On tap: interesting and challenging year for Congressman Scott Tipton
“I don’t mind what Congress does, as long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses.” — Victor Hugo.
Pity our poor Congressman Scott Tipton. Seems he took it from both sides at his town hall meeting last Friday here in Grand Junction because of public dissatisfaction over the recent federal-government shutdown that was led by GOP House members, including Tipton.
According to Tipton, his vote to end the shutdown was driven by political and constitutional realities and the fact that “the tactic was not working.” Too bad he didn’t recognize that earlier, before GOP stubbornness prompted the shutdown of national parks and monuments, affected commercial logging on public lands, raised concerns among veterans and others about benefit payments and otherwise impacted his constituents.
No matter which poll you choose, the Republican “brand” has declined significantly because of the obstinacy of Tipton and his fellow House Republicans. Both parties have been hurt, but every single poll conducted during and after the shutdown has shown the GOP to have suffered more than Democrats or President Barack Obama.
There are a couple of other surveys that might concern Tipton and his supporters.
One, released last week, shows 77 percent of sampled voters in the 3rd Congressional District support the sort of immigration reform advanced by the Senate and opposed by the House majority, including Tipton. That puts him at odds with agricultural and resort employers in his district, both Republican and Democrat. Straying from the House GOP line would cause problems with the more conservative chunk of his base, as did his vote to end the shutdown.
Then there’s the survey released early last week by Public Policy Polling, pegging Tipton’s approval rating in his district at 28 percent, with 51 percent of the constituents surveyed saying they disapprove of his performance as their congressman. More than half of those polled thought the shutdown was bad and would make it less likely they’d vote for him. Fifty percent of those surveyed would support a “generic” Democrat.
The immigration poll was conducted for supporters of reform and Public Policy Polling did its survey for left-leaning MoveOn.org. But when you dig into questions posed, they were very straightforward, in no way a “push poll.”
It’s also way too early for anti-Tipton folks to celebrate.
The next congressional election is a year away. Much can happen, good and bad, for Tipton during that time, and other polls in coming months will gauge the impacts. And, as politicians reliably say, the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day.
Also a factor is the truism that you can’t beat somebody with nobody. There’ll be no generic Democrat on the ballot hoping to cash in on that 50 percent support found by Public Policy Polling. It’ll have to be a real flesh-and-blood Dem, and, so far, no one’s stepped up.
If there’s to be a serious effort mounted by Democrats, they need a competitive candidate or two to throw their hats in the ring in the next couple of months. Andrew Romanoff already has Mike Coffman running scared in suburban Denver’s newly-competitive 6th District. It’ll take that kind of concerted effort, and fundraising, by a name candidate in the 3rd.
There’ll also be other Tipton town hall meetings in the next 12 months, sessions where he’s predictably challenged by Democrats but has a choice to make regarding criticism from his fellow Republicans.
He can continue to toe the far right-Tea Party line and accept the negative image of those who prefer political posturing over actual governing. Or he can listen to folks like Olathe Sweet corn producer John Harold up in Olathe or Mesa County’s own Talbot family and move toward the middle on immigration reform.
He can be in the majority on 40 more futile House votes to repeal Obamacare, or he can follow the lead of eight GOP governors and the health care providers and insurers in his own district who are working hard toward implementation.
He can regurgitate conservative talking points or seek bipartisan compromise in upcoming budget and debt limit talks.
We’ll see how his choices play out next year.