“Benkenlooper” Makes The Cut–And Will Share The Stage

UPDATE: Here’s the complete debate lineup, via the New York Times:

—–

Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Colorado Public Radio reports:

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet have both qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debates. The Democratic National Committee announced the names of the candidates that made the cut on Thursday…

An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the large field between the first and second night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was the most high-profile candidate left off the list. He failed to reach the party’s polling or grassroots fundraising thresholds.

Today the grouping of the candidates was announced after the drawing mentioned above–former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Sen. Michael Bennet will share the stage with the man both have set their sights on as a principal target to plink at from the right side of the primary field, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Both candidates have a higher bar to meet in terms of polling and financial support in order to qualify for the third round of debates later in September, so it’s critical they take maximum advantage of the brief amount of camera time each candidate will receive in Miami.

Obviously it’s what they both wanted, including the chance to face off against Sanders.

We’ll see what they do with it.

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Bennet “Sister Souljas” Medicare For All

Dave Weigel of the Washington Post directs us to the latest digital ad running in support of Sen. Michael Bennet’s presidential campaign–and much like Gov. John Hickenlooper left many observers scratching their heads after striking out against “socialism” to the rowdy boos of California Democrats, Bennet is taking what can only be called a triangulation approach against liberal firebrand Bernie Sanders and one of Sanders’ chief policy planks:

As readers may know, but would be excused for not knowing like we expect the majority of Americans do not know, Sen. Bennet has his own policy prescription for health care reform that he calls “Medicare X.” Medicare X is not a universal coverage plan but closer to what was known during the debate over the Affordable Care Act as a “public option.” It’s a plan with a lot to offer, and Bennet makes arguments for Medicare X that sound an awful lot like the progressive side of the debate over “Obamacare.” But in this case, Bennet is making disingenuous claims about Medicare For All “taking away insurance” that are much too close to rank GOP falsehoods about “insurance cancellations” under the ACA for us grant a pass.

As readers should know, Sen. Bennet is running toward the back of a 20+ pack of presidential candidates, and is doing whatever he can to obtain enough support both financially and in polling to qualify for the second round of presidential debates. This tactic is obviously an attempt to broaden Bennet’s support by attacking the Democratic frontrunners from the right, arguing that their more ambitious health reform agenda “won’t work.”

The problem is of course that this message, just like Hickenlooper’s off-key railing against “socialism” in front of California Democrats, is pretty much the opposite of persuasive to Democratic primary voters. It’s a message aimed at a tiny if sometimes decisive wedge of swing voters in a general election, but the job of a primary candidate is to win the hearts and minds of the ideological base. We’re not saying that Bennet is even wrong–it’s arguable after the last painful decade of partisan warfare over health care in this country that a dramatic move in either direction is politically very difficult to conceive.

But there’s no upside in lecturing primary voters at the precise moment they are looking to be inspired.

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Tightening Debate Qualifications Put “Benkenlooper” On Notice

Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

CNN reports, the winnowing’s got to start some time:

The Democratic National Committee will double the qualifying thresholds and require that 2020 candidates meet both in order to participate in the third and fourth primary debates, the committee announced Wednesday.

Candidates had to achieve 1% in three polls from an approved list of pollsters or receive campaign contributions from 65,000 unique donors, including 200 donors each from 20 different states, to qualify for the first Democratic primary debates in June, which will be hosted by NBC News, and the second set of debates in July, which will be hosted by CNN.

In order to qualify for the third and fourth set of debates in September and October respectively, candidates will now have to achieve 2% in four polls from a slightly changed list of approved pollsters and receive 130,000 unique donors (from the date of their campaign’s creation), including 400 unique donors per state in at least 20 US states.

As we discussed over the weekend, Gov. John Hickenlooper appears to have qualified to participate in the first round of Democratic presidential debates set for late June in Miami based on the required qualification of a 1% or better showing in three qualifying nationwide polls. The new higher standard announced today, however, will knock Hickenlooper off the debate stage unless he substantially improves his position between now and September. Sen. Michael Bennet remains focused on gaining enough support to qualify for the June debate. A CNN town hall later this week will give Bennet what’s likely to be his best shot at a national introduction.

We aren’t the ones who rule conclusively when the fabled “window” opens and closes in a presidential race, but this is a process that will work itself out through the summer and fall. On the other side, our local contenders will either have pulled off the legendary Broncos “revenge tour,” or ended up like the Rockies in…well, most years.

But as seems to be the rule in crowded primaries near and far–you can’t win if you don’t play.

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Bennet Fights To Make Prez Debate Stage

Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Politico updates on the fortunes of Colorado’s other Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Michael Bennet, who is working against the clock to register enough support to qualify for presidential debates set to kick off at the end of June:

The low-key Colorado Democratic senator has a relatively centrist record that may be out of step with some primary voters, a recent cancer diagnosis and no real national profile. He’s not a cable news staple and shies away from the press in the Capitol.

And Bennet’s already facing crunch time. He’s the Democratic senator most in danger of missing the first debate in June, which would mark a major setback to Bennet’s already narrow path toward breaking out in a field of 22 other prominent White House hopefuls.

