Littwin: Big day in Colorado for establishment Dems, the Hick effect and power of incumbency

Photo of Alice Madden from Alice Madden for Senate Facebook page.
Photo of Alice Madden from the Alice Madden for Senate Facebook page.

There were a couple of major stories in Colorado Democratic politics Friday, and, in both cases, old-school Dems easily won the day. They left me wondering just how strong the progressive movement is in Colorado. Even Jared Polis, who ran for governor as a bold progressive, has somehow become not quite so bold and not quite so progressive as governor. Go figure.

We’ll begin with the Hickenlooper effect, which plays a key role in one big part of the story Friday. In the U.S. Senate primary, Alice Madden, former state House majority leader and also a prominent voice in the climate change debate, became the fourth leading candidate to drop out of the race since John Hickenlooper got in. Let’s just say that’s not a coincidence.

As Madden put it, “doors started to close” when Hick entered the race and so did “a realistic path’ to the nomination. Now she’s facing surgery for growth on an ovary — all the blood work looks good, she says — and decided it was time to make the move. According to the conventional wisdom — which is occasionally correct — that leaves Andrew Romanoff as Hickenlooper’s main competition. And Madden said she worried that if she stayed in the race that she and Romanoff would split the progressive vote. Madden’s departure could also give a boost to state Sen. Angela Williams.

Meanwhile, in the other big news, former state House Speaker Crisanta Duran, who inexplicably decided to primary longtime incumbent Diana DeGette in the 1st Congressional District, announced she was dropping out of her race, just a few weeks after Duran had undergone emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix.

In the pre-Hickenlooper-as-Senate-candidate days, Duran had been widely expected to enter the Senate primary and caught nearly everyone by surprise in deciding to take on DeGette instead. Among the surprised was DeGette. Duran said she would run against DeGette from the left, despite the fact that their politics to that point had seemed quite similar. It was either a bold move, or a misguided one, apparently modeled on the House upset pulled off by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — known to all as AOC — in New York’s 14th CD.

But as Eli Stokols of The Los Angeles Times reported, the first thing DeGette did when Duran announced was to call AOC to ask whether she planned to endorse Duran. AOC never did, and the AOC-style magic never made its way to Colorado. And so the disaster many had predicted for Duran arrived early. It seems that Duran, as I may have written at the time, is not exactly AOC and Denver is not exactly New York City.

And Colorado is apparently not Iowa and not New Hampshire. When Hickenlooper dropped out of the presidential race, having left virtually no mark, he soon announced that he would run in the Senate primary, looking to take on Cory Gardner. This would not have been at all surprising — national Democrats had been pushing him in that direction for more than a year — except that Hick had spent many months saying he wasn’t interested in being a senator and didn’t, in fact, think he was “cut out” for the job.

This should serve as a good reminder never to trust any politician when he/she says there are no plans to run for another office. In the presidential race, Hick had tried to place himself as a moderate alternative to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, particularly on Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, but never gained any traction. Iowans seemed unimpressed by Hickenlooper’s record in Colorado, which state progressives found to be just slightly embellished in any case.

A Colorado race, though, is an entirely different matter. Hick is the two-term Denver mayor and two-term governor with high approval ratings, a strong financial network and name recognition in the state that only John Elway could challenge. It had become pretty clear of late, particularly after her recent comments to The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel, that Madden didn’t see a path to victory.

Before Hickenlooper arrived, she had seen that path, running as a woman in a state that has never elected one as governor or senator. She also saw the hope of taking on Gardner, who is generally seen as the most vulnerable Republican running for re-election, given that Donald Trump, also running for re-election, is 15 points or so underwater in Colorado. In the latest Fox News poll, 51 percent said that Trump should be impeached and then removed.

You’ve probably seen the viral clip of Gardner — courtesy of Fox31’s Joe St. George — in which he repeatedly refused to answer the straightforward question posed by a series of reporters as to whether it’s appropriate for a president to ask a foreign country to dig up dirt on a political rival. Oh yeah, he’s vulnerable. Or as James Carville told Brian Williams after watching the clip, “That poor guy. I don’t think he’s vulnerable. I think he’s done. He oughta get out of the race.”

