Littwin: A Republican wave, a Democratic disaster and a mystery

Was it Hickenlooper or was it Obama?

Was it Michael Bennet or was it Harry Reid?

Was it Ebola or was it ISIS?

Was it the six-year itch or a full-body rash?

Someone, or something, has to take the blame. We know what happened (or at least most of it; the Hickenlooper-Beauprez race was, at press time, headed into double-overtime), but we don’t really know why.

What we know is that Election 2014 was a Democratic disaster, and nothing less than that. Yes, there was talk of a possible national Republican wave, but this was not a wave. This was more an unforeseen storm that seemed to have swept through Colorado on its way through much of the nation. No one predicted it. And yet the winning party, according to the polls, is wildly unpopular — far more unpopular than the Democrats and more unpopular than Barack Obama.

[pullquote]The analysts and pundits will be working on this one for years. For two years, anyway. I doubt we’ll know what happened this time around until at least 2016.[/pullquote]

So what is the explanation?

Obviously, what happened in Colorado didn’t happen in isolation. It is part of a national story. You can explain it by looking at the whiter, older midterm electorate. You can explain it by the years of successful demonization of Obamacare that erupted into a national rejection of a president who two years before had been easily re-elected.

But does any of that really explain how both houses of the Colorado state legislature were in danger of flipping from Democratic control to Republican control? Did Obama’s low approval numbers in the state really affect House races in Jefferson County? I thought it was supposed to be the other way around.

Nothing really makes sense here. Or not enough sense. The issues don’t tell us anything. Pot legalization is the hot new thing. We’re in the midst of a gay-rights revolution. Everyone but the Republican House seems to favor immigration reform. According to the polls, even unpopular Obamacare isn’t all that unpopular. A majority wants to fix it, not kill it. Republicans will say the election signaled a yearning for smaller government, but you can’t really make that argument and make the 47 percent argument at the same time.

It’s easy enough in Colorado to say that Mark Udall’s war-on-women strategy explains everything in his unexpectedly large defeat. But it can’t explain Senate losses for Democrats in purple North Carolina or in purple Iowa.

Cory Gardner’s successful gamble, leaving his safest of safe House seats to challenge Udall, may, in fact, be a model for Republicans everywhere — the conservative voter with the moderate rhetoric and the happy-warrior smile. But it wasn’t just Gardner. In taking the U.S. Senate, Republicans swept the red states and missed in only one purple state.

Gardner will now be a national Republican rock star. He’s already one in Colorado, as the first Republican to win a Senate seat here since 2002. Sure, he was good, but maybe he was also in the right place at the absolutely right time.

We know the Hickenlooper story, of how the quirky gov went from his own kind of model — the anti-partisan Democrat who sought compromise and collaboration — to the governor who won reelection in a squeaker to Bob Beauprez. That’s the same Beauprez who was basically a throw-in, the guy recruited to keep Tom Tancredo off the ticket, the retread who lost by 17 points the last time he ran for governor.

But the story doesn’t end there. Now we know that in this election — wherein Hickenlooper is the one saving Democratic grace — there are now Republican governors in Massachusetts, in Maryland, in Illinois. We know that unpopular Republican governors survived in Wisconsin, in Michigan, in Florida.

Where does the Hickenlooper story of gaffes and misplays fit into that narrative? It doesn’t. Or it doesn’t entirely anyway.

It’s a cliche, but one of the true ones, that the presidential race starts today. I wrote the other day about the chaos theory, in which Ted Cruz and the Cruzites would never let Senate Republicans get to 51 votes unless Cruz gets his way. He wants to turn the Senate into the House while he and Rand Paul and Marco Rubio and the rest are simultaneously running for president.

Is that what America voted for? Is that what Colorado voted for?

The analysts and pundits will be working on this one for years. For two years, anyway. I doubt we’ll know what happened this time around until at least 2016. The numbers may tell us now that there really are two different American electorates — the off-year ones and the on-year ones, and that the story is no more complicated than that.

But it wasn’t long ago that George W. Bush won two elections — OK, there’s an asterisk in 2000, but still — and Democrats were winning off-year elections.

It’s late as I write this. Hickenlooper has built an 8,000-vote lead. Gardner still has an 8,000-watt smile. The U.S. Senate had flipped by 10 p.m. By 3 a.m., the state legislature was still dangling in midair.

All I know for sure is the political world has turned upside down, which explains everything and, yes, explains nothing.


  1. Obama is not unpopular because of racism. He is not even halfrican. White mother. Raised by white grandparents. He only poses as black to gain the votes of those who do not know better.

    He is unpopular because he is not a leader. Has no backbone. Panders to those who pay the most. Does not listen to his constituents. He uses executive orders and does not keep to his side of the separation of power. He is clueless on foreign policy. He has not fulfilled the promises he made campaigning for election. He was weak during his tenure as an IL state senator…abstaining from voting more times than he actually voted. Not showing his true colors until it was too late for the nation to realize what he is truly working towards.

    It is amazing that there are people who still believe he is good for the nation.

    And Hickenlooper is a tag along in that same manner.

    Let’s really check the ballots…how many dead, illegal and no longer CO residents were vacuumed up in those ‘late’ ballots from Boulder and Denver counties were counted and not properly vetted?

