LIVE: Colorado Election Night 2020

UPDATE: Colorado called for Joe Biden and John Hickenlooper by national outlets at 7:01pm.

Welcome to blue statehood.

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Bennet Taps Brakes On Cabinet Speculation

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said Monday that he doesn’t want to be education secretary — a job he was considered for under the last Democratic president — if Joe Biden is elected president this week.

In an interview, the Denver Democrat and former superintendent of Denver Public Schools said “no” when asked if he was interested in the job, which former President Barack Obama considered nominating him for after the 2008 election…

“My plan is to run for reelection to the Senate, and that’s what I’m going to do,” Bennet said.

We took note in October that Sen. Bernie Sanders was floating interest in serving as Labor Secretary in a Joe Biden White House, which naturally provoked a round of speculation about the suitability of Colorado lawmakers like Sen. Michael Bennet to be called up for administration jobs. There’s a bench full of qualified Democrats ready to take over in the event Bennet or other local officials do get the call, but we can also understand Bennet wanting to remain in the U.S. Senate for a longer period than he would likely serve in the Cabinet by seeking what should be comfortable re-election in 2022.

With that said, like soon-to-be Sen. John Hickenlooper can tell you, people change their minds. After a decade in the Senate, Education Secretary isn’t the only job Bennet would be qualified to fill.

Labor Secretary Bernie Sanders, Anyone?

Courtesy Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash.

Politico reports, the jockeying for position in a Joe Biden administration’s Cabinet is already underway, with a big name showing interest in a big job:

Sen. Bernie Sanders is hoping to be a part of Joe Biden’s potential administration and has expressed a particular interest in becoming Labor secretary, two people familiar with the conversations tell POLITICO.

“I can confirm he’s trying to figure out how to land that role or something like it,” said one person close to the Vermont senator. “He, personally, does have an interest in it.”

…Former Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir said Sanders has not talked directly with anyone on the Biden campaign about a future role, but plans to push Biden, his former Senate colleague, to “include progressive voices” in both the transition and in a potential new administration.

Labor Secretary seems like a good capstone for Bernie Sanders’ career after two well-fought presidential bids and a lifetime of fighting for the working class. Sanders’ reported interest in a Cabinet position is the first of what will become its own wave of interest and speculation over who will be tapped to serve in the likely event of Biden winning the presidency. In 2009 Barack Obama called up Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado to serve as Secretary of the Interior, creating the vacancy filled by Sen. Michael Bennet–now another sitting U.S. Senator with short-list Cabinet potential.

Don’t jinx Election Day by speculating too much, but the next generation of political turnover/advancement is just over the horizon. Colorado has plenty of talent to contribute to a Biden administration, and Colorado Democrats have a deep bench ready to move up.

Cory Gardner Can’t Hide Behind Michael Bennet, Either

A new ad from Sen. Cory Gardner’s sputtering re-election campaign has no need for its full thirty second run time, since the first two seconds convey the whole message:

Using a photo of your counterpart from the opposing party is a bold gambit, like Gardner does with Sen. Michael Bennet above, and Gardner goes even farther–citing a quote from his opponent John Hickenlooper at some point in the past saying something favorable about. Presumably there’s return service of their mutual affection somewhere in the record of them both serving in office over the past decade, but that’s not what this ad is about.

In a state which has shed most of its remaining “purplish” image over the past two elections, evolving into something much closer to a Democratic-dominant blue state, Gardner trying to appeal to voters by noting the past approval of Democrats including his own opponent makes a kind of contrived sense. It’s a little…incongruous to have the same John Hickenlooper Gardner has been vilifying relentlessly suddenly held up as a character witness, but that’s what you do when you’re down by double digits in the polls.

The other risk inherent to invoking the enemy as a character reference is, they don’t have to play along:

Ouch–but it’s hard to have much sympathy for Gardner, having left the proverbial door open.