In a 30-minute interview with POLITICO ahead of a swing to New Hampshire, Bennet acknowledged the steep odds of getting 65,000 donors and cracking 1 percent in the polls one more time over the next month in order to qualify for the debate stage. He wouldn’t disclose how close he is to hitting the donor threshold and declined to guarantee he could make it happen.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper has already met the threshold to appear on stage in Miami in June 26 or 27–with 20 candidates participating, the debate is being necessarily broken up into two groups. A strong debate performance by Hickenlooper is broadly considered to be essential if he wants to move up in this historically large pack. For Bennet, whose “slow burn” campaign has made little attempt to quickly register in national polls, it’s less certain whether appearing in the early debates are as important.

“He is realistic about the big field,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a close friend who worked on health care legislation with Bennet. “The way he looks at it: … with a field so big it’s not like anybody is a prohibitive favorite.” [Pols emphasis]

For as long as that’s true it gives hope not just to Bennet’s campaign but the other nearly two dozen Democrats who have filed to run for President in 2020. With that said, favorites will emerge, and any candidate without a plan for being on the positive side of that consolidation will be sidelined long before the early primaries.

Until then, you can’t rule anybody out. We stopped doing that when Donald Trump became President.

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Michael Bennet: 2, Ted Cruz: 0

As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took a shot at Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) over the latter’s official entry into the 2020 Presidential race on Thursday:

Hours after U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s Thursday announcement that he’s running for president, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz took to Twitter to compare the Colorado Democrat’s nascent campaign to “Seinfeld,” the landmark 1990s sitcom its creators said was “about nothing.”

The Texas Republican also took a swipe at Bennet’s breakthrough moment, when he tore into Cruz in a passionate speech on the Senate floor during January’s government shutdown, drawing millions of viewers.

“Michael Bennet’s campaign is a Seinfeld campaign — about nothing — that typifies the Left’s empty rage in 2020,” Cruz tweeted.

He continued: “In a decade in the Senate, he’s done very little … but he did stomp his foot & yell at me on Senate floor (which he features in fundraising emails).”

Cruz’s Twitter rhetoric reads a lot like something President Trump might tap out at 3:00 in the morning. The response from Bennet is pure trolling magic:

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Bennet Beats Cancer, Readies for Presidential Run

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver)

Justin Wingerter of the Denver Post reports on some good news for Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver):

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s office said Friday that his surgery to remove prostate cancer was successful, seemingly clearing the way for a 2020 presidential run.

“Last weekend, Michael underwent surgery and is recovering at his home in Colorado,” said Courtney Gidner, Bennet’s spokeswoman. “His doctors report the surgery was completely successful and he requires no further treatment.

“Michael and his family deeply appreciate the well wishes and support from Coloradans and others across the country, and he looks forward to returning to work after the recess,” she added.

Bennet announced earlier this month that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was putting his Presidential campaign inquiries on hold while he focused on his health. Bennet said at the time that he would commence a full-scale Presidential campaign pending successful cancer treatment.

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In Politics, Presidential or Otherwise, Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Politico’s David Siders has an interesting take on the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, in particular how many of the candidates running are more popular outside their home states than within them, that we think bears repeating in this space:

Sen. Kamala Harris has been elected three times to statewide office, and she’s one of the most popular politicians in California. Yet according to the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll, just 38 percent of likely state voters say she should be running for president.

In New Jersey, only 37 percent of Sen. Cory Booker’s constituents think he would make a good president. In Massachusetts, two-thirds of likely voters told a Suffolk University Political Research Center/Boston Globe poll last fall that Sen. Elizabeth Warren shouldn’t run for the White House…

Indeed, for much of the Democratic field, there’s little home advantage to be found. Some contenders would have a tough time winning their own states in the general election. A few seem likely to lose their states even in the Democratic primary. Never before has the designation of a favorite daughter or favorite son candidate appeared so meaningless.

The story doesn’t specifically mention Colorado’s two Democratic presidential entrants, one official and one presumed pending resolution of a health concern, but based on our experience with attitudes among local base Democrats regarding Colorado’s elected Democratic leaders–and plenty of snarky comments from our readers–it’s reasonable to suggest that local Democrats don’t as a general rule consider either Gov. John Hickenlooper or Sen. Michael Bennet to be especially competitive candidates.

But while everyone loves to pick at the flaws in our local elected leaders, and we do, we should keep in mind how base Democratic voters in California similarly aren’t very keen on Kamala Harris running for President–or Elizabeth Warren with Massachusetts Democrats, or Cory Booker with New Jersey Democrats, and so on. The polls seem to indicate we all have a tendency to be less forgiving of our own representatives, perhaps more of a reflection of frustration with American politics as a whole than anything these individuals have actually done or failed to do.

We’re just saying! Bookmark this post in the event either of our boys breaks out of the single digits…

In the meantime, click below to vote on which candidate you think is most likely to win the Democratic Presidential nomination. “Neither” is not an option, because we want to know who you think has the better chance of the two Colorado politicians.

Who Is More Likely to Win the Democratic Presidential Nomination?
John Hickenlooper
Michael Bennet
View Result
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Good Luck, Speedy Recovery To Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

Mike Littwin of the Colorado Independent broke significant news yesterday that Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, a likely entry into the 2020 race for the Democratic presidential nomination will undergo surgery for prostate cancer prior to making a final decision:

Just as he had finally become comfortable with his decision to run, he went to get a physical and received very discomfiting news from his doctor — he has prostate cancer.

