubble, or you accept the narrative the rest of the world believes about Trump and Trump’s GOP spits you out.

In short, Gardner has cast his lot with the bubble. After Gardner’s (we honestly believe) sincere condemnation of Trump when he called for Trump to exit the presidential race in October of 2016, a shocking moral turnabout has been made here that Gardner has never been asked to explain. This is bigger than Gardner’s vagaries on abortion, bigger than Gardner’s long record of misinformation and broken promises regarding the Affordable Care Act. Gardner’s evolution into Trump’s loyal lieutenant in the last few years, for good or ill, is the defining characteristic of his career in the U.S. Senate.

We don’t think that’s going to end well for Gardner at the polls. Clearly, Gardner disagrees.


A Coward and a Liar: Poor Reviews for Gardner on Impeachment

“Coloradans deserve better than Cory Gardner.”

The Denver Post (2/6/20)

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) did what everyone expected him to do yesterday when the Senate voted on two articles of impeachment against President Trump: He covered up for Trump and voted to acquit the President.

What Gardner did not do, however, was find a way to explain his rationale for acquittal in any sort of manner that would make it appear as though he was not just participating in a cover-up. Gardner’s asinine speech on the floor of the Senate was notable mostly for his misinterpretation of Alexander HamiltonGardner’s media interviews on impeachment were, frankly, insulting to Coloradans.

In response to a question from Joe St. George of Fox 31 News about whether the Senate vote set a new precedent for election interference, Gardner had the temerity to exclaim that “foreign interference in our elections is absolutely wrong.”

In an interview with Colorado Public Radio, Gardner argued that the impeachment of Trump was really just a policy kerfuffle. “This is a policy question,” he said. “Does the United States have the ability to investigate how its taxpayer dollars are being spent?”

Gardner’s bullshit was swiftly condemned by lawmakers and media outlets alike. Here’s Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora), who served as one of the House impeachment managers in the Senate trial, speaking to Colorado Public Radio in response to Gardner’s “policy disagreement” explanation:

“The trial showed unequivocally that that’s just not true. Cory Gardner is not telling the truth there.’’

Crow said further that he believed Gardner was “doing what he feels is politically in his own best interest instead of doing what is right and upholding his oath,” and it’s impossible to argue otherwise. Kyle Clark of 9News had this to say on Wednesday evening:

Hundreds of Democrats and Republicans in Congress faced that central question of whether President Trump did something wrong, and they showed the basic courage to directly answer that question for voters…

But the whole impeachment trial has now come and gone without Senator Cory Gardner ever coming up with the basic courage to directly answer that question. [Pols emphasis]

But the unkindest cut was reserved for the editorial board of The Denver Post, which absolutely lit into Colorado’s Junior Senator on Thursday:

Sen. Cory Gardner either thinks it’s OK for a president to pressure a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen for personal and political gain or he’s too afraid to criticize this president for doing just that.

We’re not sure which is worse.

Gardner failed to address the issue on the floor of Congress while he was explaining to the public his decision to acquit the president on that very question. In subsequent media interviews where he was asked the question directly, he did the trademark Gardner dodge and weave.

That was just the beginning. Here’s the knockout blow:

Gardner once said he would stand up to his own party. Turns out he won’t even be critical of the actions of a member of his own party. He must believe what Trump did was fine. Why won’t he just say that?

Coloradans deserve a senator who will be straightforward and honest with them. Coloradans deserve a senator with a track record of bipartisanship. Coloradans deserve a senator who will call out things that are wrong and work to correct them. Coloradans deserve better than Cory Gardner. [Pols emphasis]

Ooof. Make sure to take a moment to read the entire Post editorial.

There’s a good reason that even staunch Republicans are sick of Gardner’s crap. He might have helped save Trump’s skin on Wednesday…but nobody will be bailing Gardner out in November.


Celebratin’ Trump Skatin’ On The State House Floor

Via GOP Rep. Matt Soper, Colorado House Republicans had themselves an extemporaneous party on the floor of the chamber today to celebrate the acquittal yesterday of President Donald Trump:

Rep. Soper exults less than eloquently:

The rights of the innocence [sic] were upheld. The House Republican caucus celebrated the exoneration of President Trump.

Long live the “rights of the innocence!” A couple of points though, first being that as a lawyer–even a lawyer with poor grammar–Rep. Soper should know that acquittal and “exoneration” are meaningfully distinct from one another, that is they are not synonymous and can’t be used interchangeably. We realize that Republicans right to the top are having trouble with this distinction recently.

The other problem is it was our understanding that overtly political demonstrations of this kind were not allowed inside the walls of the state capitol. Back in 2018 when a portrait of Vladimir Putin was planted where Donald Trump’s should have been in the capitol rotunda as a prank, then-Senate President Kevin Grantham was highly uptight about the supposed breach of decorum:

Grantham says he was not sure it was real at first, but says they are no looking into how it happened.

