Fair and Unbalanced

Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

The latest Colorado polls are out (more to come Thursday), and they look a lot like the last round of polls: John Hickenlooper has opened a safe lead over the four-headed Republican challenge, while Mark Udall and Cory Gardner are in a virtual tie.

Don’t be surprised if that’s how it looks for a while, despite all the TV ads that are already up. There’s a huge argument in the political-money world about how effective campaign advertising really is (see: Adelson, Sheldon; Bloomberg, Michael), but now at least we have a baseline.

In any case, the meaning is pretty clear.  Last year’s commie/pinko/radical/most-liberal-in-history legislative session doesn’t seem to be in play. Hickenlooper, the Democrat who signed all the bills, has the safe lead. Udall, the U.S. Senate Democrat who had nothing to do with all the bills, is tied with Cory Gardner, the U.S. House Republican who had nothing to do with all the bills.

The Quinnipiac poll has Hickenlooper leading Tom Tancredo 47-40, Scott Gessler  48-38, Mike Kopp 47-38, Bob Beauprez 48-39. Public Policy Polling (PPP) has Hickenlooper leading Tancredo 50-41, Gessler 48-41, Beauprez 48-41. It didn’t poll on Kopp.

So, that’s a 7-to-10 point lead for Hickenlooper despite guns, despite secession, despite Nathan Dunlap.

The Senate race, though, reflects the national divide and particularly the argument over Obamacare. (PPP has Udall leading 47-45, which is a virtual tie. The Q poll hits Thursday.) The early ads show how the campaign is going to play out, with, sadly, no surprises, unless you count the serious gaffe in the latest Americans for Prosperity anti-Udall, anti-Obamacare ad, in which they show Udall and Obama together, looking sad. The reason they look sad is that AFP chose photos of them at a hospital, together, visiting Aurora theater shooting victims.

Now, it turns out, AFP is sad. They have apologized and, they say, taken the offending part of the ad down. That will cost some money, but apparently the Koch brothers can afford it.

Democrats are going after Gardner on personhood, birth control and abortion – tying him to his early support of personhood and hammering home that Gardner’s conversion (because, he claims, he didn’t understand about contraception) doesn’t pass the laugh test. And as for Gardner’s allies in PAC-land, it’s all about Obamacare and cancellations. You have to hope that something dramatic happens besides a gaffe, so, at minimum, we can get a different kind of TV ad.

Meanwhile, we can draw two conclusions: Udall-Gardner reflects our purplish swing-state status; Hick-4 Heads reflects Hickenlooper’s popularity (51 percent is good for an incumbent these days) and the poor Republican field.

We’ll update with the new Q numbers. Early advice: Don’t expect much to be different.



The hot rumor — as Eli Stokols and I both happened to write today — is that Tom Tancredo is looking for a way out of the governor’s race. Now he tells Stokols, who reported that the exit job could be the superintendent of Jeffco schools, that the rumor isn’t true. Probably.

Why would Tancredo possibly quit when, in a four-way contest, he might well be the favorite?

Quick answer: He’s Tom Tancredo and he doesn’t really want to be governor.

Here’s what he told Stokols: “The state government would be a hell of a lot easier to run than the Jefferson County school system. And there’s no way in hell we’d be busting our butts and spending all this money getting signatures if we weren’t committed.”

Here comes the but: “I’ve said all along that if there’s someone who emerges who’s polling better and more competitive with Hickenlooper than me, I’ll hand them the baton. But I don’t see it right now. I think I’ve got as good a shot of winning as anyone.”

Since the primary is only two months from now, when exactly would someone have the time to emerge as a clear favorite? I’d guess that whenever Tancredo decides he has.

Here come Tancredo and the 26 percenters

The sound you hear is a muffled cheer from inside the confines of the governor’s office. Tom Tancredo is in, and John Hickenlooper, who hasn’t exactly been buoyed by the headlines recently, has to be thrilled.

Not only has Tancredo officially petitioned his way onto the ballot, there is a reasonable chance that four Republicans will appear on the primary ballot, which would give Tancredo a great chance to win the race to face Hickenlooper in November.  (Yes, that was another cheer you heard. Someone just told Hickenlooper he may not have to jump out of another airplane.)

The only thing better for Tancredo would be for five candidates to make the ballot. If you can remember all the way back to 1998 you might recall that  Tancredo won a five-way primary in the 6th Congressional District, with — get this — 26 percent of the vote. He served five terms, even though his big issue was, yes, term limits. That’s our Tom.

Here’s the 2014 scenario:

Tancredo, who was worried that he might not have collected enough valid signatures, now doesn’t have to compete in this weekend’s assembly. Neither will Bob Beauprez, who is also petitioning on and is assumed to be a lock to get his signatures. That leaves the the rest of the field working the assembly, where candidates need 30 percent of the delegates to make the ballot.

The conventional wisdom is that Scott Gessler will make it easily. That means the race for the fourth slot is likely between Greg Brophy and Mike Kopp, although Steve House could conceivably sneak in. Of course, Gessler could get enough votes to keep everyone under 30 (Roni Sylvester is also running). If Gessler gets under 40 percent, though, two other candidates – do the math — could make it.

