Archive for category Governor 2010

Call Western Union

“If you want to send a message, call Western Union.” – Samuel Goldwyn

Much if not all of the Trump boomlet is fueled by a frustration with and distrust of a party establishment that seems not only cozy with progressives, but comfortable with progressivism.  Articles by both Reihan Salam and Glenn Reynolds have made this point, and it’s one that Mark Steyn has talked about.  Americans are happy to play politics between the 40-yard-lines.  Given a perpetual choice between 49-yard-lines, though, they rebel.

The problem is that this rebellion isn’t necessarily coherent, and is usually destructive.  In 1968, Democrats sent a message to Lyndon Johnson, and got Richard Nixon elected.  In 1992, Republicans sent a message to George H.W. Bush in the form of Pat Buchanan, and got Bill Clinton elected.

A close analogy is here in Colorado in the 2010 governor’s race.  Unpopular incumbent Democrat Bill Ritter decided not to run for re-election amid rumors of personal scandal.  The Republicans, with festering dissatisfaction at the “establishment” after losing marquee statewide races in 2004, 2006, and 2008, had a choice between stalwart conservative, but presumed establishment favorite, Rep. Scott McInnis of Glenwood Springs, and unknown, blank-slate, self-professed Tea Party businessman Dan Maes.  When fellow Republicans satisfied a personal vendetta by leaking allegations of plagiarism just before the primary election, many Republicans registered their complaints by either not voting for McInnis or voting for Maes, who squeaked by with a major upset win.

The other factor was a widespread, small-l libertarian-fueled distrust and honestly hatred of the party officials and party officialdom.  I was at Denver party breakfasts in 2008 when Dick Wadhams was raked over the coals by the Ron Paul people, and that resentfulness has percolated (and been stoked by the large-l Libertarians) ever since.  It certainly was around in 2010.

Maes, frankly, had no business being the nominee, and no business being a statewide candidate.  He had no idea what he was doing, no interest, apparently, in the nuts and bolts of an active campaign, no willingness to spend endless hours on the phone raising money.   And the Republican party blew as good an opportunity as we ever had in the Tea Party year of 2010 to reassert control over state government.

The current national dynamics eerily and scarily resemble those of 2010 here in Colorado.  Candidates actually capable of uniting the various factions of the party, or bringing a unique and valuable message, are getting shut out of the process because it’s All Trump All The Time.

While I remain convinced that there’s no way on God’s green earth the party will actually nominate Donald Trump as its presidential candidate, he’s sucking oxygen from as deep and talented a field as I’ve seen in my lifetime at the national level.

That depth, by the way, is also in large part the result of a 20-year effort to grow the party at the state legislative level.  It’s meant letting each state party find its way and find horses for courses, as the saying goes.  That’s resulted in Republican government in states as diverse as Michigan and Alabama, but it’s also meant that those state parties differ much more from each other than they might once have.  The only person capable of uniting a national party is a presidential candidate, and the nominating process is a means of having the debate to decide where we want to go nationally.

A political party is a coalition of diverse interests, but there are elements outside the party who can’t stand that fact, and would be perfectly delighted to see the national party dissolve into factional bickering and resentfulness.  There’s absolutely no good reason to let that happen, or to nominate less than our best this year.

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Dan Santorum?

Those of us who suffered through 2010’s Colorado Republican gubernatorial campaign travesty should have learned some lessons.   So far, the national presidential nominating process is making me regret that Colorado is a trend-setter.

A similar dynamic – discontent with a front-runner, seen as hostile – or at best indifferent – to the Tea Party, and seen as hand-picked by an entitled establishment too timid to settle on actual conservatives to carry the party’s banner.  Both men, who seemed conservative enough in earlier incarnations, are had their bona fides questioned later.  In both cases, the criticism may be somewhat unfair, but it’s also led to a lack of enthusiasm for that candidate, and fueled talk of third-party runs, even before the nomination has been decided.

McInnis seemed to spurn Tea Party support, and then was victimized by a chiron during a national TV interview; likewise, Romney, while not going out of his way to the extent that Huntsman did, has also seemed to be relying on monetary advantages and strategic support of current and former office-holders in key states.

As a result, many Colorado Republicans decided to teach McInnis a lesson on the way to the nomination, only to find that the lesson they taught him left the party with a man who had no business being the nominee, and a party apparatus that was nevertheless honor-bound to support him – if only minimally – in the general election campaign.  (To be fair, many of us held Tancredo’s self-positioning for a 3rd-party run prior to the primary to be subverting rather than honoring his own party’s nominating process.)

