In recent weeks, we've posted extensive interviews with proponents and opponents of major measures on the Colorado ballot this year, as well as a number of other races; well over a dozen links can be accessed below. And that coverage will keep coming right up until election day, which (blessedly) is exactly one week away at this writing.
And that means crunch time for candidates and advocates.
Who and what will likely emerge victorious after the votes are counted on November 8? For insight into that question, we turned to Eric Sondermann, one of the smartest and most respected political analysts in Colorado.
Below, see his prognostications about the biggest proposals — amendments 69, 70, 71 and 72, plus propositions 106, 107 and 108 — and the most hotly contested races, involving U.S. Senate candidates Michael Bennet and Darryl Glenn plus congressional aspirants Scott Tipton, Gail Schwartz, Mike Coffman and Morgan Carroll. Sondermann also puts forward a prediction about the all-important face-off between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Colorado outcome of which could have national repercussions.
Get Sondermann's take below — and for additional stories on this year's ballot measures and more, click to access our Election archive.
Amendment 69: ColoradoCare
From our previous coverage: "The proposal would create a Colorado health-care system with a goal of guaranteeing that everyone in Colorado has health-insurance coverage. Since Amendment 69 won't supersede federal programs such as TRICARE, which focuses on veterans, it's not technically a single-payer plan, but it's close enough to have earned the endorsement of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, a longtime advocate of health-care reform."
"My sense is that it goes down — goes down by very large numbers, perhaps two to one or something in that ballpark. No matter how broken our current health-care system might be, this one is just too much: too big, too costly. I don't even think some of the proponents, with the exception of the most ardent, true believers, expect it to pass.
"I've got to believe the political realists among the proponents understood from the beginning that this was going to be a very heavy lift. And I think there's a sense among voters that a state would have a hard time going something like this alone. A lot of voters feel that Obamacare has been troubled, as we've seen by the headlines of late — and proponents would respond by saying, 'Obamacare was always doomed. That's why you need a single-payer system.' But for most voters, the troubles with Obamacare have made them even more leery about such changes and an increased role on the part of government.
"There's also sticker shock that's associated with Amendment 69. When people look at the numbers, you're talking about something that's the size of the state budget. Of course, there would be offsets, i.e., no more health-insurance premiums. But change is scary, and big change is scarier."
Amendment 70: Minimum wage
From our previous coverage: "Amendment 70 would boost the minimum wage from its current $8.31 per hour to $12 by 2020, with incremental bumps over a three-year period."
"This could be one of the more interesting and closer ballot measures on election night. If I was a betting person, which I tend not to be, I suspect it will pass, but not overwhelmingly.
"I regard Amendment 70 to be a classic case of heart versus head. Your heart says vote yes, and your head then says, 'I'm not so sure. What are the economics of it? How many people will lose their jobs?' But in heart-versus-head votes — not all the time, but usually — I bet on the heart. Particularly if you assume that the Democratic turnout is going to be at least at the margins better than the Republican turnout in this election — that would bode well for Amendment 70."
Amendment 71: Raise the Bar
From our previous coverage: "Amendment 71, known as Raise the Bar, proposes to make it more difficult for constitutional amendments to reach the Colorado ballot by requiring that signatures be collected from 2 percent of all registered voters in each of Colorado’s 35 state senate districts, as opposed to an overall number. Additionally, amendments would no longer be approved by a simple majority; they'd have to notch 55 percent support to win passage."
"Just for the record, I've been somewhat outspoken on this one. I'm not working on any campaign, but in terms of my personal beliefs, I've been on the 'No on 71' side.
"Obviously, all the establishment forces in the world are lined up in favor of this. On the 'no' side, you have this unholy coalition of the hard-core left and the hard-core right, and in between that are the people who totally support the intent behind 71 but are worried about the prescription in it. The line I use is that there's no argument about raising the bar, but this one takes the bar and puts it on stilts.
"I'm told that [the Yes on 71 vote] is polling in the fifties, but barely north of 50 percent, and that's a very precarious place. I think this is close to a fifty-fifty proposition. If I was going to make a wager, which I don't do, I think it might go down simply based on the tenor of the year. This is an angry year, an outsider year, and 71 is sort of the ultimate establishment-insider proposal: a 'Let's take a little bit of power away from the populace' kind of campaign. And I think those campaigns have particular trouble in years such as this."
Amendment 72: Tobacco tax hike
From our previous coverage: "Amendment 72 would increase state taxes on tobacco products. For example, the tax on cigarettes would go up by $1.75 per pack under the theory that the higher cost will prevent children from starting to smoke and encourage current smokers to quit."
