Massachusetts voters sent Democrats a severe warning with Scott Brown's win for US Senator, says John Andrews in the January round of Head On TV debates. But Susan Barnes-Gelt chalks up the outcome to a poor campaign on the other side and generalized disgust with the in-crowd. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Hickenlooper for Governor, Obama's first year, Denver's next mayor, and Haiti relief. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for January: 1. MASSACHUSETTS SHOOK UP 2010 POLITICS
John: Massachusetts voters sent a powerful message of discontent to Obama, Pelosi, and Reid by electing Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat long held by liberal lion Ted Kennedy. Unemployment, terrorism, and the unpopular health care takeover add up to a bad political year for Democrats, Susan.
Susan: Martha Coakley made every mistake a candidate can make. She took a month off, refused to press the flesh and ran as an entitled incumbent. D's and R's can learn from her mistakes. Incumbents and uber-partisans are in trouble on both sides of the aisle.
John: You must be looking at different polls than the ones I see. Republicans are rebounding. Democrats are the ones in trouble, likely to lose big next fall in races for Senate, House, and Governor, Colorado possibly included. Radical overreach by Obama and his party has Americans massively turned off.
Susan: Government has Americans massively turned off. Scott Brown never called himself an R nor called in the big dogs to endorse him. Voters are angry at the status quo in Washington, joblessness, Wall Street and leadership's tin ear. The 2010's - the decade of the independent.
2. GOVERNOR’S RACE
John: The so-called Colorado Promise, on which Democrats won the governorship, is gone as Bill Ritter makes an early exit. The budget, the economy, the energy market, and the labor climate are all in disarray. That puts two strikes against Democrat John Hickenlooper, and makes Republican Scott McInnis the clear favorite for governor.
Susan: Your list puts two strikes against the next governor of Colorado - regardless of who wins. The real question is "Who has a record of facing budget deficits, reforming bureaucracy and making strategic investments in job creation?” John Hickenlooper - a person who's actually governed.
John: John Hickenlooper is even more liberal than Diana DiGette, according to the congresswoman herself. McInnis is a sensible centrist. The Mayor is Mr. Denver, the opposite of home on the range. McInnis is pure Colorado. And he was balancing budgets when Hick was still selling microbrew. Advantage Scott.
Susan: You're whistling in the dark and the tune has been out of date for a decade. Hickenlooper is the poster boy for non-partisan, problem-solving centrist. His base includes pragmatists independents and business. And he didn't have to shave a mustache to be credible to the voters!
3. DENVER’S NEXT MAYOR
John: Susan, you’re the Denver political insider. I’m just a suburban spectator. But it seems to me the Hickenlooper era in Denver is over one way or the other. If hizonner doesn’t win governor this year, he’s damaged goods for a third term as mayor next year. What’s the early betting for 2011?
Susan: Too many chips on the table to place an early bet. However - the qualities the next mayor will need are clear: management experience, political moderation, an ability to get along with diverse interests, a strong backbone and a clear vision of the region's future.
John: Thanks for mentioning my imaginary hometown, Backbone. People up there, unlike the pansy progressives who fear competition, elect their mayor in a fair fight between Democrats and Republicans. Maybe Denver will do the same in 2011, and turn to a proven Republican leader like Joe Blake or Dan Ritchie.
Susan: You're spending too much time in the thin air of Backbone! The old boys club ceased running Denver in 1983- when Peña was elected. Denver's next mayor will be energetic, innovative and savvy. The next year will be a wild ride - and I don't mean the stock show!
4. HORROR IN HAITI
Susan: The Haitian tragedy has ignited humanity’s finest instincts. Young people donating $10 via cell phones have generated more than $7 million in relief funds. Presidents Bush and Clinton together will ensure the long hard work of relief and rebuilding proceeds. Only the sub-human - Rush & Robertson demur.
John: The heartbreaking images out of Haiti remind us that life is harsh, mankind is all one family, and our simplest blessings cannot be taken for granted. The rescue response was warmly humanitarian, as you say. But it was also uniquely American, combining the very best of our country’s generosity, affluence, and military might.
Susan: You are right John. But the real test will come in time. Do the good people of this nation and others have the patience and resources to rescue a failed nation? How and who will build the civic, political and physical infrastructure necessary to truly save Haiti?
John: Nation-building is a noble dream, but nearly impossible in practice, as America has learned. Every nation, including shattered Haiti, must find its own way forward. We can still do our part individually, though. I’m going straight from the studio to Salvation Army online and donate again.
5. OBAMA’S FIRST YEAR
Susan: Obama promised change. And change unsettles. Overhauling health care, addressing financial collapse, sending troops to war, trying terrorists, epic unemployment. In 1982 pundits predicted Reagan wouldn't run for a second term, his early numbers were so bad. First terms aren't to be measured in 365 days.
John: Obama also promised hope. Twelve months ago even many of us who voted against him were willing to hope this gifted man would lead America wisely. But so far he has failed. Our enemies in Iran and Al Qaeda perceive us as weak. But business is afraid of Obama, worsening the recession. Bad show, Mr. President.
Susan: And business - banks, insurance companies, industry - have certainly demonstrated good judgment and wisdom in their collective decision-making. And the Republican alternative? Glen Beck and the tea bags? Sarah- don't confuse me with information -Palin? The only poll that counts is November 6, 2012.
John: Changing the subject doesn’t change the facts. Obama’s public support has fallen farther, faster, than any first-year president in history. Americans, including many of his previous supporters, are beginning to realize he’s in over his head. We can’t afford a failed presidency. Pull it together, Barack.