Likewise, I believe that many, but by no means all, of those voting for Gingrich or Santorum are doing so in order to teach Romney or the party establishment a lesson, or to stretch out the process as long as practicable, perhaps even thinking it will lead to a brokered convention.  February was supposed to be Romney’s month, with a series of caucuses and primaries in states friendly to him.  Instead, he’s faltered, and Santorum has given conservatives reason to look to him as the last remaining credible”Not Romney.”  I’m not certain that they all actually want to see Santorum on the podium in Tampa accepting the party’s nomination in August.  But that’s where we could end up.

There are obvious significant differences between the campaigns.  Santorum is a two-term US Senator who knows something about fundraising and running a campaign; Dan Maes was not, and did not.  However badly he might do in the general election – and I think he would do very badly – nobody thinks he’s going to walk away with 11% of the vote.  However much Ron Paul may dream of a 3rd-party run, he’s nowhere near as attractive a candidate as Tancredo was to desperate Republicans in 2010.  It doesn’t look as though Romney’s put himself in a position to be torpedoed by members of his own party holding a grudge.  And of course, the gubernatorial nomination was a one-day primary; there was no opportunity to rethink the decision.

But even as more and more people assume that the Republican sold as the most electable will be the eventual nominee, much as people even on primary night assumed that McInnis would pull out a win, Obama’s re-elect numbers on Intrade keep rising.

The Republicans need this election to be a referendum on Obama; in both 2010 and so far in 2012, the nominating process has been a referendum on the front-runner.  Thus far, the Romney campaign has serially been able to create a series of successful one-on-one contests with other candidates.  He’s done so with the help of a national media that was McCain’s base until he became the nominee.  Some conservatives and libertarian-minded Republicans have been all too willing to chew up Mitt’s challengers from the right as not conservative, and now find themselves without a champion.  And the candidates themselves were better at making the case against each other or against Romney than they were at showing how they’d make the case against Obama.

At my own caucus, I closed the discussion by asking people to vote for whom they actually wanted to see as the nominee.  Not to vote as a protest against Romney, or to send a message, or as some cathartic gesture, but to vote for the man they actually wanted to see represent the party in the election.  I did this, reminding people of the consequences of playing games with their vote, which is how we ended up with Dan Maes as our nominee, and John Hickenlooper as governor.

None of which is to suggest that anyone abandon their candidate for the sake of an artificial “unity.”  If you want one of the three others still standing to be the party’s nominee, or believe that he better represents the party, there’s no sense in not supporting him.  But if you mainly believe that Romney needs sharpening or the establishment needs its nose bloodied, you’re playing a very dangerous game.

We’ve seen that movie before, and it ends badly.

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The Candidates Return to

And in the due course of time, every four years, presidential candidates return to Iowa. As a service to readers, I’m trying to keep an eye on the Council Bluffs calendar (and Sioux City on Sundays), so I can sneak over and record as many events as I can. While we see the debates, it’s often at these meet-and-greets that the candidates get a chance to do the retail politicking that will win or lose them votes.

This afternoon, it was Rick Perry’s turn, with an event at Tish’s Restaurant. He spoke for just under 11 minutes, didn’t take any questions, and dived right into the crowd to shake hands. He took a few more shots at Romneycare than we’ve seen before, updating the stump speech to talk about a Beacon Hill Institute report about its effects on the Massachusetts economy.

As these events are designed to do, it drew supporters, opponents, and undecideds, and Perry seemed to score his biggest applause on his standard line that he, “will work to make Washington as inconsequential as possible.” One Romney supporter I spoke with said that the crowd – about 120 people – was about the right size for a top-tier candidate event at this point in the cycle.

So presented here, for the record, is the current version of his stump speech.




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Maes Endorsers Begin to Stampede?

On the heels of Hank Brown’s withdrawal of his endorsement yesterday, John Andrews issued this statement this morning:

This morning I called Dan Maes to withdraw my endorsement and urge him to end his candidacy, for the public good.  As a conscientious Republican who earlier voted for Dan, I cannot support a manifestly unfit nominee.  He has flunked his job interview with the people of Colorado in the weeks since Scott McInnis faded.  The party should cut Maes loose if he does not resign the nomination.  I intend to write in a vote for Jane Norton for Governor.

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Forcing The Issue

This afternoon, Tom Tancredo issued the following statement to the press:

Events of the past two weeks have developed in such a way as to create an unprecedented situation in the race for Governor of Colorado. The two candidates vying for the Republican nomination have, in my opinion, lost any hope of carrying out a successful campaign.

This situation is unacceptable to me, and I am sure, to thousands of other Colorado Republicans, Independents and other Colorado voters whose hopes for a change to a smaller and fiscally responsible government in Colorado in November now seem dashed.

To achieve this goal the winner of the August Republican primary must step down and allow the Party to appoint a viable replacement candidate to face John Hickenlooper and the Obama-Pelosi smear machine. It is up to the Party to pick that replacement except that it is imperative he or she be a solid conservative with a chance to win the general election in November.

