|April Zesbaugh, Floyd Ciruli and Marty Lenz|
I thought the debate, although limited by its virtual format, worked with the candidates side-by-side and Kyle Clark offering questions and time for rebuttal to each. My observations in general:
- It was the head-to-head exchange Andrew Romanoff wanted, and he made the most of it with well-prepared comments with sharp criticism of John Hickenlooper’s record.
- The sharpest exchange was Romanoff calling for Hickenlooper to withdraw due to ethics violations and contempt citation. His well-framed position is that Hickenlooper was now damaged goods and a loser to Cory Gardner. It is a direct attack on Hickenlooper’s only real argument for election – beating Gardner. Hickenlooper’s retort was to call Romanoff an election loser after two failed elections and being out of office for two decades.
- Hickenlooper’s moderate position may be a burden with the liberal Colorado Democratic electorate, combined with unaffiliated voters who gave Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren more than 50 percent of their vote in the March 3 Super Tuesday primary.
- Romanoff’s main challenge will be to translate the impact of the ethics charges and his strong debate performance into votes. Grassroots door-to-door activity is still limited due to the pandemic, and at this point, he has limited funds. Do national liberal groups begin to take notice and send money to save one of their own?
- Cory Gardner and his team must be pleased. Either Hickenlooper emerges as a wounded candidate or the most liberal Democrat in recent history becomes the nominee. Romanoff declared his support for defunding the police, reparations, single-payer health care and the Green New Deal.