Archive for December 21st, 2010

Did Colorado Republicans Really Outperform Democrats?

Since the election, Colorado Republican Chairman Dick Wadhams, who has still officially not announced for re-election, has been regularly sending out emails defending his and the state party’s performance during the campaign season.  In particular, he has addressed two issues that are not always clearly understood: vetting, and the role of the party’s turnout operations.  I’ll save vetting for another post, because there are some worrisome signs that the Old Bulls of the party have learned nothing from this cycle, and it deserves a separate treatment.  For the moment, let’s talk about turnout operations.

Now, before I start, I want to make it clear that I’m not here to defend or attack Dick’s overall performance as party chairman.  Dick was personally very supportive during my 2008 run, and financially supportive at the beginning of the 2010 campaign.  It’s for that reason among others that I want to stay clear of personalities.  He’s more than capable of speaking for himself and defending his own record with its considerable accomplishment.  He doesn’t need me to do that.

Now Dick’s answer to the question I pose in the title is a resounding, “Yes!”  He points to the large edge that Republicans had in turnout.  In a state with about as many registered Dems as Republicans, many more Republicans turned out to vote.  Dick would argue that that turnout edge may not have been enough to save Ken Buck, but did provide the edge in the other statewide races, and took back the State House of Representatives. He draws a line – traditionally correct – between the party’s job to turn out its voters and the candidate’s job to persuade unaffiliated voters.

And by that standard, the party succeeded and the candidates – all of them, except for John Suthers – failed.  Because the only way you get a 100,000 vote edge in turnout and win by substantially less than that is if the unaffiliated voters turn against you.  In this case, they turn against you radically and decisively in a way that’s not predicted in any poll leading up to the election.

I believe that the Democrat turnout effort was focused not only on registered Democrats, but also on Democrat-voting unaffiliated voters.  That the Left – not just the Democrat party – has done a better job of identifying, contacting, engaging, and recruiting those unaffiliated voters who lean their way than we have, while we are content with robocalls to right-leanings U’s in the weeks leading up to the election.  I believe that their focus on social networking and social media, both on their own sites and on larger social networking sites, has helped them identify these voters.

It is also true that, for the moment, the Democrats can call on the foot soldiers of the labor unions to go walk precincts on Election Day, which provides them with an advantage in that regard.  But this is not new, and there is no reason we can’t develop our own sources of manpower.

What I am seeing from the State party is a lack of constructive self-criticism, instead focusing on what went well, rather than on how the game has changed and what the proper responses to it are.  The Republicans are playing checkers, and the Democrats are playing three-dimensional chess, and we had better hope that the answer to the above question is a decisive, “No.”  Otherwise, we have pretty much lost the middle permanently, and are looking not at the middle of a comeback, but at a high-water mark.  I don’t believe that’s true; there’s almost no polling that supports that thesis.  But we’ve probably come as far as we can with the old model of how things work.

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