His PSA was high. The biopsy showed malignancy. The doctors recommended that, at his age, surgery was the best course of action. His family agreed. The risk, he was told, was low. John Kerry had survived, cancer free, the same surgery in 2003 and two weeks later was back on the campaign trail, on his way to winning the Democratic nomination. And so …

And so, now Bennet is still committed to running for president if — and it’s an important if, but an if that Bennet says he’s at peace with — he will be cancer free. The surgery to remove the prostate gland is scheduled for soon after the congressional spring recess, which begins on April 11.

When I asked Bennet how he was taking all this — the cancer, not the presidential bid — he said he was OK. “I’m too busy to really sit back and think about it,” he said, “and that’s probably the best thing.”

The odds are good that Sen. Bennet’s treatment will be successful, but it’s a responsible choice to be certain before undertaking something as strenuous as a presidential campaign. We’ll add our best wishes to the bipartisan outpouring of goodwill since yesterday evening when the story broke.

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Bennet Basically In

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

Politico, confirming a longstanding expectation:

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said Thursday that he is “very inclined” to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, telling his MSNBC interviewers that his decision would have nothing to do with whether former Vice President Joe Biden enters the race.

“I’m very inclined to do it, and we’re looking at it. And I think, look, the American people need somebody who’s going to run and tell them the truth in 2020,” he said on “Morning Joe.”

The two-term senator argued that making any progress in Congress is impossible “if we continue to do what we’ve been doing here for the last 10 years,” adding that he didn’t believe President Donald Trump was to blame for Washington’s gridlock. The president, Bennet said, is only a symptom of a greater problem and “an accelerant of a lot of the problems.”

Sen. Michael Bennet’s overall low profile as a Senator has been lifted in recent months by flashes of rhetorical fire that attracted national attention. Like Colorado’s other Democratic presidential contender John Hickenlooper, Bennet will need to make further and much bigger waves in order to break into the upper tier of a huge pack of 2020 Democratic candidates–a pack that already includes a host of big names.

We certainly would not underestimate Bennet’s ability to do that, however. Along the way we expect Bennet will acquit himself well, and not be prone to either gaffes or background surprises. In contrast to the progressive firebrand persona of Bernie Sanders and the youthful rock star image of Beto O’Rourke, look for Michael Bennet to build a brand of understated competence and consensus building–with the ability to thrown down when the circumstances warrant.

And we’ll see how it goes, gentle readers.

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Michael Bennet Gets Ready to Jump

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver)

As the Denver Post reports, there is about to be a second Coloradan in the pool of candidates seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2020:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is taking the final steps toward becoming the second Colorado Democrat in the 2020 race for president, with a possible announcement coming soon, sources familiar with his plan have told The Denver Post.

Craig Hughes, a longtime adviser, said a final decision has not been made.

“We’re making progress towards a decision and encouraged by what we are seeing and hearing,” Hughes said.

While an announcement is not imminent, Bennet could announce within a month, the Democratic sources said.

This is about as close as you can get to announcing that you are running for President without actually announcing that you are running for President.

 

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Bennet, Hickenlooper Barnstorm Iowa This Weekend

KDVR FOX 31’s Joe St. George reports:, Colorado’s so-far friendly presidential rivalry is headed east this weekend:

[Gov. John] Hickenlooper is scheduled to visit Sioux City, Carroll and Ames in Iowa beginning on Saturday, February 22.

However, now it is clear he may not be the only Coloradoan thinking about a run for President.

Sen. Michael Bennet is heading to Iowa this weekend for multiple stops.

Bennet will begin his tour in Dubuque and will add house parties and visits to farms to his agenda beginning on Thursday, February 21. Bennet will hold events in Iowa through Saturday.

Although the weather is forecast to clear up here in Colorado by the weekend, Iowa’s forecast calls for continued crappy with occasional wintry mix face-peltings through early next week. As anyone who has ever had to endure the kind of high humidity bone-chilling bitter cold weather they get in the Hawkeye State knows, you’re not going to tour the place in February unless you really want to be President.

So our two local entrants among a growing herd of presidential wannabes have got that going for them.

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Mueller Probe Nears Completion; Will Republicans Try to Bury It?

Donald Nixon

There’s a lot to unpack about special counsel Robert Mueller’s apparently soon-to-be-final report into potential collusion between President Trump’s campaign and/or obstruction of justice, so let’s jump right in, shall we?

As CNN reports:

Attorney General Bill Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, with plans for Barr to submit to Congress soon after a summary of Mueller’s confidential report, according to people familiar with the plans.

The preparations are the clearest indication yet that Mueller is nearly done with his almost two-year investigation.

The precise timing of the announcement is subject to change.

The scope and contours of what Barr will send to Congress remain unclear. Also unclear is how long it will take Justice officials to prepare what will be submitted to lawmakers…

Under the special counsel regulations, Mueller must submit a “confidential” report to the attorney general at the conclusion of his work, but the rules don’t require it to be shared with Congress, or by extension, the public. And, as Barr has made clear, the Justice Department generally guards against publicizing “derogatory” information about uncharged individuals.

