Jimmy’s Colorado Politics Column | Hick got ‘sliced and diced’

Written by on October 5, 2020

“Did you or did you not introduce a plan with John Kasich?” the incumbent asked his challenger, with confidence and eagerness in his voice.  “That’s the simple question.”

The camera focused on his opponent.  The tall man, his mouth persistently dry ever since the debate began, quivered as he held up his water bottle.  The man opened the bottle and, with an odd look, took a swig of water and ghosted the question into silence. 

“Okay, time,” the moderator spoke after several awkward seconds.  “We’ll go to the next question.” 

So went an actual exchange during the first debate between Sen. Cory Gardner and challenger John Hickenlooper – the most awkward, strained stillness ever in a Colorado debate.

On Friday, Hickenlooper finally showed up opposite Gardner – and yes, it wasn’t pretty.  Hick was aloof, dispassionate and nervous.  He kept insisting Gardner was putting up a “wall of words” and speaking “untruths,” yet he couldn’t identify a single “untruth” uttered by Gardner.  Instead, he told several “untruths” of his own or gave outright non-answers.  It was a stunning, uneven matchup.

Viewers of the hour-long Pueblo Chieftain-sponsored livestream saw why Hickenlooper has hidden: He got sliced and diced.  The stark contrast between the two candidates for U.S. Senate couldn’t have been any clearer.

The health-care exchange was but one prime example.  Throughout the debate, Gardner would press Hickenlooper with a question.  Each time, Hickenlooper would dodge the question or tell an “untruth.”

At one point, Gardner highlighted how Hickenlooper “had a plan to replace the (Affordable Care Act)” with former Ohio governor John Kasich.  He proceeded to articulate several clear, coherent components to his health-care plan, and Hickenlooper got his chance to respond.

“You know, again, more untruths, no, uh, no connection to factual basis. Uh, he’s taking other people’s plans, putting my name on them.”  Yet Hickenlooper did partner with Kasich to put forward the Hickenlooper-Kasich healthcare plan not just once (in 2017), but twice (again in 2018).  I even coauthored a contemporary analysis of 2017 plan. 

This makes the former Colorado governor’s awkward silence following Gardner’s pointed, factual question even stranger.

The most revealing exchange, however, took place directly after their prepared opening statements.  Chieftain editor and debate moderator Steve Henson asked Gardner to lay out his case against Hickenlooper for repeated violations of the Colorado constitution’s ethics provisions and Hick’s refusal to show up for the Independent Ethics Commission’s hearing on the matter.

“If you send new people to Washington with the same ideas and same bad behavior, you get more of the same,” Gardner asserted.  “It’s clear that John Hickenlooper thinks that this state is about him.”

“Cory Gardner’s gonna come attack me left and right,” the Democrat replied.  In his rebuttal, Hickenlooper kept poopooing the ethics controversy – and the fact that he’s the first governor in state history to be found guilty of violating the state constitution – as though it was inconsequential.

Calling it an “honest mistake, relatively minor,” the millionaire insisted, “I paid the 2,800 bucks. I took responsibility.”  A shockingly elitist statement!  How many of us regular Coloradans can even talk about $2,800 like it’s “five bucks,” let alone afford to shrug off a fine of nearly $3,000?  Moreover, as Gardner cogently pointed out, 91 accusations were dismissed because they were beyond the statute of limitations – not because they were without merit.

Amidst his hemming, hawing, dodging and dribbling, Hickenlooper couldn’t defend his own positions or articulate a vision.  On my KNUS radio show Saturday, former Republican Party chairman and two-time Wayne Allard for Senate campaign manager Dick Wadhams put it right: “Cory was thorough.  Cory was substantive.  Cory was aggressive when he needed to be.  Meanwhile, Hickenlooper stammered, stuttered, couldn’t follow a line of thought very well…And he just looked bad.”

With each question, Gardner had a strong, compelling answer.  He confidently touted his own record, particularly on environmental conservation issues; parried Hickenlooper’s lackluster attacks and successfully nailed several punches of his own; and on a few occasions, successfully brought attention to achievements benefiting the Southern Colorado audience.

John Hickenlooper ghosted the uncomfortable Ethics Commission hearings and the debates for as long as possible.  It’s safe to assume he would ghost the difficult and uncomfortable duties of office.  But Coloradans don’t need ghosts outside of Halloween.  We need a senator who is present, engaged and ready to take on the issues facing the nation.

Click here to read Jimmy’s October 5 column at Colorado Politics, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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