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Straw Polls

As part of the caucus process this year, both Democrats and Republicans in Colorado included a non-binding straw poll, essentially a test of grass roots strength among the candidates. Not surprisingly, the activitst-friendly candidates did well. Andrew Romanoff took about 50% of the vote to Senator Bennet’s 41% on the Democratic side. For the Republicans, Dan Maes got 40% of the vote to Scott McInnis’s 60%, which will probably be interpretes as a win for Maes, and Ken Buck barely edged out Jane Norton by 25 votes, which will certainly be considered a win for him.

How much does it matter? It’s hard to say. On the Democrat side, it may help boost Romanoff’s heretofore anemic fundraising. I have no insight as to whether or not folks were electing delegates based on their Senate preferances, though. For the Republicans, I suspect there’s a strong correlation between not supporting Jane Norton and supporting Dan Maes. This matters, because for the most part, people didn’t have to choose between delegates for Senate and delegates for Governor. It means that if Maes decided to continue on after convention (assuming he can’t make up the difference), he’ll go in as an underdog, but not a massive one. And it says that McInnis still faces significant discontent within his own party.

This suggests that the Colorado governor’s race is beginning to look a little like last year’s Presidential race. Hickenlooper is playing the part of Obama, positioning himself as a reasonable moderate, atlhough he’s actually quite liberal. McInnis is playing the part of McCain, the presumptive nominee that the party really doesn’t quite buy as being conservative enough. For all his harping on “unity,” McInnis is going to find that line increasingly irrelevant. And Dan Maes is playing the role of The Field: in addition to his own support, he’s picking up the protest vote against McInnis.

This doesn’t mean that things will play out the same way at all. Obama was running with a favorable political environment, Hickenlooper has to overcome the current distrust of the Democrats. McInnis is certainly more conservative than McCain. And Maes is a single individual, meaning that someone who votes for him is less likely to switch to McInnis down the line, if there’s a primary.

As for the Senate race, Tom Wiens and Cleve Tidwell were both banking on a strong showing at caucus, and didn’t get it. Fairly or unfairly, the race really narrows down to two candidates, and the question is whether or not, at or after state convention, Wiens’s and Tidwell’s supporters will split up or coalesce behind Buck. And while Norton has worked hard to court the activists and the Tea Partiers, it may not be enough this year.

Of course, there’s no real precedent for correlating straw poll support with election performance. In 2008, the only straw poll was at the presidential level, and Romney, the winner in Colorado, dropped out a few days later. The straw poll results will almost certainly correlate more strongly with County Assembly results – and thus with State Convention results – than with the broader party electorate in a primary. And a lot can happen at County. A disciplined voting bloc can win a disproportionate number of delegates.

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Ritter Withdraws

Governor Bill Ritter will not seek re-election.  The stead dripdripdrip of bad news seems to have driven him from the race.

It seems as though at least two of these stories are connected, with the possibility that Ritter was using his personal cellphone for state business, and then shielding that usage from public scrutiny in order to hide his affair.  Of course, it could also be that he’s not enjoying the job, isn’t very good at it, and has had enough.  We’ll know more tomorrow.

From the Republican side, the assumption is that CoDA has already named his successor in the race, and that it will be either for House Speaker Andrew Romanoff or Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, both of whom have fairly high positives and a campaign base to draw from in heavily-Democrat Denver.  Ross Kaminsky analyzes the options here.  It’s a good piece, but I think he gives Romanoff too little credit, and Hickenlooper too much.

Romanoff is already a statewide figure, with connections on the western slope and down south that Hickenlooper doesn’t really have.  He was in the process of running a statewide race, and now won’t have the sitgma of attacking a sitting Democrat.  On the other hand, he’s been running to Bennet’s left in this race, and now owns those positions, which might undermine his reputation as a moderate consensus-builder.  And he was the father of the failed Amendment 59, which would have gutted the Taxpayer Bill of Rights to fund the Teachers Unions.

Hickenlooper, on the other hand, has a Denver handicap that Romanoff has already overcome.  Denver doesn’t scale well to the rest of the state.  It bears roughly the same relationship to the eastern plains, the high country, and the western slope that NYC has to upstate and Long Island – people don’t much trust Denver.  They may well vote against a Denver mayor more quickly.  There’s a reason that Colorado governors come from the legislature, and not from the Denver mayor’s office.

Denver mayors have more power than Colorado governors when it comes to budgeting, which might actually strengthen the argument for a fiscally conservative Republican legislature, in a year when there are any number of already-vulnerable Dems.  Denver isn’t a basket-case, to be sure.  But it has benefitted greatly from the Democrats’ car tax in order to stay sane.  If Hickenlooper is the nominee, Republican City Councilman Jeanne Fatz will probably become veyr popular very quickly as a speaker on hidden lunacy in Denver’s budget.  And Denver’s share of the Stimulus Money will also come under closer scrutiny.

