Littwin: With the expected Polis recall failure, Colorado GOP keeps its losing streak intact

Gov. Jared Polis, pictured here speaking at the Western Conservative Summit in July, easily survives a recall effort that gained little traction. (Photo by Alex Burness)

Everyone knew, and many predicted, that the recall-Polis effort would end not just in failure, but in spectacular failure.

But what I didn’t predict — I confess a failure of imagination here — was that the Dismiss Polis group would herald its spectacular failure with an announcement on the Capitol steps, inviting the TV cameras to show all Colorado how inept they can be. They might as well have all held up signs saying “I’m With Stupid.”

They had a lot of boxes out there, filled, they said, with signatures. They needed 631,266 to force a special election. They said they had 300,000 unchecked signatures. For all I know, they might have 300 valid ones. They won’t turn them in to the Secretary of State’s office to be counted because, they said, they might want to recall Jared Polis again and apparently the law doesn’t allow someone to sign more than one recall petition against an officeholder in the same term. Who knew?

The explanation doesn’t sound quite right to me. Do you wonder if this was a data-mining project, as some are suggesting. If nothing else, I’m sure the collectors would like to keep that entirely unsubstantiated 300,000 figure in our minds. If anyone wants to do an official count, I’m more than ready to bet the under.

When the effort to recall state Rep. Tom Sullivan failed just as spectacularly as the recall-Polis movement, I asked whether the Colorado GOP knew enough to even be embarrassed. I think we have now answered that question. The attempt to recall Polis may not have been an official GOP project, but it’s close enough. Marianne Goodland of Colorado Politics reports that groups aligned with House Minority Leader Patrick Neville donated $10,000 to the effort.

And we all remember Ken Buck’s speech when he was elected GOP state chair last March promising that Democrats would need to learn how to spell r-e-c-a-l-l in the coming months. We remember Cory Gardner standing on the stage in support of Buck.

There are three more recall efforts ongoing, including one targeting Senate President Leroy Garcia, who was re-elected in 2018 with 74 percent of the vote. How do you think that one is going to end up? I might be confused on this, but I’m pretty sure the idea of recalls is to, you know, recall someone.

This plan — and I’m being generous with that word because the whole thing might as well have been written with a presidential Sharpie — was to try to show that Coloradans regret their decision to reject Republicans at every turn last year. If you need a refresher course here, the Democrats won every key statewide office, both houses of the legislature and Mike Coffman’s U.S. House seat. It was the most momentous night for Colorado Democrats in memory.

Each recall effort serves only as a reminder that Republicans regularly lose in regular elections in Colorado. And now that we have the Polis-recall failure atop the Sullivan-recall failure atop more failures to come, the effort also serves to reinforce the concept that Colorado Republicans can’t seem to win at anything these days.

You think Cory Gardner’s not worried about his prospects? When it comes to statewide office, Gardner is basically the last Republican standing. The best — only? — thing Gardner has going for him as of now is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s apparent strong-arming of Democratic consultants and strategists not to work with Andrew Romanoff’s campaign. That’s a Dems-in-disarray unforced error for you.

What Gardner doesn’t have going for him is everything else, including polls showing him losing to a generic Democrat, much less John Hickenlooper, by 8-10 points in 2020. Not coincidentally, the latest Morning Consult tracking poll has Trump’s Colorado approval rating at 39-57, down 18 points.

And then there’s the latest development out of Washington. As I’m sure you heard, Trump declared a national emergency, which apparently gives him power to rob taxpayers to help pay for his absurd border wall. Before Gardner voted against a Senate bill to block those emergency powers — the bill passed overwhelmingly, 59-41, but was successfully vetoed — Gardner had once voiced opposition to the wall and had told Colorado Public Radio he would advise Trump not to call a national emergency. 

But Gardner, who was an early Trump 2020 endorser after not voting for him in 2016, fell in line because that’s what he does. But when he made his vote — after much study and review, of course — a Gardner spokesperson told The Colorado Sun that the White House had promised Gardner that no money budgeted for 2019 would be taken from Colorado military projects.

Instead, Trump took $8 million from Peterson Air Force Base for a Space Control Facility that was budgeted in 2018, but not yet spent, making Gardner look — take your pick — naive, cynical, naively cynical, cynically naive.

I’m not sure which way to go. These are deep, existential questions that are not immediately answered in the statement that Gardner made about the Peterson money, which is a small part of the $3.6 billion that Trump is taking from the military for the wall that neither Mexico or Congress will pay for.

Gardner didn’t blame himself. He didn’t blame Trump. He didn’t blame Mexico. He didn’t blame Sharpies. He blamed Democrats. Of course he did.

Here’s the statement: “It’s unfortunate Democrats can’t defend the border and defend the country at the same time. If they could, we would have a border that was secure and no need for other funding to secure the border. Six months ago, they said there was no crisis at the border. Now they admit there is a crisis but won’t pay to help fix it. The bipartisan, Senate-passed defense authorization bill funds defense and allows us to address the border crisis. I would hope that Democrats would agree to fund defense needs and address the crisis they now admit.”

Sure, it’s authentic frontier gibberish. But when you’re tethered to an unbalanced president who turns tragedy into farce and you’re running in a state where your party goes out of its way to engage in pointless losing battles, what else do you have left?


  1. Gee From reading your column’s I get the idea you hate Trump,the GOP and us deplorable bitter “Clinger’s” Have fun with that..
    Sleepy Joe almost had another brain bleed,and it sure look’s like Granny Clampett will be the Dem nominee. I’ll concede the demographic shift has forever changed Colorado and Gardner is done. been here 35 yrs seen it..
    . I grew up in Deetroit and saw what the Democrat party and the nation of “Dindu” can achieve when they try real hard Guess you saw it in Baltimore too.. Denver is well on it’s way
    Hope you survive Trump’s reelection with Cocaine Moscow Mitch in control of the Senate.with ,2 or 3 SCOTUS appointment’s and many federal judge’s You thought the Kavanaugh circus was ugly? Just wait!
    Keep listening to those Neil Young records,plaid shirt’s and love the 60’s hair too.. Groovy! Right On! far out!

  2. Gardner at one time correctly described Trump as a Buffoon. Given Gardner’s unqualified endorsement of Trump despite having proven he is without insight into or influence with Trump, does that make him the Buffoon’s Buffoon?

  3. I wonder which 4 or so miles of border fencing is more important to the nation’s security “emergency” than a building expected to house the US Space Command.

  4. I literally don’t know anyone who plans to vote to re-elect Cory Gardner, so I guess you’re correct: He is the Buffoon’s Buffoon!

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