All told, this latest ad is an interesting if transparently desperate play by Gardner, for which points for effort though not actual votes should be awarded. If the polls prove right on Election Day, consistent with the steady progression to the left this state has undergone since Gardner’s narrow 2014 victory, Colorado has moved past the phase of needing to pretend what it wants politically–and that’s the role Gardner is trying to fill.

Colorado is now the wrong state for it, and 2020 is in every way the wrong year.

Cory Gardner’s JBS Testing Fiasco Isn’t Going Away

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

As the Denver Post’s Shelly Bradbury reports:

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet on Monday called for an investigation into the federal government’s response to the spread of the novel coronavirus in meatpacking plants across the country.

In a Monday letter to the inspector generals at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor, Bennet asks the agencies to investigate whether the outbreaks — like one at the JBS USA Greeley beef plant where nearly 300 people were sickened and six died — were made worse by federal actions…

Nationwide, at least 16,200 workers in meat and poultry processing plants in 23 states contracted the novel coronavirus by the end of May, and 86 died, according to a July report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Colorado, at least seven meat processing plants have reported outbreaks infecting about 450 workers. The outbreak at the JBS Greeley beef plant is one of the largest in the state.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the JBS beef packing plant in Greeley that killed 6 and sickened hundreds of workers in April was a major failed test of the Trump administration’s pandemic crisis management, as it became obvious that the virus would not simply “go away” as President Donald Trump had predicted. While plant workers in unsafe conditions feared becoming infected, Trump was worried that the supply of meat could be interrupted. Trump eventually invoked the Defense Production Act to declare meat plants essential infrastructure that could not close–but before that, Sen. Cory Gardner and Vice President Mike Pence made promises to rigorously test JBS plant workers in Greeley and keep the meat flowing.

In a blistering press release yesterday, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 asks the question they’ve been asking since April: “Cory, where are the tests?”

Since April, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner has continued to brag to the media that he secured 5,000 COVID-19 tests for meat-processing plant workers at JBS Greeley in Greeley, Colorado. The problem? The tests were never made available to workers. The JBS Greeley plant became one of the first outbreak sites in Colorado and continues to lead the nation in meatprocessing plant worker deaths. Now, JBS USA has notified the Union it will increase JBS workers health care premiums by more than 30 percent—as much as $800 more a year per family member.

UFCW Local 7 is calling on Sen. Cory Gardner to explain where the 5,000 tests have gone after specifically claiming he leveraged his relationship with Vice President Mike Pence to acquire them in order to keep the plant running.

At this point it’s more a question of accountability, since eventually the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment stepped in to test JBS workers. With that said, with COVID-19 testing (not to mention timely results) still in short supply, we suspect the promise Gardner made to JBS workers for 5,000 tests would nonetheless be gladly accepted, and useful since testing negative once doesn’t mean anyone is safe.

The unfortunate reality is that among a veritable ocean of broken promises from Trump and Republicans during the nation’s historic failure to effectively confront the COVID-19 emergency, a few dead meatpacking workers in Greeley are easy to forget about. Far more Americans, either consciously or not, cared about the free flow of meat at market prices than the frequently immigrant and otherwise disadvantaged populations who find work in American meatpacking plants.

But the fact remains: these workers got screwed, and Cory Gardner played a central role in screwing them. The promises made to Greeley JBS meatpacking workers weren’t about helping those workers at all, but rather assuring the American consumer. And as soon as Trump declared the meatpacking industry “essential infrastructure,” forcing the plants to stay open, Cory Gardner stopped caring about the workers.

And that should trouble meat-eaters’ conscience at least as much as an extra portion.

A U.S. Senator Held a Town Hall Meeting; Guess Which One?

Sen. Cory Gardner (left) and Sen. Michael Bennet. You’ve probably only seen Bennet in real life.

