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What it Takes: Jared Polis Edition

In the front seat of his chief of staff’s Volvo station wagon, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is “focused on winning back the House,” part of a sentence that ends abruptly when he answers his cellphone.

“Ben? It’s Jared Polis,” he says. For the next several minutes, he touts Mark Takano, a teacher running for California’s 41st district in Riverside County, telling a reporter there that Takano’s sexual orientation – he is openly gay, as is Polis – is of little importance to voters.

Hanging up the phone, he continues his thought without so much as a pause. “So, right now, as I said, anybody who is focused on being a leader in the party should be focused on winning.”

Polis’ day on Sept. 20 began with two fundraiser breakfasts. He had a lunch fundraiser and then, after Congress voted in the afternoon, a fundraiser for Kyrsten Sinema, a Democratic House candidate in Arizona, which Roll Call accompanied him to.

Polis would also take in a documentary screening for a film on climate change, a dinner hosted by the Concord Coalition honoring Members who backed the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan, then head to two more fundraisers.

In politics, brutal schedules aren’t unusual for the ambitious people who walk the halls of the Capitol. But Polis, who started at Princeton University when he was 16, carries himself with special urgency. According to Democratic sources, he is looking at a bid for Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman. The current Vice Chairman, Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, is vacating to run for Caucus Chairman.

“Maybe there’s Members who are not as involved in politics, but those of us who are focused and aspiring leaders etc., the next 50 days it’s all about winning,” Polis said.

The Sinema event was at lobbyist Robert Raben’s Capitol Hill house, a common rendezvous for Democrats. Raben himself, a prominent former Justice Department official and lobbyist on LGBT issues, was absent.

The small crowd of about 20 included people with ties to Arizona, the LGBT community and those representing social workers, Sinema’s first job out of college.

Although he told Roll Call that Takano’s sexual orientation was of little importance to voters, Polis noted in remarks to the fundraising crowd it was a “reason for excitement.”

With Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) retiring and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) running for Senate, the number of openly gay House Members might decline. Polis has recruited several candidates to change that, including Sinema, who would be the first openly bisexual Member.

“Hopefully we can move forward, not backwards,” Polis said.

He is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program, which provides special fundraising and guidance to the most likely Democratic pickups across the country.

“We don’t just help them raise a bunch of money and then let them waste it,” Polis said of the program. “We really want to make sure they spend it on things that work. Even to get into the Red to Blue, they have to have a campaign budget, a campaign plan that we approve that has, yes, how much they raise, but also how they spend it. Meaning that they need to know all the pricing of their media market and what they need to spend on ads to win and mail and field and everything else.”

Sinema, who is backed by the grandchildren of the late conservative icon Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), is a bright spot for the party, with national Democrats increasingly optimistic about her chances of defeating Republican Vernon Parker in an open-seat race in the Grand Canyon State.

The National Republican Congressional Committee isn’t ceding anything, though. Parker delivered the GOP’s weekly address today and the NRCC has launched a $900,000 television advertising buy.

The NRCC ad shows Sinema in space with a satellite floating nearby, calling her “far out.”

“Kyrsten appeared in the Communist party newspaper. Really, she did,” the ad says.

At the Sinema fundraiser, Polis touted her as, “somewhat of an expert in exactly what’s needed in this town, which is working with the other side and respecting where they come from,” words that parallel his well-received convention speech in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this month.

Forty minutes after arriving, as Sinema began to take questions, Polis ducked out, en route to his next event, the documentary screening.

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