Ballot Returns:

2016 returns at this time: D 232,273   R 277,588

Most recent returns (yesterday):

D 267,620

R 261,686

U 161,560 (of the U ballot returns, D: 79,965   R: 53,644    Unopened: 27,951)

Hi Friends!

It’s Primary Day! Here’s what I’ll be keeping my eyes on today (and tonight):

  1. Incumbent upsets – There are two races I’ll be watching to get a beat on the general state of Colorado’s Democrats: Emily Sirota’s primary against Rep. Paul Rosenthal and Saira Rao taking on Congresswoman Diana DeGette, who has been forced to campaign for the first time in recent memory. In both cases, the challengers are taking on the incumbents from the left and running on hard-line progressive platforms. Rosenthal’s re-election ended early, when his break from far-left issues left him lacking the necessary votes to advance from the convention.  In DeGette’s case, an upset, or even a close call, indicates to me the upheaval and discord in Colorado Democrat ranks has risen to new heights.
  2. The state of the Democrat’s “Bern it down” v. establishminty DINOs races – The two previously mentioned incumbent races are certainly indicators of Democrat infighting, but there will be some other races which will tell us who is in control of Colorado’s Dems. Remember, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 caucuses handily. Those Democrats who saw the lengths the Democrat establishment would go to nominate Clinton largely blame the party establishment for their eventual loss to President Trump. Levi Tillemann-Dick is running as the “party outsider” to the donkey preferred Jason Crow to take on Mike Coffman. Tillemann-Dick was asked by Congressman Steny Hoyer (Democrat congressional leadership) to drop out of the race. He declined.
  3. In the race for Attorney General, the Phil Weiser v. Rep. Joe Salazar contest will tell us, even with the support of Ken Salazar and Governor Hickenlooper, if the “establishment” pick, Weiser, can prevail. Now, if Salazar wins, which polling says is likely at this point, it will be hard to unpack what percentage of the votes are for Salazar himself and his wildly progressive agenda, and what percentage of votes are people who believe he’s the same as – or related to – Ken Salazar. On the Republican side, George Brauchler promises to be a strong candidate.
  4. Gubernatorial primaries – Obviously. Going into today, conventional wisdom says this general contest is likely to be Jared Polis v. Walker Stapleton. We’ve had plenty of upsets in recent years, so there’s a chance it could go another direction, but that’s the most probable scenario. Cary Kennedy is angling for an upset, and it’s possible. Her supporters, particularly the teachers union, have spent a lot of money on tv in recent weeks trying to pull her across the line.
  5. The unaffiliated effect – For the first time, unaffiliated voters automatically received primary ballots in the mail. Unaffiliated voters received both a Democrat and Republican ballot but could only vote one. Over 160k unaffiliated voter ballots have been returned thus far, trailing both Democrat and Republican returns by over 100k returns. Currently, unaffiliated voters have chosen to return more Democrat ballots than Republican ones. It has been argued this change might have a moderating effect on our politics, but thus far we have not seen that play out.
  6. Democrat talking points – Look for the left to immediately try to make Walker out as absolute besties/twins switched at birth with Donald Trump all night long if he secures the nomination. President Trump doesn’t poll very well in Colorado, and the left will try to capitalize on those numbers immediately. Democrats will try to pivot and make this gubernatorial race more a proxy mandate about the President and less an actual contrast between the nominees here in Colorado. They’ll ignore the fact they have picked the furthest-left candidate in decades (regardless if their nominee is Kennedy or Polis) and when they can’t sell the idea their candidate is a western-style pragmatic centrist (which is impossible given the candidates), they’ll have nothing left but to aim at the right.
  7. If Polis does end up beating Cary Kennedy (or vice-versa) I’ll be looking for the margins. There is a wide swath of Democrats who can’t stand Jared Polis. There are still a lot of Dems who hate Jared for coming in and essentially buying himself a win in the primary to replace Mark Udall in 2008 against the establishment pick Joan Fitz-Gerald. They have not let that grudge go. Also, even Polis is far to the left for many Democrats. A Polis win tonight could depress Democrat base turnout in the general – it might not be enough to get them to vote Republican, but they might not vote at all.

That’s what I’ll be watching, what will you be looking for?

Have a great day!