The answer to the question in the headline is not very difficult to ascertain, so we’ll just skip to this story from The Denver Post:

On Tuesday evening, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet fielded concerns about the upcoming election during a town hall to a crowd of around 120 at the Peak Community and Wellness Center in Littleton.

“Everyone has to understand what’s at stake here,” Bennet said. “The rule of law is getting shattered.”…

…Bennet discussed the challenges Coloradans face trying to afford health care, housing and higher education. Jo Douglas, a 60-year-old from Littleton, asked Bennet about getting health insurance plans that are more accustomed to the needs of Coloradans.

“We have a broken health care market,” Bennet said. “Part of the problem we have, especially in rural areas, is there aren’t enough people in certain parts Colorado to have a real market to get people insured in a way that’s predictable and affordable.”

Bennet plans to hold two more town hall events this week: in Grand Junction (Thursday) and Steamboat Springs (Friday).

As a candidate for President, Bennet has spent most of the last year campaigning in other states; one week after ending his Presidential bid, he was back in Colorado talking to constituents.

Colorado’s other Senator, Republican Cory Gardner, last held a public town hall meeting on November 20, 2017. He has not been busy running for President.

James Carville Knows Something You Don’t*

The Hill reports:

James Carville.

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville has formally endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D) long-shot presidential campaign, saying he thinks that the Colorado senator is the best candidate to face President Trump due to what he calls stark differences between the two men.

“The best way to beat Donald Trump is to show you’re not him in any way, shape or form,” Carville said in a statement released by the Bennet campaign Monday…

Carville predicted that Bennet will “surprise people,” specifically predicting the senator will do well in the New Hampshire primary next month.

“I think Sen. Bennet is uniquely suited for New Hampshire,” Carville said. “It’s a historical fact that people like him do well there.”

* Legendary Democratic strategy man James Carville knows a lot of things that other people don’t. As for when or where Carville proves accurate in the long run, of course, nobody who has been in politics as long as he has can claim a 100% perfect prognostication record. While most of the political class in America has written off Sen. Michael Bennet’s resolute but persistently second-tier presidential campaign, Bennet has vowed to stay in the race in hopes of achieving exactly what Carville is forecasting–a surprisingly strong showing in the New Hampshire primary that rockets Bennet back from the nether reaches of the pack.

In that event, James Carville will be here to say he told you so.

Bennet Shows What Accountability Looks Like, Warts and All

Sen. Michael Bennet at a 2017 town hall meeting.

Colorado Public Radio’s Natalia Navarro reports on a town hall held by Colorado’s senior U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in Denver last Friday–harkening back to the days when Colorado’s Senators routinely advertised in advance for anyone who wants to show up and lay on the hard questions in a public forum:

Sen. Bennet was in Colorado for his first constituent event in months Friday at the Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Denver. He said the only way to make meaningful progress on issues from climate change to immigration is to boot Trump from office.

“We can’t act on climate as long as we have a climate denier in the White House,” he told the crowd of about 200 people.

Much of the town hall focused on his presidential campaign, but Bennet said it’s not affecting his ability to serve Colorado as its senior senator.

“I follow what’s going on in Colorado when I’m here and when I’m not here,” Bennet said. “I think that I’ve continued to represent the state well and that will always be my first priority.”

The Denver Post’s Conrad Swanson:

He also offered his endorsement of former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is now vying for the Democratic nomination in the race against the state’s vulnerable Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

Bennet said the country should provide a public health care option, a route with more public support than the plans of several of his Democratic opponents, namely Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“What I don’t want to do is spend the next 10 years fighting a losing battle for Medicare for all,” he said.

From missed votes in the Senate to Bennet’s controversial disparagement of leading Democratic presidential candidates while pursuing his own longshot run, base Democratic voters had plenty to take issue with, and by all accounts they did–holding Bennet’s feet to the fire for over an hour in Friday’s town hall. Despite fielding hard questions from the mostly left-leaning Denver audience, Bennet impressed the crowd with strong answers on impeachment, stating he is a “likely vote to convict,” and unequivocally making the case for robust action on climate that can only begin once Donald Trump is out of office.