As a result, one of the most pressing questions Barr will face in the coming weeks is the extent to which Mueller’s findings should be disclosed to Congress. [Pols emphasis]

How would Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) oppose any efforts by Barr (or the White House, as adviser Kellyanne Conway indicated on Tuesday) to potentially bury the results of the Mueller investigation? If Gardner’s recent public comments are any indication…we really don’t know the answer to that question.

87% of Americans want a full public report of Mueller investigation — including 92% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans.

It’s important to note that the American public is not particularly divided about wanting to see the results of Mueller’s investigation, as FiveThirtyEight.com noted earlier this month:

It’s rare for Americans to agree on anything these days, particularly when it comes to a politically charged issue like special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But a CNN poll released last Thursday found that a whopping 87 percent of Americans (including 92 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans) believe that once the Mueller investigation ends, there should be a full public report on the findings, whatever they may be.

The Washington Post found similar numbers in a separate poll this month.

So far, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has had President Trump’s back at every turn.

Last month a bipartisan Senate bill was proposed that would require Mueller’s team to submit a public report to Congress once the investigation has concluded. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who is reportedly in frequent communication with President Trump, has been lukewarm on this proposal from Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Gardner has generally given lip service to supporting the Mueller investigation, but has balked at standing behind any sort of pre-emptive legislation to protect the special counsel. As Colorado Public Radio reported in December regarding a proposal to protect Mueller legislatively, “Gardner accused the bill’s backers of ‘playing politics,'” which is a particularly stupid response given that Gardner is paid a full salary so that he can go to Washington D.C. and “play politics” on all sorts of issues. This is sort of like John Elway saying that there is too much “playing football” with the Denver Broncos.

If Mueller’s investigation is indeed nearing a conclusion, the American public has made it clear that they expect to be able to see the results for themselves. We’ll learn a lot about Gardner’s political future by how he responds to any public release of information (or lack thereof) once the investigation is finalized.

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Michael Bennet Gets Coveted Morning Joe Endorsement

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Joe Scarborough.

In the Washington Post Joe Scarborough has proclaimed that Michael Bennet is the one! The one Democrat who can unite party hacks and left wing loons into a machine that will defeat the Trumpster! Well he does not quite use those words, but on the basis of the one viral moment that Bennet has ever had Joe thinks that he, “has also shown the capacity to inspire the grass roots.” He also thinks that simultaneously Michael Bennet’s politics could create a, “center-left coalition that could break the logjam of fifty-fifty America.”

Is this a reality based claim or just wishful thinking with lots of weasel words? I’d say the latter is more likely. We can actually directly compare the electoral performance of Bennet vs. Clinton in 2016 here in Colorado. Senator Bennet managed to get 31,780 more votes than Clinton in Colorado when running against El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn. Remember Glenn’s amazing campaign? Against one of the worst candidates in Colorado history Bennet outperformed Clinton by getting 49.97% while she only got 48.16%. Massive! Clearly there is an enormous unmet desire for moderates.

Translated nationwide this could mean that Bennet will win very close to 50% of the popular vote! Unless Darryl Glenn was an easier opponent to beat than Trump. Also if incumbency explained all of the difference (and then some at +2% for a first term Senator) outperforming Clinton might not be so impressive. Also the fact that he outspent Glenn by as much as $14 million to $3 million.

Seriously though, is anyone asking for this? He’s not a terrible Democratic Senator (Hi, Bob Menendez), but he does not have an inspiring story, a great cause, or even an amazing electoral machine. Sure, he’d have the moderate-Republicans-who-wish-everyone-would-just-stop-being-so-extreme vote locked up, but is anyone else actually calling on him to run? Would even his Wall Street donors be excited about the prospect of a Michael Bennet presidency? He’s the human equivalent of a bowl of soggy shredded wheat.

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Everybody And Their Mother Calls On Ralph Northam To Resign

Today in career-ending yearbook photos.

9NEWS’ Jacob Rodriguez reports the local side of a national story that only ends one way:

Despite holding a press conference denying that he was in a controversial photo from his 1984 yearbook showing someone in blackface and someone in KKK attire, Colorado Democrats Sen. Michael Bennet and former Gov. John Hickenlooper have called on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) to step down…

“This photo may not be the sum of who Ralph Northam is,” Hickenlooper wrote Friday night after the story broke, “but there’s no doubt, that the right thing for him to do as a leader is step down.”

Bennet, serving in Congress since 2009, did not mince words – and even pointed to who he’d like to get a shot in the governor’s chair.

“The photo is racist and despicable,” Bennet wrote Saturday morning. “Governor Northam should step down and allow his Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, to become the next Governor of Virginia.”

Basically every Democrat in America has now called on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to step down from his position and make way for the popular Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who happens to be African-American. Northam’s up-to-now failure to heed this overwhelming consensus is quickly making the transition from tragicomic to outrageous, and we’re hitting refresh in another browser tab as we write to make sure events don’t overtake our blog post.

And yes, lots of Republicans say Northam ought to resign as well.

Here’s to their newfound sense of decency.

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Bennet Barbeques Cruz


The Hill reports–Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, who has a reputation for being polite and soft-spoken, rained uncharacteristic fire today after a floor speech by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz overtopped Bennet’s BS threshold:

Bennet, a typically subdued and moderate senator, unloaded on Cruz after the Texas Republican joined other GOP lawmakers to introduce a bill to pay members of the Coast Guard during the partial shutdown but not reopen the government.