“I think Cory can be beaten by a blue rock,” Madden told me, “but I’m a realist, too.”

There’s a lot of realism going on in the Senate primary. Mike Johnston, who finished third in the primary for governor, dropped out of the race not long after Hickenlooper announced, saying he couldn’t answer the why-not-Hickenlooper question. He also couldn’t risk losing another high-profile statewide primary.  Dan Baer and John Walsh, both considered to be legitimate contenders, dropped out soon after Johnston and both endorsed Hickenlooper.

Madden is the latest and she said she is not endorsing anyone yet. And so it goes in October 2019, which, you might notice, is still 13 long, long months from Election Day in 2020


  1. “Cory Gardener could be beaten by a blue rock”, LOL. thanks Alice for that, it’s funny, sad, and true. Perfect way to describe john Hickenlooper, Not even a genuine Blue Rock but a run of the mill river rock painted Blue with a rattle can of Blue paint from Walmart.
    It’s really a huge disappointment to think that we might get Hickenlooper, and i don’t understand Mike Littwin constantly referring to him as the ” two term governor with high approval ratings” He squeaked thru his re-election and didn’t know he actually beat Beauprez until 3 in the morning, much to his own surprise, Those of us who knocked on blue Doors prior to that election did not hear anything positive about him from voters.
    John Hickenlooper was the Colorado Embodiment of ” lesser of 2 Evils” politics and a huge learning experience for me. When i get my walk packets now I don’t even bother carrying flyers for people like that, I hand them back politely and say ” there’s plenty of good things in here, this isn’t one of them”.

  2. Sorry folks, but the “Progressive” movement is a huge farce.
    It’s just a marketing gimmick.

    Just as consumer products need changing brands, logos, marketing campaigns, etc. to appeal to new generations, so do politics/political parties.

    You’re STILL being led by the same elite class.

    “Medicare for all” will happen when the establishment, run & controlled by the billionaires, learn to fully rig the system to ensure more profits for themselves (just like original Medicare, and the ACA).
    Take a look at the underlying ownership structure of the largest “competing” hospitals, insurance co’s, pharmaceutical co’s, medical device mfg’s, and such.
    They’re all largely owned by the same cartel of firms, which also largely own each other, and are controlled by the same elite.

    Know it or not, “climate change” action” is being pushed by many of the same firms that are spewing emissions from “fossil fuels”, but being used to guarantee their continued receipts of billions in taxpayer funded, government given corporate welfare.
    Exxon, for one example, which has received billions in subsidies for its energy production operations, is seeking billions more for activities like “carbon capture”.

    The same elite class wins.

    Politicians like Polis exist to put a friendly face on this dog & pony show.
    A billionaire “Progressive”, really?

    Wealth inequality continues its unprecedented climb.
    Worker share of corporate profits continues it massive downward spiral.
    Asset & capital concentration & consolidation continue to amass in the hands of a few.

    It’s no different than Trump, or Clinton, or Warren, et al, claiming to “fight the elite”.
    They all exist as the particular brand to lead their followers to the same destination, just via slightly different routes.

    Seriously, which of the true elite are suffering at the hands/actions of ANY of these political “leaders”?

    “In almost every act of our lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons […] who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”

    p. 37–38

    “If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway. But men do not need to be actually gathered together in a public meeting or in a street riot, to be subject to the influences of mass psychology. Because man is by nature gregarious he feels himself to be member of a herd, even when he is alone in his room with the curtains drawn. His mind retains the patterns which have been stamped on it by the group influences.”

    Page 73 (1928 edition)

    Instincts of the Herds in Peace & War.

    Tribalism, that divide & conquer tactic, is being used to keep the masses busily distracted blaming & fighting each other, while the global elite continue getting richer & more powerful.