Although Sen. Bennet has arguably been spending lots of time with voters as a presidential candidate, we’re very glad to see him hold a town hall back home, even if not all of his answers were likely to satisfy the audience. Bennet’s willingness to be held accountable by the voters he represents throws the refusal of Sen. Cory Gardner to afford Coloradans the same courtesy into harsh relief. If Bennet can stand and deliver even the unpopular answers as a 2020 candidate, there’s absolutely no reason why Cory Gardner can’t.

In so doing, Bennet’s example hurts Gardner more than anything Bennet himself could say.

Sen. Michael Bennet: Ditch “Sagebrush Rebel” Pendley

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

A significant development on Friday afternoon in the continuing controversy over the Trump administration’s plan to “reorganize” the Bureau of Land Management–Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is now calling for the removal of Acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley:

Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet led a letter with 11 additional Senate Democrats urging U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to terminate William Perry Pendley’s authority as acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In the letter, the senators outline their concerns with Pendley’s advocacy for the widespread sale of public lands, his efforts to roll back key conservation laws, and his long-held disregard for the important role BLM plays in managing our public lands.

“As the BLM considers a major reorganization, there is no reason for this effort to be led by an Acting Director who spent his career attempting to dismantle the agency. Keeping Mr. Pendley atop the BLM is an affront to all Americans who believe in the balanced, multiple use and sustained yield mission of the agency,” wrote the senators.

“The American people deserve better. Therefore, we request that you rescind Mr. Pendley’s authority as Acting Director of the BLM and that the President nominate a BLM Director with a true commitment to our public lands and waters,” the letter continues.

As we’ve been observing over the course of several months now, the backlash from environmentalists as well as career employees of the BLM against the planned move of the bureau’s headquarters to Grand Junction has altered the political calculus of what was at one point a no-brainer choice for local Democrats to support bringing the power and prestige of an agency headquarters to our state. Bennet originally came out in support of moving the BLM back in 2017, and Gov. Jared Polis has similarly been in support even while working to clean up oil and gas drilling across the state via Senate Bill 19-181.

At this point, however, the known political agenda of acting BLM director Pendley, along with that of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and of course President Donald Trump himself, is inimical to any goal Democrats have of protecting public lands inside Colorado or elsewhere from unwise development. However Bennet and other local Democrats may feel in the abstract about moving the BLM “Out West,” doing so under the current management is not going to result in Democratic priorities with regard to public lands being respected in the process.

If this is the beginning of an about-face, it’s a welcome development.

Bennet’s Going The Distance, Bennet’s Going For Speed

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

As Colorado Public Radio’s Caitlyn Kim reports:

When Colorado’s Gary Hart ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984, he was a “long shot” going into the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. The U.S. senator pulled off a “stunning” victory over the front runner, Walter Mondale, eventually propelling Hart to the head of the pack.

Now another senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet, hopes a little of Hart’s magic will rub off on him. Bennet is way behind other Democrats in the primary for 2020. On Saturday, though, he picked up Hart’s formal endorsement, and the two friends campaigned together in Manchester, New Hampshire in hopes of giving Bennet’s campaign a shot in the arm…

Yet the double-digit polling and massive fundraising deficits Bennet faces will get even tougher to overcome since he will not be on stage with the leading Democrats at the next primary debate, which is coming up Thursday evening. Other candidates who have polled similarly to Bennet have recently dropped out of the race.

We’ll confess to a little Gary Hart nostalgia as you read this story, but let’s be clear for just a moment on what’s really going on lest readers think Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is plowing ahead on a fool’s errand. Without exception we can think of, every 2020 Democratic candidate for President who managed to get on the main stage for even the earliest “clown car” debate featuring 20 contenders reaped a benefit even if they will never be President–and obviously, most of them won’t be. The name recognition gained from being in the hunt for a losing candidate in terms of future runs for higher office is an end to itself.

