Everyone knew, and many predicted, that the effort to recall Gov. Jared Polis effort would end not just in failure, but in spectacular failure.
But what I didn’t predict 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 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 Polis again and apparently the law doesn’t allow someone to sign more than one recall petition against an officeholder in the same term.
The explanation doesn’t sound quite right to me. 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 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 remember Ken Buck’s speech when he was elected GOP state chair last March, promising Democrats would need to learn how to spell r-e-c-a-l-l in the coming months? We remember Sen. Cory Gardner standing on the stage in support of Buck.
What’s the GOP’s plan here?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?
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 Gardner’s not worried about his prospects? When it comes to statewide office, he’s basically the last Republican standing. The best 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.
The funky border wall fundingAnd 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 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. 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 naive, cynical, naively cynical or cynically naive.
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 nor 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.”
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?
Mike Littwin is a longtime Colorado journalist and a columnist for The Colorado Independent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.