The Agenda

Chrisopher Morton on 2010 as an Electoral Low Point for Colorado Conservatives

Christopher Morton, a reader based in Colorado, kindly agreed to share his thoughts on the Rocky Mountain State’s evolving political landscape:

As a Colorado voter and someone who follows and has been involved with local and state politics the Obama people are really not following the Colorado 2010 races properly. One of the big keys in Colorado is that the politician running for a post has to be acceptable, not merely their positions, but the candidate themselves. The entire situation in Colorado was greatly changed when the Republican governor candidate one Dan Mays, imploded –personally, professionally and politically. The Party worked hard to try and get him to resign but he refused. Mays and the Senate candidate, Ken Buck both were backed by the Tea Party people, with very little review of the candidates – they tacked into the wind of the anti-establishment vibe. Ken Buck defeated in the primaries Gale Norton, who was certainly a career politician and was backed by the establishment. During the primaries Buck managed to even get away with one noted anti-woman comment, which was covered but didn’t bend his support.

The choices of Buck and Mays came about as many of my Republican friends, including those involved in the Tea Party (We have attended things but would not be considered Tea Party people per se) and those in the establishment asked, “Since this is a wave election, since we need to really change things in Washington and Denver, don’t we need to go with true conservatives, the most conservative candidate?  For the first time in 30 years of political following, I saw electability fall from consideration in voters eyes. Rush Limbaugh in 2008 said that you need to support your favourite candidate because no one can tell you who is really electable. That comment I heard a lot in 2010. So we choose Mays and Buck. Mays was so horrible that he dragged down the party state-wide, and may well have cost at least one more House seat and some other races. Note that in the Governor race, with a very pro-business candidate in Jon Hickenlooper (who I am going to bet will be a Presidential candidate in the next decade, he is very good and very acceptable to a lot of people, wish there were more like him in the Dem Party) barely got to 51% and Senate races the Dems did not get to 50%.  In both cases the party ran moderate candidates against Republicans who were quite simply un-electable (or nearly so. Most analyst here believe that Gale Norton wins the Senate race if she had been the candidate, maybe with closer to 55% of the vote given the national mood. But the party decided, and I understand that, to go with the most conservative candidate. In places like Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, Republicans can and should win the vast majority of statewide races. The problem is when we decide to go with deeply conservative candidates that are not going to be acceptable state wide. That happened with us here and Ken Buck, and it clearly happened in Nevada where Harry Reid somehow won.

So the Obama plan to win Colorado based on Michael Bennet and his win is simply a fool’s errand. 

The key question, if Christopher is right, is whether Republicans will nominee a candidate who is sufficiently electable. Barack Obama is assuming that he’s going to run against Ken Buck or Sharron Angle, i.e., a candidate who can be plausibly characterized as a “Tea Party extremist.” It remains to be seen if that will actually come to pass. Like Christopher, I’m skeptical. 

It’s also worth noting that Colorado holds shale oil and gas reserves and the president, as we’ve discussed, believes that now is the time to markedly raise taxes on firms devoted to accessing domestic energy reserves.