But within the just-beginning to winnow down field of Democratic presidential candidate, there is a subset of particularly well-qualified people who could well be on the short list for high-level appointments in the next Democratic administration, up to and including the big prize of vice presidential running mate. Sen. Bennet is certainly in that list of qualified officials who, while they didn’t catch fire as a presidential candidate, would be a fine choice to serve in the next president’s Cabinet. And yes, there’s even a scenario in which Bennet would make a good veep counterbalance to, say, a strong progressive woman.

In any event, this is why Sen. Bennet is keeping his hand in as much as any “Hail Mary” shot at New Hampshire.

What’s Next for Democrats Who Missed Debate Cut?

Tom Steyer

The field of candidates for the next Democratic Presidential debate is set, with 10 hopefuls invited to the stage in Houston on September 12.

Several candidates who failed to meet the threshold to qualify for the Houston debate — 130,000 individual donors and a 2% polling average in at least four DNC-approved polls — have exited the race. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand became the latest candidate to bow out on Wednesday.

Missing the September debate is a big blow for candidates such as Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, but it isn’t necessarily a death knell for 2020 aspirations. For those candidates who remain in the race (as of today), who is the most likely to withstand the September shunning and continue to run a competitive campaign?

As always, we want to know what you THINK, not who you support or would prefer to see successful. Cast your vote after the jump below…

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The End of the Line (Sort Of) for Michael Bennet

And then there were…none?

At the beginning of this month, there were two Colorado-based candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for President. By the time the calendar turns to September, there might be zero.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper formally ended his Presidential campaign on August 15, and Sen. Michael Bennet may not be far behind. Candidates seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination have until the end of the day today to hit two benchmarks to qualify for the September debate in Houston: 1) Demonstrate contributions from at least 130,000 individual donors, and 2) Reach 2% in at least four DNC-approved polls. Bennet has not met either threshold, and he’s not particularly close (Bennet’s polling average is in the neighborhood of 0.4%).

As Dan Merica writes for CNN, failing to qualify for next month’s debate will be a tough blow to overcome:

Publicly, many of these candidates — like Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Rep. John Delaney — are pledging to forge ahead and downplaying the impact of missing the media moment. But privately, nearly every campaign that has missed the debate stage is worried about staying relevant with both voters and donors while not being part of the contest.

And the lack of an invite has already contributed to the thinning of the field. Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee both dropped out — in part — because they weren’t going to qualify for the debate, according to people close to the two Democrats…

…According to Matt Corridoni, Moulton’s spokesman, it’s likely that all the campaigns will underestimate the negative impact missing the debate stage will have on them…

“At a certain point you have to weigh viability and, like it or not, polls follow media coverage, media coverage follows polls and voters are using these debates to help them figure out and pare down candidates,” said Corridoni. “So if you are not on that stage, you have to really be able to penetrate the media cycle. It is a near impossible task.”

An Inslee aide echoed Corridoni.

“It was clear that he wasn’t going to make the debate and it is very difficult to stay in the race if you aren’t going to make the debate stage,” the aide said.

It appears that 10 Democratic candidates have met both requirements for the Houston debate: former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and businessman Andrew Yang. Three other candidates have met the fundraising threshold but not the polling requirements (Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, businessman Tom Steyer, and author/mystic Marianne Williamson).

Steyer didn’t enter the race until July; because of his personal wealth and the fact that he’s collected a significant number of individual donors, he can probably hang around for awhile. Staying in the race will be a tougher call for Gabbard. It probably doesn’t really matter either way what Williamson decides to do going forward.

The writing is on the wall for Bennet, though he may have already accomplished his true goal of raising his profile enough to get a top job in the next Democratic Presidential administration as Secretary of…something. Bennet might even been an attractive option for Vice President, depending on who wins the Democratic nomination (it makes less sense for Biden or Sanders to choose Bennet as a running mate).

