Littwin’s Official Unofficial #CO2018 governor’s race rankings, Week Three

Illustration by Mike Keefe

It was a huge week here at the Littwin Official Unofficial gov rankings shop. Stapleton’s gigantic blunder. Tancredo’s surprise endorsement. Coffman’s sudden jeopardy. Lawsuits in place. Probably more on the way. A pair of pre-assembly 9News debates in which three frontrunners (two Republicans, one Dem) refused to participate.

As panelist Cinamon Watson puts it, “This is why we love politics.” And though the notion is a little sick, those of us who live in political-junkie world must sheepishly nod our heads in agreement.

So, as you know, Republican frontrunner Walker Stapleton had to dump the fraudulent signatures his team at Kennedy Enterprises had collected because they were, well, fraudulent. Stapleton’s supporters said this pointed to Stapleton’s integrity. Everyone else, and especially Cynthia Coffman, said it pointed to Stapleton’s incompetence in hiring a team using mostly out-of-state collectors who showed up just in time to, uh, claim Colorado residence.

Two dozen of them apparently listed hotels or group homes as their residences. In maybe the funniest incident, as reported in The Denver Post, one of the collectors initially listed a Florida address on his collector application, then crossed it out and replaced it with a homeless shelter in Fort Collins.

Since as panelist Ian Silverii pointed out, competence is Stapleton’s major selling point, it’s hard to continue to make the case when “the anointed frontrunner stepped on a rake.” Which is exactly what he did. In fact, I’m sure you can still see the tine marks.

But the funny/strange thing is, Stapleton now is forced to go through the assembly route, which was expected to be an easy win for Coffman. Now, who knows? Will only one make the ballot? Both? This year’s Darryl Glenn? Panelist Josh Penry says he’s not crazy enough to predict. But he does note this, that the assembly has moved from a “semi-notable and not very interesting sideshow” to a high-stakes showdown in which you need at least 30 percent of the vote to qualify for the ballot.

“It’s a throwback,” Penry says, “to 2004 (Coors v. Schaffer) and 2006 (Beauprez v. Holtzman). The big question is, can Cynthia qualify? Walker is throwing the kitchen sink at this thing to keep her off. Tancredo and (Ken) Buck have big followings in that room. I assume Walker will roll in more endorsements, too. But Cynthia is capable of giving a great speech.”

The Tancredo endorsement of Stapleton is more surprising than Stapleton’s blunder. When Tancredo dropped out the race, he called Stapleton “the ultimate insider” and that was only because he was trying to be nice. We know how much Tancredo loathes the Bushes of which Stapleton happens to be one. But this is Tancredo’s attempt at being a team player, joining in with the GOP establishment, who, let us say, doesn’t much like him either. But there is this, as panelist Salazar points out, it no doubt will help Stapleton with the “wing nuts.”

Meanwhile, Coffman is desperately trying to keep Stapleton from appearing at the assembly, claiming he missed a deadline to apply. I wouldn’t count on Republicans blocking Stapleton. But I would, I think, count on Stapleton getting his 30 percent and making the ballot — and most of the panel agrees. If he scores big, that wouldn’t leave much room for Coffman.

On the Dem side, it’s Kennedy, who will win at the assembly, Polis, who won’t, and Erik Underwood, who won’t qualify. Salazar doesn’t think Polis has anything to lose by, well, losing at the assembly.

“Jared has the resources and organization, largely due to his being a self-funder, to compete however and whenever he wants,” Salazar said. “His gambit may be to shut Cary down, but even a narrow loss gives him some bragging rights. And even if he gets whacked at the Assembly, it still keeps him in the mix and with a foundation to spend his money.”

On to the rankings:


1. Jared Polis. You can’t really get a down arrow when you’re atop the poll each week. But Kennedy had a good debate and she’ll win at the assembly. And Polis blundered (a very minor blunder) by engaging in a Twitter skirmish with Kyle Clark over why he didn’t show at the 9News debate. Polis is still a unanimous No. 1, but it seems the race is closing.

2. Cary Kennedy. Penry says she and Johnston both had very strong debate performances: “Both looked gubernatorial. Both are smart. Both have that ‘you know it when you see it’ stature.” Silverii says Kennedy made a smart bet by bypassing the petition route. “That saved her hundreds of thousands of dollars, and months of agita as well (see Stapleton, Walker; recent history).” I give her an up arrow, even though she stays in second place.

3. Mike Johnston. After a poor showing in the first caucus round, Johnston is skipping the assembly, but he’s already petitioned his way onto the ballot. Waiting for the TV campaign to begin.

4. Donna Lynne. She held her own at the debate. But she still lacks a base, and I doubt the debate helped her find one.

5. Erik Underwood. He had complained that I left him off the listings, which was a fair complaint. But I’m guessing he won’t have reason to complain after the assembly. If he gets 30 percent at the assembly and makes the ballot, I promise a Polis-bankroll-sized up arrow next week.



1. Walker Stapleton. His petition blunder could actually help him. Of course, it could also keep him off the ballot. Six candidates will be at the assembly. You need 30 percent to get on the ballot. It’s possible that three could make it. It’s more possible that only one could make it. The Tancredo endorsement might guarantee that. Or not. We don’t have any choice but to go with a down arrow even though he remains on top.

2. Cynthia Coffman. She’s trying to go right to appeal to the assembly crowd, where many delegates are sure she’s the dreaded moderate. Silverii says her plan has been to pretend “to be some kind of anti-LGBT/immigrant hardliner, but if she can build a case that she’s the one who can win the general, and that Walker’s campaign is more of a disaster than hers, she could pull it off.”

3. Doug Robinson. If you watched the GOP debate, and you probably didn’t, Robinson was easily the best of the three Republicans who showed up. That is, if you don’t count that smile that he couldn’t seem to lose whatever question he was answering. Assuming he learned that from Cory Gardner.

4. Victor Mitchell. He’s out with an introductory ad. He spent most of the debate arguing that he was a political outsider even though he used to be a state representative. I kept him at fourth because at least he showed up at the debate, and Farah did not.

5. Barry Farah. He may have had a decent shot before Stapleton’s massive goof to get 30 percent at the assembly. Now that Stapleton is in (Robinson and Mitchell both went the petition route), hard to see how Farah gets there now.

Panelists: Big-shot GOP strategist Josh Penry, principal at EIS; long-time Dem strategist and Hancock chief of staff Alan Salazar; ProgressNow progressive Ian Silverii; GOP strategist, and always good quote, Cinamon Watson, principal at Blueprint Strategies— and, of course. me.

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.


  1. Cary Kennedy has won both of the first two rounds decisively and will likely win at the State Assembly with about 60%. Although this does not guarantee victory in the primary, it does create a lot of buzz around her candidacy. The question is why has Mike Johnston done so poorly. He was at or below threshold in every single county, including his home county which he represented in the State Senate. I was his constituent, and he did not get a single vote at my caucus, in fact, Cary won every vote. Also 63% of the money he has raised has been from out of state; that doesn’t show deep support in Colorado. Cary, on the other hand, has only raised about 18% form out of state, indicating the depth of her support. She has won in the metro area, in rural areas, in the mountains and on the plains. She should be considered the front runner.

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