“I seldom rise on this floor to contradict somebody on the other side,” Bennet said during his speech. “I have worked very hard over the years to work in a bipartisan way with the presiding officer with my Republican colleagues, but these crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying for first responders are too hard for me to take.”

“When the senator from Texas shut this government down in 2013, my state was flooded. It was under water. People were killed. People’s houses were destroyed. Their small businesses were ruined forever. And because of the senator from Texas, this government was shut down for politics,” Bennet shouted, referring to a series of floods that hit killed eight Coloradans.

The historic flooding that impacted Colorado in September of 2013 has been a flashpoint involving Colorado politicians several times since the event, including a round of absolutely toxic press that only New York-area news outlets could deliver directed at Colorado Republicans who voted against disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy victims after the nation rallied to our aid. But it’s also true that immediate relief for Colorado’s flood victims in 2013 was hampered by a government shutdown forced by Republicans including Sen. Ted Cruz over funding for the Affordable Care Act.

Although more Americans oppose the GOP on the shutdown than support them, the opposition is not yet lopsided enough to compel Republicans to back down on poll numbers alone–at least not yet. Cruz’s attempt to carve out a safe haven for a favored interest, in this case the Coast Guard, is just one among innumerable little hypocrisies that have kept the present historically long shutdown grinding on without a total collapse in public support for Republicans.

But it was enough to get Michael Bennet to flash some genuine anger, which itself is no small thing.

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Who’s Sick of Cory Gardner Hiding Behind Michael Bennet?

Deepan Dutta of the Summit Daily News reports on one of the bigger political failures for GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in the month of December, adjournment for the year without reauthorizing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund:

[T]he fund expired in September after a three-year extension, and Congress has been unable to make much progress toward a renewal. Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner have supported renewing the fund, but have been unable to move the needle on renewal.

“Coloradans deserve a Congress responsive to their priorities, but Washington has failed to pass significant public lands legislation for years,” Bennet said in a press release condemning Congress’ failure to renew the program. “We must find a way to pass a lands package that includes LWCF and a new wilderness and recreation designations in Colorado, including the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act. Congress’ failure to act on the Land and Water Conservation fund this year is unacceptable, and shows just how broken this place is.”

Losing the program has political consequences. Polling firm Change Research found that 87 percent of Coloradans support Congress renewing the fund. The same poll found that Colorado’s most important voting bloc — independents — are more likely to oppose Sen. Gardner’s 2020 re-election bid by a five-to-one margin if he is unable to steer his fellow Senate Republicans toward passing the fund. [Pols emphasis]

As we discussed before Christmas, funding for the LWCF was stalled by Gardner’s fellow Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. In memorably comedic floor speech, Gardner punched the desk and announced how “pretty doggone upset” he was. Gardner says now that GOP Senate leadership will let the issue come back up in January, but there’s little reason to be optimistic for a better outcome.

Since the failure to renew the LWCF, Gardner has largely been granted a pass on the unwillingness of his fellow Republicans–even one Republican Senator, as is the case here–to go along with a major funding priority for Gardner’s home state. But even though Gardner and Colorado’s senior Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet appear on stage together supporting this program, it’s a natural fact that Sen. Gardner is more responsible for his own majority party’s inability to reauthorize the funding than Sen. Bennet.

After all, who are Gardner’s fellow Republicans more likely to listen to?

At a time when the GOP’s unpopularity across the nation and in Colorado particularly threatens their long-term viability, Gardner is naturally keen to deflect from his party affiliation by hiding behind his Democratic counterpart. When Gardner wasn’t himself coming up for re-election, this was more justifiable activity for Bennet to participate in. But as the Republican Party’s collective failure to accomplish goals that Gardner and Bennet both claim to support continue into Gardner’s re-election cycle, something’s got to give.

Let us gently suggest that what Sen. Bennet needs more than Gardner’s lip service…is a Democratic majority.

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Sen. Bennet Talking More Like a Presidential Candidate

Yahoo! News:

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., confirmed in an interview Tuesday that he is considering a run for president.

“I am thinking about it,” Bennet said in an interview for the Yahoo News podcast “The Long Game.”

Bennet has reportedly been talking to staff in Iowa ahead of the first-in-the-nation caucus there and would join the enormous field of Democrats likely to seek the nomination in 2020, which is more than 30 names long.

Bennet, 54, carries himself in a low-key manner but has impressive credentials, and has been considered a rising Democratic star. Former President Obama mentioned him among a handful of young Democrats he believed could be national stars, along with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The whole interview is worth a listen, as Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator talks about his service in the Senate, the frustration of serving in Mitch McConnell’s Senate in particular, who he accuses of  “stealing the presidency”–and how the experience could inform Michael Bennet as a presidential candidate.

And of course this turns up the heat just a little bit more in what’s shaping up to be a very interesting rivalry between Colorado’s top two Democratic elected officials, both of whom are dreaming as big as it gets in American politics. Will Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper find a way to collegially run against one another for the Democratic nomination? Will it get competitive? Or will the question, as they say, work itself out?

