As you’ve probably heard, Joe Biden is scheduled to come to Colorado on Wednesday to designate Camp Hale — the winter-war training site near Leadville that operated during World War II — as a national monument. 

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It would be the first national monument designated by President Biden. And although the move seems to have bipartisan support in the local community,  it’s an idea that leading Colorado Democrats, including Sen. Michael Bennet, have been pushing for years while many Republicans have, for approximately the same amount of time, been opposing. 

One such opponent seems to be Bennet’s GOP challenger, Joe O’Dea. Another opponent would definitely be — yes, you guessed it — Lauren Boebert, who went so far as to write a letter to the White House. I wonder if when Biden leaves, he tries to sneak Boebert’s letter past the National Archives cops.

In most cases, the Camp Hale designation would be just one more skirmish in the longstanding battle between those who would protect federal lands from exploitation vs. those who favor more use of federal lands by, say, the oil and gas industry. 

The question for Bennet is not whether a Camp Hale photo-op in the closing days of his Senate campaign against O’Dea is a good idea. The question is whether a photo-op anywhere with Biden helps or hurts Bennet.

I doubt it would have much effect either way, but the easiest guess is that Democrats must feel confident that Bennet’s lead in the race against O’Dea is safe. If Bennet were to lose, Democrats would almost certainly lose control of the Senate. Would they risk that for a photo-op? Who knows?

The fact is that while Biden’s approval ratings have been inching up of late, a Marist poll conducted earlier this month puts Biden’s approval in Colorado at 40%. Other polls do show Biden doing a few points better in Colorado.  Not so long ago, if you remember, Biden beat Trump in the state by 13 points.

In the same Marist poll, Bennet leads O’Dea by seven points, 48-41. And Jared Polis leads Heidi “The Furrier” Ganahl by, uh, 18.

The Camp Hale designation has been part of the CORE Act, which has passed the House several times and has, just as often, been bogged down in the Senate. It would protect considerably more federal land than just Camp Hale — several hundred thousand acres more — in Colorado and is sponsored by Bennet in the Senate and Joe Neguse in the House. It has the support of most, if not all, of the Democratic congressional delegation. Polis is also a big fan.

Meanwhile, O’Dea told The Colorado Sun that the CORE Act, in its present form, reminds him of what he called a Diana DeGette-style bill that “steamrolls local ranchers and ignores local mountain bikers, sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts.” 

O’Dea didn’t mention oil or gas. But he did say he’d be willing to negotiate aspects of the CORE Act, although without revealing what parts of the bill he actually opposes. 

Because the CORE Act is stalled and Bennet has campaigned on Camp Hale’s designation, Biden is using executive action to make Camp Hale a national monument. I haven’t seen any polling on this, but I’m going to guess that most Coloradans would favor protecting the training site of the storied 10th Mountain Division.

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For Biden, it’s an opportunity to try to show that he’s not entirely radioactive on the campaign trail. If Democrats end up keeping the midterms close nationally — and particularly if they hold the Senate — that might boost Biden’s chances of running for reelection, a prospect that makes many Democrats shudder, although they may be even more worried about Donald Trump running again — if he’s not in prison at the time — and the danger to the Republic he would bring with him. 

We all know the drill on midterm elections. The party in power usually loses and often takes, in Barack Obama’s term, a shellacking. Republicans are trying to keep the races focused on inflation and crime, but that hasn’t been easy. With the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and Trump once again dominating nearly every news cycle and also having campaigned — often successfully — for a long list of election deniers, Republicans are still favored to win back the House, but not in a rout. And Democrats remain a very slight favorite to keep the Senate. 

What I mean is, a shellacking would be the upset in November.

That does not change the fact, though, that Biden will soon celebrate his 80th birthday, and, according to every news account, the celebration will be muted. If Biden were to run again and win, he’d be 82 when he took office and 86 when he left it. Speaking as an old — but not quite that old — person myself, I think that’s a lot to ask.

And as one Washington reporter told me, every Democrat who wants Biden to retire first has to answer the question of whom the Democrats would possibly nominate in his place. Let’s just say it won’t be Bennet or Hickenlooper. We’ve gone down that road, although not very far in either case. Could it be Polis? I think he might try it, but I doubt if he’d have much more luck than recent Coloradans.

Kamala Harris would be the early favorite, but Biden has basically done his best to bury her as a vice president, and her favorability ratings, while also inching up, are still lower than Biden’s. Gov. Gavin Newsom seems to be setting himself up for a run, but it’s unlikely that he’d do it if Harris, a fellow Californian and a friend, were in the race. 

I don’t see where Pete Buttigieg has done himself much good as Secretary of Transportation. But then again, which transportation secretary ever has? Bernie is not going to run again. Warren is not going to run again. Klobuchar might. Whitmer? Not a lot of names jump out at you.

As I write this, it’s not clear whether a ceremony would be held at the site of Camp Hale  — the Ospreys are on alert — or possibly in Denver. After all, it could be a logistical nightmare to get a president up to Camp Hale. But I’d bet Bennet would be OK with that so long as it doesn’t also turn out to be an electoral nightmare.


Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.

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Mike Littwin

Special to The Colorado Sun Email: milittwin@gmail.com Twitter: @mike_littwin