McInnis faces tougher contest with Hickenlooper in the race

Scott McInnis’ standing in the polls for the Colorado gubernatorial race pegged him as the frontrunner when his primary-election opponent was Josh Penry and when his general-election opponent was incumbent Gov. Bill Ritter. Now that they are both out of the race and McInnis’ opponent is Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the numbers have taken a plunge.

Polls last week had McInnis four points behind Hickenlooper. Just three months ago, when Ritter was still in the race, McInnis enjoyed an eight-point lead.

When I talk to my conservative friends in Mesa County, they can’t understand that. In fact, they act genuinely astonished at the notion that Scott McInnis could lose an election.

They shouldn’t be surprised at all. They suffer, I fear, from the myopia that afflicts us all when we deal with something or someone we actually know versus someone who is nothing more than a newspaper headline.

We know Scott McInnis. He’s one of us. We see him around town. Of course he will win. Any other outcome is unthinkable. We should know better. So should McInnis and his handlers.

This is not an endorsement of either McInnis or Hickenlooper. It’s merely some observations about what I think may be a failed campaign unless it changes direction quickly. The election is not that far away. And a few thousand people in Mesa County who know McInnis won’t put him in the governor’s mansion.

A friend who watches politics more closely than I do told me last week that the 2010 version of Scott McInnis is not the same as the campaigner of the 1990s. Then he was the happy warrior, glad-handing and back-slapping with the best of them.  He was always a bit of a grandstander, but he wasn’t an angry man. That, my friend said, has changed. Maybe McInnis just reflects the mood of the electorate in 2010. But his style today is to attack, attack, attack. What’s more he seems to be attacking the wrong guy. Has he not heard that Bill Ritter is not running?

When he isn’t berating Democrats, he pounds away at his seemingly one idea: Jobs. And more jobs. But he has yet to tell us in detail just how he proposes to create these mythical jobs.

Just as he failed to tell us how he would have cut the state budget. He had plenty of opportunities to second-guess the cuts Ritter made, and he took advantage of them. He also had plenty of chances to tell us what cuts he would have made. He never did.

There are some broad statements in his “Platform for Prosperity” about reforming government and preventing tax increases, but no specific recommendations for cuts. The closest he came was in a Daily Sentinel story a few months ago, when Penry was still a primary opponent. The most specific idea he had was to bring back a bunch of people who used to run state government, who know how to do things more efficiently. That’s a bad idea on so many levels that it’s not worth serious discussion. Since then, McInnis has said he really won’t know until he’s sitting behind the governor’s desk.

It won’t be long before the Hickenlooper camp puts McInnis on the defensive. Hickenlooper’s resume is substantial. He’s been a highly successful entrepreneur. He’s run a major city. He’s accustomed to managing people and budgets. The state of Colorado is a $7 billion enterprise. It won’t run itself. But McInnis’ executive experience amounts to … nothing.

Last fall McInnis touted his experience. That may have resonated with voters when the likely opponent was Ritter. But 12 years in Congress and a few more as a lobbyist is just the kind of experience that Hickenlooper will chop to pieces. That kind of experience sounds an awful lot like business as usual in a time when more of the same is the last thing voters want. McInnis needs a new message.

Or maybe not. There was a senator from Illinois not long ago who sought higher office. The rap on him was that he had no executive experience.

The difference, though, between Scott McInnis and Barrack Obama is that Obama once lost an election.  McInnis never has.

Denny Herzog is the retired executive editor of The Daily Sentinel. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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