It’s been an active week as the political ‘silly season’ begins

“A week is a long time in politics.”
– Sir Harold Wilson

If you don’t like our weather, the old saying goes, just stick around a while. It’ll change.

The same might be said for Colorado’s political landscape, altered considerably in the last few days.

Jared Wright pulled the plug. Cory Gardner announced he wants to trade his safe Eastern Plains congressional seat for the U.S. Senate, prompting erstwhile senatorial candidate Ken Buck to switch races and seek Gardner’s 4th Congressional District seat. And on Monday, Bob Beauprez officially entered the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Let the pawing and snorting, the prognosticating and pontificating, begin.

Wright saw the writing on the wall with this week’s caucuses pending and withdrew from his bid for re-election in House District 54. Good riddance. ‘Nuff said.

Gardner saw opportunity in looking at what was, at best, a lackluster list of Republican candidates to oppose Mark Udall. Though Buck was the frontrunner, he was seen as a retread after his 2012 loss to appointed and vulnerable incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.

State Sen. Amy Stevens had her own set of intramural problems, including having the tag “Amycare” affixed to the legislation implementing Colorado’s health insurance exchange. Another Colorado Springs legislator, Sen. Owen Hill, gained little, if any, traction in the race, and the candidacy of state. Sen. Randy Baumgartner is, for lack of a better work, laughable.

“Politics is like football,” John. F. Kenney once said. “If you see daylight, go through the hole.”

Gardner, this week, is past the scrimmage line and headed downfield. Whether than means Udall had the worst week in D.C., as the Washington Post opined last Friday, remains to be seen. But he certainly has a more formidable opponent.

Gardner faces the task of convincing middle-of-the-road Colorado voters that the same conservative views that stood him in good stead in a solid-red congressional district will translate into victory statewide in a purple, if not blue, Colorado.

The national GOP brain trust and Republicans in the hinterlands are banking on Obamacare being the albatross for Democrats in 2014.

If a week is a long time in politics, as the quote from Great Britain’s former prime minister at the top of this column allows, then how should we describe the eight months between now and November? And what’s the GOP’s Plan B if the economy continues to improve and if banking on dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act, especially among unaffiliated voters, doesn’t pan out?

Which brings us to “Both Ways Bob,” the one on the right wearing the black hat in that infamous picture from his last gubernatorial campaign, where Beauprez was featured standing next to the south end of a northbound horse.

That imagery spoke for itself in what was generally regarded as an ineffective and gaff-filled campaign by a sitting member of Congress against Bill Ritter, a former Denver district attorney with little statewide name recognition.

Like Gardner, Beauprez would immediately jump to the front of a lackluster field. When the presumed leader of the GOP pack is Secretary of State Scott Gessler and the incumbent Democrat is John Hickenlooper, the old adage that “you can’t beat somebody with nobody” springs to mind.

Colorado Republicans seem to be banking on dissatisfaction with new gun laws, anathema to their far right base but, according to polling, approved by the majority of Coloradans.  That includes not only most Democrats but also increasingly important unaffiliated voters.

They’re also hoping dissatisfaction with Hickenlooper in his own party spells trouble.  But the governor is seeking to dampen some of that, hoping new air quality rules for oil and gas operators will balance what’s otherwise seen as a pro-industry stance in an election year where not one, but possibly two, anti-fracking issues may drive turnout.

With the recent Colorado College “State of the Rockies” poll showing a majority of voters approve some local control of drilling activities, it’s an open question whether voters will support a “Drill, baby, drill” candidate over a “Drill, maybe, drill” incumbent.

And there’s still plenty of time for more change our political landscape.

Jim Spehar has been involved in his share of both local and statewide political campaigns. Your comments are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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