I’d bet on four candidates in total, meaning that if Tancredo can hang on to his loyal Tancredistas, he could win the primary with — more math alert — another 26 percenter. Why does this thrill Hickenlooper? In 2010, Tancredo got 36 percent of the vote in the Dan Maes three-way with Hick, and my guess is Tancredo hasn’t gotten any more popular since.

It’s no easy matter handicapping the primary, which is set for June 24. Gessler would get the hyperpartisan, stop-poor-people-from-voting vote, Beauprez the he’s-got-to-do-better-than-last-time vote, Brophy/Kopp/House either the gun vote or the let’s-try-the-guy-with-no-name-recognition vote, and Tancredo the Tancredo vote.

And Hickenlooper would be glad that Cory Gardner is running for the Senate.


Rich-guy alert: Denver Post may be up for sale

buggy for sale
There’s big news out there in newspaper land. The great digital experiment launched only two years ago by the Denver Post’s corporate owner – Digital First Media (DFM) — has blown up. And among the casualties may be the Post itself. (The project that blew up is called Thunderdome. Do with that as you will.)

Certainly there will be the expected collateral damage. According to a report from newspaper guru Ken Doctor, the 280 DFM daily and weekly papers, including the Post and Boulder Daily Camera, are likely to be on the market soon.

Since there’s not much of a market these days for newspapers, the Post should go cheap. And much of the early, entirely unsubstantiated chatter is centered on Phil Anschutz, the multi-billionaire media mogul who now owns the Colorado Springs Gazette and was thought to be much interested in the days when the Rocky Mountain News was on the verge of folding.

The biggest DFM stockholder is a hedge fund, Alden Capital Group, which specializes in distressed products. But the newspaper chain may be more distressed than Alden was counting on. This is just the kind of moment, historically, when someone like Dean Singleton enters the game to pick up a newspaper for pennies on the dollar, but Singleton, of course, was an earlier Alden casualty.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there wasn’t much news on the story in the Post. But the Salt Lake Tribune, another DFM paper, wrote that the elimination of Thunderdome — a digital news-sharing operation among 75 papers — was part of a $100 million company-wide cost reduction in a project apparently called “Catalyst.” Do with that as you will.

The Tribune says it and other papers in the chain must find 10 percent cuts in their budgets for the next year. If the Post faces a similar situation, that would almost certainly mean more layoffs — an area with which I’m all too familiar.

The closing of Thunderdome is a major embarrassment for DFM CEO John Paton, who has loudly and repeatedly criticized other newspaper owners for being stuck in the past.  Thunderdome was at the center of DFM’s plan to own the future. If Ken Doctor is right about a sale – and Paton, in a blog message today, did not address the possibility — then Digital First Media would be the one moving to the past tense.

That may not be a bad thing for the Post, however. A rich owner who could get the Post cheaply might well be ready to invest in actually rebuilding what has become an ever-shrinking product. And as a bonus, DFM also owns the papers in Boulder, Loveland, Fort Morgan and Longmont. If someone were to pick up all those properties, that would give him/her something close to a Colorado monopoly. The (entirely unsubstantiated) thinking is: How could a media mogul possibly resist?


[ "Nice, but what do I do with it?" image by Thruhike98. ]

The personhood virus now infects 6th CD race

The personhood virus, now threatening to infect the entire state, has moved quickly to the 6th CD race between Mike Coffman and Andrew Romanoff. In light of the Cory Gardner reveal that he has switched sides on personhood, Romanoff has asked Coffman, a past supporter of personhood, to come clean. Has he changed his mind, too?

Well, what do you think?

The personhood amendment hasn’t changed, but if you’re Coffman, in a redrawn district, or Gardner, running statewide, the audience has changed. And so, it seems, has the answer. Coffman, like Gardner, now half-throatedly opposes personhood.

But that personhood virus, it’s a nasty one. Just see what it has done to Coffman campaign manager Tyler Sandberg, who’s calling Romanoff the “Czar of Sleaze,” which came from the Bennet campaign of a few years back and suggests, if nothing else, a high level of knowledge about Russian imperial rule.

In any case, here’s what Sandberg told the Denver Post:

“The voters have spoken twice, and the question is settled. The initiative is overbroad and full of unintended consequences, sort of like Obamacare, which let’s be honest, all of this personhood sleaze from Romanoff is meant to be a distraction from.”

Any day a Democrat doesn’t have to talk about Obamacare is a good one. But this is not a distraction. This “personhood sleaze,” as Sandberg would have it, is a Republican problem and a big one.

And if the personhood initative is “overbroad” and if it’s “full of unintended consquences,” why, it seems fair to ask, did Coffman and Gardner support it before? If it was that bad an amendment — and it’s actually worse than that — you’d think that Republican politicians would have seen all the problems years ago.

And that maybe they’d have possibly seen the light prior to the heat of an election campaign, where viruses, we know, find a friendly environment in which to grow.