    “Progressives” are as ignorant as the GOP, whom are as ignorant as the Dems, whom are as ignorant as the “Libertarians”, etc.

    The corporate Lords continue to win.
    You ALL remain as mere serfs.

  3. That both sides bullshit (bsbs) falls apart when you start discussing policy differences.

    But hey…at least you’re not alone. Comfort in the complacent herd right? We’re seeing more and more folks preaching false equivalency now that the proof is in the pudding.

    Not so much.

    Time to start handing out those Scarlet T’s.

  4. Sam is that what you tell your Kids/Grandkids? “don’t bother fighting for anything, you’re a Serf and nothing you want will ever come true”.
    That is some really defeatist and depressing BS Sam. In your world, people in CO are still being licked up for smoking Marijuana, Black people still ride in the back of the Bus in Alabama, ,Women can’t vote and go to jail for having an abortion . Thank Goodness enough people decided those things weren’t ” just the way it is”.
    Be the change you want to see , not the guy who says it’s impossible.

  5. At least Sam gave us specific examples of why he believes the candidates like Warren , Trump, Clinton are the same, or very similar. He actually went into great detail, and when it comes to Clinton/Trump he is 100% correct.
    Jay can you do that? Can you make even a single specific point other than squawking “false equivalency” over and over in every thread?

  6. I saw no specific examples at all that demonstrate that Democrats are as responsible as Republicans for wealth inequality…or anything else for that matter.

    It’s ok to call one side worse. It’s okay to paint Republicans with a different brush that Democrats. It’s perfectly acceptable, some would say necessary, to hold public servants accountable for their policy positions.

    Acknowledging that Conservative policies are more to blame than Progressive ones, for a host of issues, including wealth inequality, doesn’t make you a communist or a partisan hack. It makes you well-informed.

    For example, Conservative Trickle Down Economics….which I’ve mentioned several times for the cheap seats….

  7. Here’s the Morning Consult state-by-state tracker poll from January, Hick’s approval rating was 49-30. The 2014 midterms were disastrous for Democrats. Republicans picked up 9 senate seats, including Gardner’s win over Udall, 13 House seats and 2 governor’s seats. And the win didn’t surprise Hick. The late votes, as usual, were in heavily Dem districts, which is why no one called the race. I’m well to the left of Hick myself, but the numbers are the numbers and that’s why I call Hickenlooper a popular two-term governor.

  8. Sam Fetters: The progressive movement is not a scam. Bernie is certainly a true believer. Warren was fighting the big banks long before she ever thought of being a politician. You said Warren wants to lead the country to the same place that Trump does. Would love to see evidence to suggest that. The truth is that, yes, the rich will be powerful no matter who is elected. That does not mean the system works in exactly the same way no matter who is elected.

  9. thanks mike for the info. Even in a poll from Morning Consult, an organization run by Republican, Michael Ramlet, Hicky places squarely in the center of the field for approval ratings. You have to admit that’s funny, a Status Quo Centrist, any way you slice him, ……… is still right in the middle of the road.
    He will probably beat Cory, and we will still have one more vote for a massive Pentagon budget, against medicare for all, against reducing student debt. etc. I will give him credit for signing Background checks and magazine limits, one of few places he showed courage.
    Really done with guys like this though , he actually sat down at a table with our Union (after his 1st election) and complained that there were too many Dem’s in the house and Senate and that it made his job harder. If we ever see a moderate wing in the Republican party again in our lifetimes, Hickenlooper should join it.

  10. There’s a great video from 1991 of Liz Warren, a registered Republican, speaking to the Federalist society. This was 6 years before she “became a Democrat”. To her Credit, she is actually arguing against eliminating bankruptcy protection for people defaulting on their CC debt .
    I have to give the nod to Sam when it comes to Warren though , she is not a progressive. A moderate Centrist Democrat and Clinton ally is the unfortunate reality. One who has adopted the things Bernie has been pushing for decades, and will dump them as soon as/if she gets elected.
    thank goodness for Bernie and Tulsi G., without them there would be no left

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