Stay tuned, it’s a hell of a time to be a Democrat in Colorado…

(more…)

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Hickenlooper, Bennet Maybe Both Want To Be President

Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

It turns out Gov. John Hickenlooper isn’t the only Colorado Democrat with his eye on the White House.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is considering a presidential bid, according to three people who confirmed to CPR News that they talked with him about it earlier this fall. The individuals declined to use their names because they were not authorized to speak about the matter. One of them discussed it with Bennet in the last 30 days.

“What he said to me is he is seriously thinking about running,” said another individual. “He has not made up his mind yet but he is seriously thinking about running.”

Who wouldn’t want to run against Donald Trump, asks anyone with the wherewithal?

Our highly unscientific but sure to provoke a lively debate poll asks the question:

Would Bennet or Hickenlooper be the better Democratic nominee for President?
Sen. Michael Bennet
Gov. John Hickenlooper
No preference/unsure
See irate comment below
View Result
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Signs of the Times at Denver’s #ProtectMueller Rally: “Gardner Grow A Spine”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

With less than 24 hours’ notice, hundreds of Coloradans gathered at the West Steps of the state capitol on Thursday evening to protest President Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker to be acting Attorney General of the United States. Whitaker had been AG Jeff Sessions’ Chief of Staff. He has publicly argued that Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation has gone too far and that President Trump has the authority to end it whenever he wants.

Speakers included Senator Michael Bennet, Congressmen-elect Joe Neguse and Jason Crow, Attorney General-elect Phil Weiser, State Rep. Joe Salazar (D – Thornton), and AME Shorter Church Pastor Dr. Timothy Tyler.

Gardner Sign at Protect Mueller Rally

(more…)

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Kavanaugh Confirmation Process Upended

UPDATE #2: President Trump voices his support for another hearing. From the Washington Post:

“We want to go through a full process,” Trump told reporters at an event on workforce development. He added that the Senate will “go through a process and hear everybody out.”

—–

UPDATE: Chris Cillizza of CNN explains how everything changed this morning:

What happened here is simple: Ford called Republicans’ bluff. As an anonymous accuser, her allegations weren’t going to change Kavanaugh’s glide path to the Supreme Court. As a named accuser, she complicated that path. As a named accuser who has now expressed a willingness to tell her story — and in public — there is no longer a clear path to Kavanaugh’s confirmation. (That’s not to say he can’t make it. It is to say that there is no clear path by which he makes it.)

The reason Kavanaugh’s path is now so fraught is a unique combination of the moment in which we are currently living, the man in the White House and the onrushing midterm elections.

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (left) met with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in late July.

The confirmation process for President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court was upended over the weekend when a woman came forward to accuse Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school.

Christine Blasey Ford confirmed via the Washington Post on Sunday that she is the person behind an accusation of sexual assault that was first revealed last week as a confidential letter to Democratic lawmakers. From the Post:

Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

The Senate had been scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh’s appointment as soon as Thursday, but Ford’s allegations have cast new doubt on that process. As Denver7’s Blair Miller reports in a series of Tweets, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is among the chorus of voices calling for the process to slow until “full investigation” can be conducted:

Colorado’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) won’t go that far…

What Gardner does not say here is more important; he still hasn’t said whether or not he supports delaying Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote. As Politico reports, there are enough Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing public support for waiting on Ford’s testimony that a vote this week may not happen:

Less than 24 hours after Ford publicly came forward against Kavanaugh, her attorney said that she “will do whatever is necessary to make sure that the Senate Judiciary Committee has the full story,” including providing testimony. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) already had begun seeking follow-up calls for senators on Ford’s charges, and said on Monday that he is “working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner” — which could further imperil a committee vote on Kavanaugh that’s still set for Thursday.

Hatch, a senior Judiciary member, declined to commit senators to a Thursday vote on Kavanaugh and said the timing would be “up to the chairman.” But for the six Republicans who’ve urged the committee to hear from Ford, winding up the process as scheduled this week wasn’t a primary concern.

“This woman is willing to come forward and tell her story and we should listen to her,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Milwaukee radio station WTMJ. “I’m not really sure where this goes from here.”…

Johnson joins calls from GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alasaka and Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Tennessee’s Bob Corker, who told POLITICO Sunday that the committee shouldn’t vote on Kavanaugh until Ford can be heard. And Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Republican leadership, said that “These are serious allegations that need to be looked at closely by the committee before any other action is taken.” [Pols emphasis]

Gardner had expressed his support for Kavanaugh’s nomination before these new allegations were made public. But with so many high-profile Republican Senators already willing to pump the brakes on Kavanaugh, Gardner’s position here is tenuous at best. Gardner doesn’t want to be one of the last Senators to agree to delay a vote on Kavanaugh until after Ford has a chance to testify.

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Bennet, Hick Try To Slow Trump Drilling Frenzy

Sage Grouse of the Greater kind.

AP reports via CBS4 Denver:

Top Colorado Democrats on Tuesday accused the Trump administration of rushing to open public lands to oil and gas drilling without giving the public nearly enough time to comment.

In letters to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper also asked the government not to go ahead with plans for oil and gas drilling on habitat for the greater sage grouse, a bird that Western states and federal agencies are trying to protect…

A joint federal-state program called the Sage Grouse Initiative, launched under the Obama administration, is trying to save the bird without resorting to the strict restrictions of the Endangered Species Act.