“This is basically a political statement and political demonstration within the capitol. It is simply not allowed,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

So much for that we guess!

But if at any point between now in November Colorado Republicans find it strategic to put daylight between themselves and an unpopular President who has already cost them one election, here’s a photo that will make that more or less impossible. We’ll see in November how much the House GOP minority regrets it.


Boebert Slams Tipton On Major Conservative Shibboleth

Lauren Boebert.

During the second term of President Barack Obama’s administration, conservatives accused the Internal Revenue Service of unfairly targeting conservative activist nonprofit groups for heightened scrutiny. Although a detailed report from the Treasury Department Inspector General in 2017 found that the IRS targeted both conservative and liberal groups based on keywords like “Tea Party” and “progressive,” it’s been an article of faith on the far right from the beginning that the whole business was a treacherous partisan attack on Republicans by the Obama White House.

This is where it gets tricky for incumbent GOP Rep. Scott Tipton, as Politico reported in December of 2016:

The House squelched a resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a bipartisan rebuke of conservative House Freedom Caucus efforts.

Lawmakers voted 342-72 to kick the resolution back to the Judiciary Committee, averting a floor vote on outright impeachment after outgoing House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan introduced a privileged resolution on Tuesday to impeach Koskinen…

The IRS chief has been under fire by conservatives for his handling of the aftermath of the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, which exploded into the headlines in spring of 2013. Koskinen, who was not IRS commissioner at the time, has denied allegations that he misled Congress about the controversy.

The Colorado GOP majority delegation at that time split their vote on this motion, with Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn voting with the 72 hardcores in the minority and Reps. Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton voting with the bipartisan majority. Although still a lively topic on conservative talk radio, by this time it was apparent that the IRS’ nonprofit dragnet was, if perhaps a bit overzealous, bipartisan in its overzealousness.

But folks, you know who doesn’t want to hear the unsexy truth? Republican primary voters! If Tipton wants to refute this allegation from challenger Lauren “Yosemite Samantha” Boebert, he has to convince his audience that the much-balleyhooed “Obama IRS scandal” really, you know, wasn’t so much of a scandal.

And needless to say, that’s no help in a Republican primary either.


Lamborn Super Excited To Gut Social Security, Medicare!

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

Freshly energized from President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday and acquittal in the impeachment trial yesterday, Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs is excited to move on to the next Big Thing he thinks is on the Republican agenda–slashing “entitlement” spending, meaning the Social Security and Medicare benefits millions of Americans and thousands of Lamborn’s own constituents rely on.

As Ernest Luning at the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, grab that third rail and hang on tight!

“Our economy can always be better, but I see things that show it’s an economy that’s really pretty broadly based,” Lamborn said. “I think, while we need to bring, say, health care costs down, because that’s a big expense for people, and energy costs — we don’t want those to get out of control, and the administration is doing good on that, taking away regulations that increase the cost of energy — I think there’s really some good things for many if not most of the families in this country.”

Lamborn said he’s looking forward to the president’s second term, when Republicans can take on an annual budget deficit forecast to top $1 trillion this year, nearly twice what it was when Trump took office.

“Trump and his people have said that if he gets reelected, he is going to make that his top priority, is getting spending under control,” Lamborn said. “For whatever reasons, we haven’t really talked about the entitlement part of our budget, which is 60% or higher. [Pols emphasis] So to really have meaningful attention paid to the deficit, you have to address mandatory spending, or entitlements.” He added, “I’m keeping my fingers crossed that that is true.”

Now of course, in Trump’s SOTU address Tuesday evening, he specifically said the words “we will always protect your Medicare and your Social Security.” Two weeks ago, however, Trump said pretty candidly that “entitlement” cuts were on the horizon after the 2017 tax cut legislation blew a trillion-dollar hole in the budget. And while Trump has always assured his voters that he would never cut these essential programs relied upon by Americans without partisan distinction, his proposed budgets have relied on doing exactly that.

With that said, it is very interesting to see all of this talk about cutting Social Security and Medicare in an election year, which is generally a time when Republicans shy away from talk of “reforming” programs that millions of voters depend on. The direct linkage between such program cuts and tax cuts passed two years ago by the same Republicans overwhelmingly benefiting the wealthiest Americans is objectionable even to many conservative voters–who once believed that Trump would fight for the middle class against the corporate predators at the top and the “moochers” at the bottom of society. As it turns out, both the middle and the lower class are getting the short end of the deal.

Though perhaps not in Doug Lamborn’s safe conservative stomping ground, “hell yes we’re cutting Social Security” is a message that could prove very costly to many Republicans on the 2020 ballot with Trump in competitive races. For Republicans there’s a time to spring this long-desired agenda item on the voting public, and that is not right before they vote.

Rep. Lamborn doesn’t get these subtleties. He says the quiet part out loud every time.