Bennet isn’t going to be the next President of the United States, but if he plays his cards right — and if Donald Trump isn’t re-elected in 2020 — then he could have a prominent role in American politics in the next 4-8 years. In that context, tomorrow could be both the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning for Michael Bennet.

Bennet Competent In Prez Debate Swan Song

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

Colorado Public Radio reports on how Colorado’s other Democratic presidential contender Sen. Michael Bennet did in last night’s debate–like former Gov. John Hickenlooper the night before, doing what he could with the limited face time he was bound to get on a stage full of big names. And while there weren’t any flubs from Bennet, his last chance to break out of the depths of the presidential pack with a dramatic showing seems to have eluded him:

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet focused much of his ire during the second presidential debate on the current occupant of the office he’s seeking.

“I believe we have a moral obligation to beat Donald Trump. He has to be a single term president. And we can’t do anything that plays into his hands,” he said…

Bennet’s loudest applause of the night came for his answer on how he would heal the nation’s racial divide. Drawing on his background as superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, Bennet said segregation in education remains a significant problem.

“Our schools are as segregated today as they were 50 years ago. We need a conversation about what’s happening now,” he said.

Bennet did spend some time attacking Sen. Kamala Harris’ health care plan, which was an odd choice given that her plan isn’t even as progressive as that of frontrunners not on last night’s stage like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But the exchange was collegial, and you got the sense that Bennet was making a point to not say anything overly injurious to other candidates while triangulating from their right.

Both Bennet and Hickenlooper took a similar tack in their respective campaigns for president, generally arguing that other candidates were too far left to beat Donald Trump in 2020. In both cases this campaign message failed to gain traction, mostly because it was out of touch with a Democratic base that is much more supportive of an unapologetic progressive agenda than most of its leadership. Hickenlooper in particular pigeonholed himself early on as the “anti-socialism” candidate, when smart Democrats realized that message played directly into the hands of conservatives–especially coming from such a longshot campaign.

At the same time, none of this was bad enough to rule either out of future contests, and the experience undeniably raised their name ID both in and outside Colorado. The political dynamic in Colorado, driven by a decisive unaffiliated plurality and a state still only tentatively considered blue after 15 years of Democratic electoral wins, is much better suited to the moderate image and message of both men–which helps explain why they both been successful in repeated statewide Colorado elections.

So…we’ll see what comes next.

Who Will Be the Democratic Nominee for President?

Who fills this spot in 2020?

With the second round of Democratic Presidential candidate debates kicking off tonight in Detroit, we thought it would be a good time to ask this question one more time before the field inevitably starts to shrink. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and California Sen. Kamala Harris were running neck-and-neck in our last poll, but do Colorado Pols readers still think these two women are at the top of the list?

As always, we want to know what you think will happen here — not what you want to happen or who you personally might support. If you had to place a bet on the outcome TODAY, who do you predict will be the Democratic nominee for President in 2020?

We don’t want to take up the entire screen with this one poll, so you’ll have to cast your vote after the jump…

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Hick Purges Staff In Bid To Stay In Prez Race

UPDATE: Politico:

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s senior team urged him last month to withdraw from the presidential race gracefully and run for Colorado’s Senate seat or pursue other opportunities, a source familiar with the situation told POLITICO…

“We thought it was time to make a change,” he told MSNBC’s Craig Melvin. “You know, these campaigns are long, hard campaigns and you don’t always get it right with the first team.”

But a source familiar with the situation disputed the governor’s characterization, saying he is lashing out at the political professionals around him and surrounding himself with Colorado loyalists rather than confronting reality.