"I would suspect it's going to pass, but I don't think this one is a slam dunk the way the previous tobacco tax was in 2004.
"By way of a disclaimer, my firm did the previous campaign in favor of the tax back then. But I think this one has some factors that make it more difficult. One is that the state has already done it, albeit twelve years ago. Two is that the amount of the tax is three times what the previous request was. And three, which might be a function of one and two, is that the tobacco industry is actively engaged in this race, where basically they took a pass back in 2004.
"The tobacco industry is dumping north of $17 million into opposing the amendment. I understand that their initial investment was $5 million, and then they doubled down, and doubled down again, on their investment. If they're doing that, they have some polling that shows they're within striking distance, and for that reason, this is a reasonable amount of money to invest.
"That said, sin taxes tend to be popular, and the tobacco industry obviously doesn't have terribly high credibility. The campaign in favor of 72 has been rather meager, but if I was to summarize it, I would suspect it will pass — but it's one where I wouldn't be surprised if I got it wrong."
Continue for predictions about the propositions on the Colorado ballot, as well as two U.S. House competitions, the U.S. Senate contest and the presidential race.
Proposition 106: End-of-life rights
From our previous coverage: "Proposition 106 focuses on end-of-life options. It would legalize what proponents refer to as medical aid in dying — a process by which patients diagnosed with six months or fewer to live can be provided with a prescription they can self-administer in order to end their suffering."
"I recently wrote an op-ed in the Denver Business Journal in favor of the proposition. But I think it's going to pass. I think it fits Colorado. First of all, it's not untried. It's based very closely on the Oregon model, and polling that I've heard about, although I haven't seen it, tends to be strong.
"Colorado is the kind of libertarian state where an issue like this has resonance with people of various political persuasions. There's no doubt that the Catholic Church is fully engaged in opposing it both from the pulpit and financially; the opposition is very much fueled by the Catholic Church. But my suspicion is, it's not enough to take it down."
Propositions 107 and 108: Presidential primary and participation by unaffiliated voters
From our previous coverage: "Propositions 107 and 108 are related measures that would make changes in the current caucus system used in Colorado when it comes to presidential campaigns. The first would replace the presidential caucus with a primary and make it open. The second would allow unaffiliated voters to take part in primaries, as opposed to requiring individuals to declare themselves to be either Republicans or Democrats."
"I've heard that polling has tended to be strong in favor of passage — and I'd note the big story in the Post where both party chairs, Rick Palacio for the Democrats and Steve House for the Republicans, were banging on this. I'm not suggesting that a whole lot of voters are hanging on that story, but Palacio and House are opposed to the initiatives because of how it allows for participation by unaffiliated voters. That's the bigger issue in these two ballot issues than the primary versus caucus — the ease of participation by unaffiliateds.
"I think there's an increasing consensus in the state, even among many party activists, that caucuses are archaic. In my view, they were archaic thirty years ago, but now, they're archaic squared. So that consensus is there, but the battleground is over the parties' belief that these are membership organizations and that only party members should be involved in the process. And 107 and 108 go in the opposite direction by opening up things to unaffiliated voters, who are the largest chunk of voters in the state.
"The very fact that Colorado is a state heavy with unaffiliated voters indicates that this is not a state particularly attracted to the two major political parties or, really, to the party power structures. And in this outsider year, that plays in to the narrative of, 'Let's shake up the system, do something different.'"
Senator Michael Bennet.
Photo by Michael Roberts
U.S. Senate race: Incumbent Michael Bennet [Democrat] versus challenger Darryl Glenn [Republican]
"The senate race is no race. It hasn't been a race since the night of the Republican primary. It just suggests that the Republicans once more, and not for the first time, went for the candidate who made their conservative hearts go flitter-flutter in the primary, and not with a candidate who had any degree of viability in the general election.
"Michael Bennet will go down as one of the luckier politicians ever in Colorado. In 2010, he drew Ken Buck instead of Jane Norton. And in 2016, he's been even luckier. A year ago, the national pundits said there were two Senate seats the Democrats would struggle to retain: the Nevada seat vacated by Harry Reid and Michael Bennet's Colorado seat. Today, the Nevada seat is still in that discussion, but the Colorado seat is now completely off the map. It's been weeks since the Democrats pulled a $5 million ad buyout of Colorado and redeployed the money to other states, and the first rule of politics is, follow the money. This hasn't been a competitive race from the get-go, and it continues to be a walk-over."
