With just a few weeks left in election season 2014, Colorado voters have some choices to make. But between candidates who treat their own past legislative efforts like rap sheets—i.e., something to avoid discussing at all—the flurry of misleading ads, the platitude-rich stump speeches, and the outright noise emanating from all corners of the political spectrum, it can be tough to know what’s what. With that in mind, here’s a guide to help you decipher what’s really being said. (Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section; we’ll update this with the best ones.)

  • Whenever a candidate mentions an incident like the Aurora theater massacre or the 2013 floods in the context of the community or state coming together, that’s leadership. When he uses it to criticize his opponent, he’s politicizing a tragedy, a non-sin that’s invariably met with faux outrage. The lesson: Just like bakers bake and cobblers cobble, politicians politicize. Learn to live with it.
  • I’m a new kind of politician/leader/voice: I know my party’s and/or Washington’s brand is about as dismal as it gets, but I’m somehow different even though I’ve never demonstrated it with my words or actions.
  • They aren’t single-issue voters: Usually mentioned as a hopeful negative, as in, Demographic X (e.g., women, minorities, immigrants) cares more about things other than this one topic (e.g., abortion, voting rights, border control) even though, if changed in some ways, it could radically undermine their already tenuous standing in our society.
  • Such-and-such is the worst president/law/policy/etc. in history: I have no command whatsoever of history.
  • I’ll stand up to activist judges: i.e., any jurist who levies a decision I don’t agree with.
  • He’s a partisan hack: Because he’s not affiliated with my party.
  • I’m looking forward, not backward: Please ignore everything I’ve ever done or said.
  • This is nothing but a smear campaign: That’s holding me accountable for something I did or said. Also, it’s interfering with my own smear campaign.

Got any more favorite bromides? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.