There’s an assumption that either Romanoff or Hickenlooper would make things harder on a Denver Republican party struggling to recover from years of decline.  But if Hickenlooper is the nominee, the focus on his record from the McInnis campaign may actually end up helping us out.

So my money’s on CoDA nominating their old bag man, Romanoff.

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Lt. Governor Penry?

Since this possibility has been raised, I think maybe some ideas from outside might be helpful to avoid groupthink.

In my opinion, this move carries significant political risk, and will not likely achieve its intended objective.

Josh Penry as Lt. Gov won’t placate the Tea Party people. It may well infuriate them even more. It won’t raise McInnis’s standing any, and they might well label Penry as a sell-out, based on a fairly pedestrian career move.  He’ll be passing up staying in the state Senate where he could have held McInnis to his promises, for an opportunity to run interference for him. And it will totally freeze out Dan Maes, who at this point is their only opportunity cast a vote before everything’s decided.

Ironically, Jane Norton’s candidacy probably hurts this decision’s effectiveness, as one of her main liabilities is her tie to Referendum C & D. If she had no choice but to support them, then Penry will have no choice but to support McInnis, who hasn’t yet proven anything about himself to the Tea Partiers.

From Penry’s point of view (and the party’s, I think) it’s a waste of his talents. Go back and look at a list of lieutenant governors. Yes, Gail Schoettler came within a thousand votes or so of making something from the office. But other than that, you have to go back to McNichols and 1956, 52 years, to find anyone who got elected to high office from being #2. McInnis ought to know that better than anyone, since Mike Callihan failed against him for Congress after being Lt. Governor.

In fact, Lt. Governor has been pretty much an unmitigated stepping-stone to obscurity.  Nancy Dick lost to Bill Armstrong for Senate.  Mike Callihan lost to McInnis.  Schoettler lost to Bill Owens, and Joe Rogers placed out of the money in the Republican primary in the 7th Congressional District’s inaugural run. So if Penry just sacrificed a gubernatorial run in order to preserve that bright career, he may be on the verge of tossing that away, too.

I realize it’s easy to carp from the outside.  But it’s also sometimes easier to see that what looks like a really good idea based on traditional politics probably isn’t as hot as it sounds.

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Sean Duffy Interview

Earlier this week, I sat down with the Sean Duffy, the Communications Director for the Scott McInnis for Governor campaign. We discussed a number of issues, from state budget issues and small business, to his sometimes contentious relationship with the Tea Party movement.

I post the interview here, without my own editorial comment, but soliciting your own.

Platform for Prosperity
Fox News & the Tea Parties
Outreach to the Tea Parties
Impressions of the Tea Parties
Federal Encroachment
Stimulus Money
State Revenues
The Car Tax
Small Business
Health Insurance
Comprehensive Budget Plan

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The Prospects of the Platform for Prosperity

Quite good, actually.  The platform is a smart one.  Sticks to fiscal issues and personal liberty, in an election where those issues will come to the fore.  It’s a platform that I can endorse wholeheartedly and without reservation.

Still, there’s the issue of the messenger:

But Nikki Mata, a conservative activist in suburban Denver, said that such a strategy misses the point of the tea-party movement. Endorsements and platforms matter less to her and her fellow activists, she said, than their gut feelings about whether a candidate would shake things up — or would cave in to the establishment.

Ben and Michael have already hit this, but there’s more to be said here.

I like Nikki a lot; she and Lori Horn hatched the R Block Party in the wake of last year’s debacle, and it’s one of the highest-profile, best-attended activist groups in the area.

McInnis needs not to underestimate the amount of work he has to do here. Republicans have not forgotten the damage done to the party’s core values by Bill Owens’s support for Referendum C.  McInnis already finds himself defending his “clarifications” on the massively unpopular FASTER car tax.  Asking Republicans to push those doubts aside in the name of “unity” is likely to ring hollow.  That McInnis currently holds no office works against him with this group in two ways: first, he has no chance to demonstrate his credibility now, and second, he held office during that period when Republicans lost their way.  He’ll have to show that he wasn’t part of that herd.

If not persuaded – and it behooves them to be persuadable – , Sondermann is half-right.  They have no place to go, but home.

I hope that McInnis realizes that simply putting out a platform – under pressure from wanting Josh Penry’s endorsement and the threat of a Tom Tancredo candidacy – isn’t by itself going to satisfy those who are looking for someone who truly believes.  So far, I haven’t seen much evidence of this, but it’s possible that with the nomination apparently in hand, McInnis can now turn his hardball tactics towards Ritter, and genuinely reach out to the activists.

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