Representative Scott Tipton.
YouTube file photo
Colorado's 3rd District: Incumbent Scott Tipton [Republican] versus challenger Gail Schwartz [Democrat]
"This race has gotten close enough that both parties are spending millions of dollars. Both sides are on the air in Grand Junction and Pueblo, as well as the Denver market, to the extent that the Denver market reaches into the I-70 corridor. And if Gail Schwartz is in the game — within two or three points — that tells me there's a Democratic wave going across the country.
"I feel that Democratic support in the 3rd District will trail Democratic support in the 6th District [in which incumbent Republican Mike Coffman is running against Democrat Morgan Carroll] by at least four or five points. So if Schwartz is close, Coffman is probably gone — and if Schwartz wins, Coffman is certainly gone.
"If it's a Democratic night on election night, a major wave behind Hillary and the Democrats, Coffman will be one of the earlier seats to flip, and Tipton would be one of the later seats to flip. And if that kind of wave happens, I think the Democrats will easily regain control of the U.S. Senate, and they might even be in a position to tip the U.S. House, just because I think the Tipton race is pretty far down the list of Democratic pickup targets. If that goes, a whole lot of races around the country are going to go before it does.
"That said, my supposition is that the Tipton seat won't change hands. It's become much closer than most people surmised a couple of months ago — much more competitive. But ultimately, I think the Republican numerical advantages in the 3rd District are just too great."
Representative Mike Coffman.
Colorado's 6th District: Incumbent Mike Coffman [Republican] versus challenger Morgan Carroll [Democrat]
"By all accounts and indications, the 6th District is right at the margin. I believe it could go either way, and you won't find me making a prediction, because it would be a flip of the coin.
"Mike Coffman is a strong incumbent who would survive in that district in any kind of normal political year. But this is as abnormal a year, obviously, as any we've seen in a long time, and he's been bedeviled, as have other Republicans around the country, about how to handle Donald Trump and the top of the ticket. He's run from Trump, which was his only choice in a district so heavy with immigrants — Latino immigrants, immigrants of every stripe.
"Coffman is a potent politician. Two years ago, the Democrats thought they had their golden boy in Andrew Romanoff, and Coffman beat him by nine points. Obviously, that was a Republican year, but a nine-point win over a candidate who the Democrats spent a whole lot of money on is still very impressive. Still, 2016 is very different, completely aberrant, and anything is possible. That's why Coffman's real challenge here is turnout and whether Republicans who can't pull the lever for Trump and may have never even heard of or focused on Darryl Glenn are still going to show up and vote in the down-ballot races, starting with Coffman.
"Both parties have turnout challenges this year. Obviously, Clinton on the Democratic side doesn't have the visceral appeal that Barack Obama had in '08 and '12. But most observers around the country perceive the Democrats as being more motivated here, more behind their candidate, even with all the news of the past few days. And the Republicans are struggling with party unity. The Trump faction is plenty motivated, but there remains a good 20 percent or thereabouts of the Republican Party that's not been able to come to peace with Donald Trump. And I would suggest that in the 6th District, given its demographic nature, that the 20 percent number might be even higher."
Photo by Brandon Marshall
Presidential race in Colorado: Donald Trump [Republican] versus Hillary Clinton [Democrat]
"If Trump wins Colorado, he'll be president — because if Colorado is going to tip, that means a whole lot of other states will have tipped before it. But I don't expect Trump to win Colorado. To me, it seems as if he's run a campaign almost designed to lose this state. It goes back to the caucus process, where he more or less insulted the entire Republican establishment of the state. And that's not to mention comments about Latinos that he's made over and over again or his emphasis on immigration, which might play well in some rust-belt states but is more problematic in a place like Colorado.
"Whether it's the Access Hollywood tape or the whole narrative around Trump and women, the mother lode in Colorado politics — and I'm not meaning to make a pun — is suburban women, and particularly suburban college-educated women. And Trump is a tailor-made candidate to antagonize that constituency. So if Trump can overcome all those negatives and win Colorado, then he'll pull the upset nationally.
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"The reason that Trump is spending so much time here is that he's looking at the electoral-college map. These numbers are about a week old, but if he won every state he was within the polling margin of error in — Iowa, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina — he'd still need one more state where, as of a week ago, he was trailing by six or more points. There are six of those states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Virginia and Colorado. And when Trump people look at that list of six states, none of them are very good prospects, but they've apparently decided that Colorado is one of the better of the less-good prospects. But do I think Trump is going to do it? No."