It’s ironic that, in barreling ahead with drilling in areas inhabited by the greater sage grouse, the Trump administration could thwart a somewhat controversial effort to protect the species without invoking the Endangered Species Act–by reducing the population enough to trigger the Act unequivocally! In the long run, it would be better for energy producers to cooperate with the current plan, demonstrate its success, and avoid much more stringent long-term oversight.

Unfortunately for the sage grouse, Donald Trump’s regulatory free-for-all isn’t going to last forever. And given the choice between short-term profit and long-term sustainability, energy companies will do what they will always do given the opportunity, undoing the best-laid plans of their apologists on both sides of the aisle.

The real moral of the story? Elections matter.

Sorry, that’s the answer for a lot of things right now.

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Sen. Bennet Commits: NO on Brett Kavanaugh

UPDATE: From NARAL Pro Choice Colorado:

“On behalf of our 56,000 members statewide, NARAL thanks Senator Bennet for reflecting Colorado voters and values with a no vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. Senator Bennet is absolutely correct – Judge Kavanaugh is a threat to our reproductive rights and represents a direct threat to gut and overturn Roe v. Wade. Judge Kavanaugh has made it clear through public statements and emails that he opposes Roe and the Constitutional right to choose abortion. This is a right that Coloradans have consistently voted to support for generations.

We’re calling on Senator Gardner to listen to his constituents, not play partisan politics, and vote no on Judge Kavanaugh as well. Colorado has been a pro-choice state for more than 50 years. We believe strongly in the right to choose and the right to keep politicians out of our personal, private medical decisions. Senator Gardner should know that voting for a Supreme Court Justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade is a slap in the face to our Colorado values.”

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Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

A statement from Sen. Michael Bennet’s office a short while ago:

“After reviewing his writings, opinions, and testimony, I have concluded that Judge Kavanaugh will create a new Supreme Court majority that will threaten women’s reproductive rights, roll back essential environmental regulations, and favor large corporations over workers. In addition, his view that sitting presidents may be immune from criminal investigations and subpoenas is particularly troublesome at this moment. For these reasons, I will oppose his nomination.

“As I have said many times, I am deeply discouraged by the Senate’s descent into rank partisanship. Regrettably, the Majority’s accession to the administration’s refusal to disclose Judge Kavanaugh’s full record—including nearly 90% of the documents from his time in the Bush White House—represents a further abdication of the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to advise and consent. The hearing was a sham. The American people would be better served by a transparent, deliberate, and bipartisan confirmation process.”

It’s a welcome if expected development, but local Democrats are still watching to see what kind of fight Bennet puts up along with Senate Democrats to impede Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Whether or not that resistance is successful, there’s consensus that it needs to happen in order to demonstrate to voters the contrast ahead of midterm elections–not to mention a notation in history that this troubling lifetime appointment was in fact resisted.

If Bennet has any capital saved up from years as a bipartisan nice guy, now would be a good time to spend it.

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Report: BLM HQ Will Move West

As Erin Prater writes for the Colorado Springs Gazette:

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is prepared to move ahead on moving the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to the West, according to reports.

Grand Junction is expected to be a prime possibility for the new national headquarters, partly because of the work of Colorado’s two U.S. senators, Republican Cory Gardner of Yuma and Michael Bennet of Denver…

…Rep. Scott Tipton’s office said Thursday that the department will conduct an analysis to help choose a location in the next six to eight months, Interior Department senior adviser Susan Combs told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, according to the release Thursday. “Ninety-nine percent of the land that the BLM manages is located in the West, and the decisions made by the Bureau have daily impacts on those who live there, so it only makes sense to move the headquarters to a Western state. This would ensure that decisions would be made by those who understand the land best, resulting in more effective land management programs and policies.

Moving the headquarters of the BLM to the American West has been a long-running project that has the support of Colorado’s entire Congressional delegation, as well as the backing of local officials and Gov. John Hickenlooper. Colorado isn’t guaranteed to be the new home of the BLM, but Grand Junction is at least among the frontrunners.

It’s too soon to tell if this pending move will have a significant effect on BLM policies in the West or is more of a publicity stunt, though a new HQ would almost certainly create some new jobs in Colorado.

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No Recess for You, Senate!

Sen. Cory Gardner (left) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (Associated Press)

As Politico reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) — who heads up the NRSC — a big favor by cancelling much of the August recess.

Mitch McConnell is canceling all but a week of the Senate’s traditional August recess, hoping to keep vulnerable Democrats off the campaign trail and confirm as many of President Donald Trump’s judicial and executive branch nominees as possible.

The Senate majority leader said Tuesday that the Senate will only take a break for the first week of August because of “historic obstruction” by Senate Democrats and will stay in session the rest of the month. McConnell was under enormous pressure from his own caucus as well as the president to cancel as much of the recess as possible, but the majority leader also saw an opportunity to unite Republicans and annoy incumbent Democrats…

…By keeping the Senate in session, McConnell will significantly cut down on the time that Democratic senators have to campaign back home, particularly for senators like Jon Tester (D-Mont.) who have lengthy commutes back to their states. In 2016, when McConnell’s own caucus was facing a number of difficult reelection campaigns, the Senate was not in session in August.