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As the Denver Post’s Nic Garcia reports, the presidential campaign of former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is entering the staff-shakeup phase, which though not in itself terminal is certainly a sign that Hick is not pleased with his standing after last week’s introductory presidential debates:

John Hickenlooper, struggling to gain traction in a crowded Democratic presidential primary field, announced a new campaign manager late Monday following the news that his national finance director was leaving…

The shuffling comes days after the former Colorado governor failed to have a breakout moment at the first Democratic debate and a day after a key fundraising deadline.

Politico first reported that Dan Sorenson, Hickenlooper’s finance director, was leaving to join former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign.

On Hickenlooper losing his finance director to the only somewhat less underperforming campaign of Beto O’Rourke, 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark had an amusing if painful Twitter rejoinder:

The consensus view is that of Colorado’s two presidential candidates, Sen. Michael Bennet acquitted himself better on last week’s debate stage. Though neither candidate managed what one could call a breakout moment, there’s speculation that Bennet’s face time in opposition to Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders could give him renewed legs as those candidates drop in support–speculation we’ll believe if and when we see it in poll numbers measurably improving for Bennet.

As for Gov. Hickenlooper, he’s almost sure to stay in this race through the next round of debates at the end of this month. That’s how long he’s got to turn his presidential campaign around with the qualifications for future debates set to tighten. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that how Hickenlooper manages the next month could matter more to Colorado politics than the presidential race.

Like the decision to run for president itself, it’s up to Hickenlooper to decide what comes next.

Consensus: Bennet Did Pretty Well, But…

Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Surveying the commentary following last night’s Democratic presidential debate featuring both of Colorado’s entries into the race, Sen. Michael Bennet and former Gov. John Hickenlooper, there’s a consensus emerging that Bennet in particular did as well as he could have hoped for–perhaps even enough to transit from the 1% pack into the middle tier of candidates in this packed field. CNN’s Chris Cillizza, a good barometer of the center left, calls Bennet a qualified winner:

Michael Bennet: Look, I don’t think that the Colorado senator is somehow going to shoot from 1% to relevance in the polls based on his performance in this debate. He wasn’t that good. But, for someone who a) no one knew going into this debate and b) had limited speaking opportunities to make his case, I thought Bennet performed well. Bennet’s incredulity with Biden’s belief that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would start working in a bipartisan way if the former vice president won the White House felt genuine — and was powerful. In short: Bennet came out of this debate looking better than he went into it. Which is a win.

The Denver Post’s Nic Garcia from Miami:

The Coloradans left the South Florida art complex where the debate was held just after midnight each saying he took his chance to say what he needed to say.

Bennet, however, had a little more pep in his step.

“I was glad I was able to make the case that we desperately need universal health care in this country,” the senator told The Denver Post in an interview. He slapped the backside of his right hand into his left palm as he compared Sanders’ Medicare for All plan with his own legislation.

Colorado Public Radio notes Bennet’s decent outing but keeps things in perspective:

“Bennet got in a few good moments,” said Seth Masket, a political science professor at the University of Denver. “He definitely got across his points on some of his political reforms. He got in some pretty solid critiques of President Trump and those seemed to get some support from the audience.”

…According to trends from Google, Hickenlooper and Bennet were the least searched candidates during the second Democratic presidential primary debate. Near the end of the night, one New York Times reporter quipped “Only so much room for two Wesleyan grads from Colorado.”

Ouch. No really, if fellow Coloradans want to take offense at that kind of bullshit Ivy League snobbery, it’s allowed. But there’s not much either candidate can do about it. It’s fully expected that both Sen. Bennet and Gov. Hickenlooper will stay in this race through the next round of debates set for July 30 and 31 in Detroit–debates they have already qualified to participate in. After that, of course, the next round of debates will have a higher standard for qualification. At this point, failure to make that cutoff will mark the practical end for a number of presidential campaigns.

For both Colorado’s presidential aspirants, it’s all or nothing now with the latter still the most likely outcome. But it does appear that Bennet took better advantage of last night’s opportunity to get on the radar, and that’s to his credit. Now he’s got one month to turn that crack into an opening.

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

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

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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?