Here’s what I’m watching for today:
(These are Kelly’s personal thoughts going into election day – like a standard disclaimer – these are all Kelly’s 5am coffee-fueled thoughts and are not necessarily representative of anything other than her observations)
Governor: We all know this is the banner candidate race today. Ultimately, Jared Polis spent more money than anyone has ever spent before, in a political environment favoring Democrats. Walker Stapleton has run a solid, consistent campaign. He’s a good guy who would be a fantastic Governor. I think this will ultimately be closer than most people predict, but Walker is clearly looking for an upset tonight.
Other statewides: The three “downballot” statewide races – Attorney General, Treasurer and Secretary of State tend to favor Republicans. George Brauchler is widely seen as a rising star in Republican ranks and has done an amazing job of creating a contrast between his experience and that of his opponent, Phil Wiser. Wayne Williams has done an admirable job of creating widespread bipartisan support behind his reelection against challenger, Jena Griswold. The question for Wayne is if with unprecedented numbers of women voting his reelection is harder on the generic ballot front.
Issues: Obviously, the issue with the most attention today is 112 – oil and gas setbacks. There has been major money and energy injected into both sides of the issue. I think it will fail. That said, 112 is a statutory change – and if Republicans don’t win somewhere along the line or keep the state senate, we will see some form of setbacks in the next legislative session.
Today is going to be a major test of TABOR as there are some tax increases on the ballot. Ultimately, making the case to ask voters for money is a heavy lift – and it was designed that way. We have yet to see a concerted bipartisan effort put forth for a tax increase and that holds with today’s ballot too.
Turnout Trends: This is going to be interesting. Overall turnout predictions were in the 2.2m to 2.4m range. As of late last night we were at almost 1.85m – so we could hit the high end of turnout predictions. At least in early turnout women are voting in higher percentages than ever before.
A few observations – If you’re a Republican, things aren’t looking great. We came into this year at a significant disadvantage in terms of trends – 1) Republicans haven’t registered as many voters as Democrats – we’re behind, and we keep losing ground when it comes to the “rubber meets the road” job of getting Republican voters on the rolls. Although Democrats are doing better than Republicans at this, the largest voting bloc increase, by far, has been Unaffiliated voters. 2) This is the first election where there are more registered Democrats than Republicans – these relatively small numbers on the margins (and it’s not that small, we’re talking about almost 50k voter deficit – to compare, in 2014 Republicans had more than a 50k registration advantage) make a big difference in tight races. 3) Just like always, we have to win unaffiliated voters. It’s really easy when we go to our breakfast clubs and hang out with other people who think like us to extrapolate that out to the entire population, but it’s not true, we have to work on our sales pitch for conservative ideas.
Women: Right now, women are running at an almost 10% increase in expected turnout percentage than the same time in 2014. That’s . . . huge. We’ll see if this holds in turnout today – maybe women just pulled it together and got our ballots in early because we’re efficient at checking off the to-do list (amirite, ladies?). We still only have a few cycles of this whole all-mail thing under our belts as a state, so watching the trends of who turns in their ballots at what time over the course of election month is more art than science for now – ask me in 10 years.
State Senate: Speaking of women, the two biggest state Senate districts I’ll be watching tonight have all women candidates. Christine Jensen v. Jessie Danielson in SD 20 – in the heart of Jeffco where registration is almost 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3 R, D, and U (with a 1500 registration advantage to the D over R). Beth Martinez Humenik v. Faith Winter in SD 24 – Adams County is almost the same split (but the D to R advantage is about 2000). Beth is trying to hang on for reelection and luckily, even though there’s a slight registration advantage, she has an incumbency advantage. Although, Faith Winter is a State Rep, so her name has been on a ballot before.
National trends: Nationally, control of the Senate could have huge ramifications here at home in two years. Cory Gardner and the NRSC are trying to maintain their map, and overall I’m cautiously optimistic. Cory (and his team) are some of the very best in the country and if they keep the Senate tonight the national “blue wave” will come into serious question. From a macro perspective, Democrats are really having an identity crisis and are struggling to point to a real leader in their party. Nancy Pelosi? Elizabeth Warren? This lack of direction will filter to their Presidential primary and the next two years will help to shape what Democrats stand for in decades to come.
Takeaways moving forward to think about:
Conservatives need to sell our ideas better and we need to talk to unaffiliated voter more effectively – we can’t win without them
We need to address our voter registration issues
It might be time to look at how structurally we pick candidates – maybe it’s time to consider looking at alternatives to the caucus system
Democrats are in the middle of an existential crisis nationally
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