There are 26 Democratic Senators up for re-election in 2018, compared to just 9 Republicans.

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Colorado Democratic Assembly Results

Colorado Democrats assembled at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield from Friday, April 13, to Saturday, April 14, 2018. The crowd of almost 4,000 Democrats were enthusiastic, engaged, yet civil (in contrast to the stunning back-stabbing and skullduggery at the Republican assembly) . The CDP Assembly was superbly well-organized, with balloting completed in about a half hour, and counted in less than two hours.  Kudos to Chair Morgan Carroll and all of the CDP staff and volunteers.

All of the  congressional districts held their own assemblies; many candidates had primary challengers or Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents. In this “blue wave” year, no office held by the GOP can be considered to be off-limits. Democrats in Colorado put forward a slate of phenomenal candidates.

The official results from the Colorado Democratic Party (CDP) for statewide offices are:

CU Regent-at-Large
Lesley Smith: 3,229 votes (100.00%)

Based on these results, Lesley Smith has qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for CU Regent-at-Large.

Treasurer
Bernard Douthit: 1,074 votes (31.50%)
Charles Scheibe: 557 votes (16.34%)
Dave Young: 1,778 votes (52.16%)

Based on these results, Bernard Douthit and Dave Young have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Treasurer.

Secretary of State
Jena Griswold: 3,352 votes (98.44%)
Phillip Villard: 53 votes (1.56%)

Based on these results, Jena Griswold has qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Secretary of State.

Attorney General
Amy Padden: 360 votes (10.54%)
Joe Salazar: 1,249 votes (36.58%)
Phil Weiser: 1,805 votes (52.87%)

Based on these results, Joe Salazar and Phil Weiser have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Attorney General. Amy Padden can qualify for the ballot if the Secretary of State determines that she has collected the requisite number of valid signatures.

Governor
Cary Kennedy: 2,101 votes (61.65%)
Jared Polis: 1,120 votes (32.86%)
Erik Underwood: 187 votes (5.49%)

Based on these results, Cary Kennedy and Jared Polis have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Governor.

NOTE: These are not all of the candidates that are running for these particular offices. Some candidates have chosen to qualify for the ballot by submitting petition signatures instead of going through the caucus-assembly process.

Here are the CD results in order: ( rounded to nearest 1%). I’ll update this list with numbers as I find them.

I’ve included my notes on the assemblies I attended and on the speakers I heard.

CD1: (Denver metro)Diana Degette – 61% . Her primary opponent, Saira Rao , got 37%, and  will be on the ballot. Rep. Degette has been a reliable Democratic vote for many years in a safe district – I think Rao’s candidacy will be a needed wake-up call to be more progressive and to offer better constituent services. Rao is sharp, a great speaker, and has energized the progressive base. Degette attended her CD1 assembly on April 13 , did not attend nor speak at the state assembly April 14.

CD2: (Boulder area – Jared Polis vacated the seat to run for Governor) Joe Negeuse – 91% Joe gave a helluva speech, as he always does. His personal story touches many people. Boulder will be well represented by him, as he’ll certainly win the primary, and almost certainly the general election. His primary opponent, Mark Williams, did not make the ballot.  The GOP has put up a couple of “Nicks” against Neguse: Nick Thomas and Nicholas Morse. I don’t know who won the GOP assembly vote, but they won’t beat “the Goose”.

CD3: (most of the western slope and SW CO – currently held by Scott Tipton) Diane Mitsch Bush had the highest delegate vote with 56%; Karl Harlon also cleared the 30% threshold with 41%, and will be on the ballot.

CD4: (Mostly NE CO – current incumbent Ken Buck) The Doctors were in the house! Veterinary doctors Karen McCormick and Chase Kohne each had throngs of energetic supporters on stage for their nominations. Each gave a rousing speech:

Kohne’s best line, in my opinion: “If you want to shoot an AR15, go down to the recruiting office and join the military.”

McCormick’s nominators are emphasizing Dr McCormick’s support for Dreamers and immigrants. Karen McCormick emphasized Cannabis, immigrant rights, healthcare, union support, bipartisan cooperation to get laws passed. Full disclosure: I live in CD4. I’m voting for McCormick, will be fine with Kohne as well.

CD5 (El Paso area, currently held by Doug Lamborn) Stephany Rose Spaulding won the delegate count and will be on the ballot. I don’t know about the other CD5 candidates, whom you can read about at the EPCO Young Dems site.  It’s great to see so many young Democrats running from what has6been the Tea Party GOP’s bastion in Colorado.

CD6 Aurora / Arapahoe County area, currently held by Mike Coffman. Jason Crow won top ballot with 64% , while Levi Tilleman will also be on the ballot with 35%. I saw Crow speak to the assembly, and found his persona to be authentic and appealing. PPP surveyed 761 voters, and found that Crow polled 44-39 against Coffman in Febrary 2018.

CD7 Ed Perlmutter, the Democratic incumbent, did not attend the Assembly as far as I know. Ed, a very popular Congressman in his district,  is not  being primaried in this election.

 

Author’s note – this diary started as an open thread based on my  live blogging at the Colorado State Assembly. I’ve updated it with ballot results.

 

 

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