    Same for the CO state senate races…District 16 showed 3 of 4 counties reporting…then yesterday only 2 counties were reporting. How does this change in the official secretary of state reports? It raises questions of wrong doing. But it seems no one in government cares enough to pay attention.

  2. The Republicans successfully pulled off the long con: ever since a GOP group met the day of Obama’s first inauguration and pledged to oppose everything, they have conducted a vitrolic, obstructionist campaign. No transportation bill, no jobs bill, no infrastructure bill- no nothing. The Republicans have blamed Obama for everything, even the government shutdown. They assumed voters wouldn’t realize revenue and spending issues were caused by the Republican-controlled House, and that the Republicans controlled the Senate by using the rules to block and delay- they were right. The Democrats ran away from Obama, instead of highlighting what the Administration did accomplish- including a TARP program that has allowed the US economy to grow faster than any in Europe. They let the Republicans fearmonger Obamacare, instead of emphasizing the millions who now have health care. They didn’t tie the Republicans to Wall Street, and the greed that led to the Recession-

    Add millions of dark money to the mix, plus a stronger ground game, and that equals a wave of Republican wins.

    Don’t bet on the Republicans governing in the next two years; why should they, since their scorched-earth strategy has paid off big time.

  3. Littwin: It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

    That’s what this column should have been captioned. Or maybe, “Purple Drain”. It could have been worse for Mr. Littwin but only by a small degree. He was never really pro-Hickenlooper just implacably anti-Beauprez but Hickenlooper’s win did save Mr. Littwin from being forever embarrassed—if he’s still capable of embarrassment– by his rather cavalier observations about the governor’s race:

    – And John Hickenlooper — fearful that the gun-control laws he reluctantly signed might have made him look like, shudder, a liberal — gets to laugh all the way back to the governor’s office. How could I miss that? – August, 2013

    – This is the day on which Republicans should be nominating someone in the race for governor who could reasonably challenge incumbent John Hickenlooper. But, of course, they won’t. Because there’s no one in the four-way field who can. Here are the possible scenarios for the Republican nominee: It could be a disaster (Tom Tancredo) or a snooze (Bob Beauprez) or possibly a long shot’s long shot (Scott Gessler) or maybe (nah, it can’t be him).- June. 2014

    Of course, Mr. Littwin’s sketchy observations weren’t limited to the governor’s race. Here’s what he said about the Hobby Lobby decision and so-called women’s issues:

    – Women already vote in large numbers for Democrats. If contraception coverage becomes an issue, that number should only grow. It’s certainly the way that Democrats will bet – March, 2014

    – In the year of women’s issues, the Democrats had already brought in their Big 3 — Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama — to energize the voters. But Bill comes in as the closer. And he’s still got wicked stuff. – October, 2014

    – There are issues and then there are issues. The Republican stand on abortion and, from some, on birth control is a big part of the Republican problem with women. – June, 2014

    And the hits just keep on coming. Here are more of Mr. Littwin’s pearls of political wisdom on Senator-elect Gardner specifically and Republicans in general:

    – And there is another big issue, but it works the other way: the government shutdown. Gardner not only voted for the shutdown, he also voted, just recently, against raising the debt ceiling, risking default. Then there are the rest of the issues. Gardner is on the wrong side of the poll numbers on immigration reform (Bennet beat Buck 81-19 on the Latino vote), on “forcible rape” (remember this vote, because it will become a major issue), on personhood, on abortion, on minimum wage, on cutting $40 billion in food stamps, on gay rights, on his vote for the Ryan budget and its impact on Medicare. – February, 2014

    – So, might Colorado turn away from Democrats? The answer is easy enough: It would be possible if — and this is one gigantic if — there were something else to turn toward. – November, 2013

    – Can (Cory Gardner) the 10th most conservative House member — a number that most Tea Partiers would give up their Ted Cruz decoder ring to claim — really be elected statewide in a Colorado that has been trending blue for a decade? – February, 2014

    Mr. Littwin deserves an answer on that last one: Yes.

    If the ( Senate) filibuster is gone — or mostly gone — that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing if it’s bad for Republicans. It’s a good thing if it’s bad for Democrats. Either way, it’s still good for good government. – Mike Littwin

    Veterans Day – November 11, 2014
    Wounded Warrior Project

  4. Saw this in the Greeley Tribune this morn. Sums it up for many:

    Leave it to Mike Littwin to be as clueless as ever. He’s twisting himself into intellectual contortions to explain the obvious:

    Everyday Americans are terrified and they’ve had enough of being bullied. What happened November 4 was the best we could do right now to stop it.

    The bravest among us have given their lives to prevent the very thing that has rapidly been happening to our country: The elevation of victimhood and government dependence while punishing self-sufficiency and achievement; The massive growth and consolidation of government power and subverting citizens’ rights and individual freedoms; Agitating for racial unrest instead of elevating public discourse; Making enemies of our allies and allying with our enemies; Actively endangering Americans by opening our borders to communicable diseases and terrorists; Using government agencies to punish political enemies. Nixon left office under the threat of impeachment for that. It used to be called the ‘abuse of power.’

    Mike Littwin just can’t handle the simple truth. There has been a deadly epidemic running rampant in this country and it has been festering in the executive branch of our government.

    Sandy Grimes
    Loveland, Colorado

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