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'September Surprise:' CBS4 Analysts Explain How The Supreme Court Nomination Firestorm Affects Colorado Politics

By Rachel Smith, CBS4 Producer

(CBS4) - Colorado's Republican Sen. Cory Gardner released a statement Monday saying if President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court is qualified, he will vote to confirm and not wait until the outcome of the election.

The stance touched off a firestorm of criticism from Democrats who point out that Gardner opposed voting on President Barack Obama's nominee in 2016. CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd sat down with our political analysts Democrat Mike Dino and Republican Dick Wadhams to give that political issue and others that have been in the news a Reality Check.

Boyd started by pointing out that both sides are being somewhat hypocritical in this situation. Dino responded that hypocrisy in politics "is like the sun rising and setting every day." Adding that with just over a month until the election, this situation raises the stakes.

"A fellow political consultant in Colorado, Eric Sondermann, dubbed it the 'September surprise,' and I don't think we've ever seen anything like this. It is quite unusual. I think both sides are making an argument for their position. But the bottom line is that the Constitution does lay out the fact that the president can move forward (with) this and the Senate can vote," he said.

Dino added that the president has not committed to conceding the election if he loses in November.

Dino said that is "also a constitutional element. And, and I like the fact that at least Mitch McConnell will stand up for that and make sure he gets him out of office if he loses."

Boyd noted the connection between the two issues.

"That ties into the need to appoint another Supreme Court justice, because otherwise you'd have a tie on the Supreme Court, and they'd have to determine that election."

Boyd directed her next question to Wadhams. "Some Democrats have made the case that this time around, we're 40 days out. Last time we were nine months out, you buy that?"

Wadhams isn't buying it. "The Constitution says nothing about some kind of a time period that has to elapse or something has to be done within. The president should nominate somebody, the Senate should act."

Wadhams added that he disagrees with how Trump has handled questions about conceding.

"I don't think President Trump should say those things about not conceding. But remember, it was Hillary Clinton just about a week ago who said publicly said that Joe Biden should not concede if he loses the election in November, which I found kind of interesting as well. So I think we've got a lot of irresponsible comments by both sides on this thing."

Boyd then turned to how this national issue is affecting Colorado's Senate Race between incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner and former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

"Gardner has said the Senate should vote now. Don't wait. John Hickenlooper says wait."

Boyd asked Wadhams his thoughts on Hickenlooper and whether or not the timing of this helps or hurts Gardner's chances of re-election.

Wadham was dismissive of Hickenlooper. "He really doesn't take a position on anything and when he does, he contradicts himself."

In regards to how it will affect Gardner's campaign, "I could build a case that it could help him or hurt him. I do know this -- if the Democrats embark on some anti-Catholic bigotry like they did on some other Republican nominees earlier this could backfire on them and it could help Gardner. Amy Coney Barrett, the likely nominee by President Trump, was attacked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein from California for being Catholic when she was nominated for the appellate court. And if Democrats continue to go down that line, I think there could be a backlash."

Dino says that Gardner's ties to Trump are hurting him more than helping.

"The biggest thing is that Senator Gardner still faces the fact that President Trump is weighing him down. Earlier this week on Fox News, Trump pointed out that Senator Gardner is very, very loyal to the Republican Party, which is a contrast I think, to Sen. Gardner's efforts to show his bipartisanship."

Dino also pointed out that Gardner switching stances on the Supreme Court nomination issue will undoubtedly be used against him at a critical time for Colorado voters.

"The words that Sen. Gardner stated in March in 2016, that he did not see it being appropriate taking on the Merrick Garland nomination, will play against him in ads, no doubt. And then I think one thing that's going to be in voters minds, it looks like the hearings for a nominee may be October -- the week of Oct. 12, when the ballots drop here in Colorado, and it'll be on right on the forefront of people's minds, that this is happening. And I don't think that bodes well for the Republicans in this state at this point."

Boyd asked Dino to share his thoughts on Hickenlooper's past comments, saying he was open to packing the court with Democratic judges, though now he's not willing to take a position on the issue.

"I think John's had challenges on defining himself on issues like this, but I don't think he needs to. I think the bigger issue is who's the president and the Republicans have to run against him and they haven't had a good angle at doing that at this point."

Mike Dino is a Democratic government affairs expert with more than 30 years of experience. He was the CEO of the 2008 Democratic National Convention Host Committee where President Obama received his historic nomination. Dino also served as the executive director of Denver's Task Force for the 1997 Summit of the Eight.

Dick Wadhams is Republican political consultant who has worked with former Colorado Senator Wayne Allard and former Colorado Governor Bill Owens. He also worked on John Thune's upset victor over then United States Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota. Wadhams was elected as the Chair of the Colorado Republican Party in 2007 and 2009.


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