Pundits don’t understand Colorado, can’t explain its drift to the right
There’s much consternation among the national keyboard-tapping class who stare moodily westward through their smog-filled skies and wonder what happened to Colorado’s leftward drift.
Some confusion comes from an essential misunderstanding of Coloradans. Many of the people who write about us think spending a ski holiday in Vail for their daughter’s winter break from Brown University qualifies them as sages on Colorado values. Like a romance-novel character, we’re complicated and misunderstood.
Alarms have sounded since the recalls of two state senators over their gun-control votes and the crushing defeat of Amendment 66. That is the rejected tax measure, with its liberal valentine of higher and progressive tax rates, unaccountable spending and centralization of education responsibilities in Denver.
Democrats, who hold the state Senate by only one vote, now have to contend with a recall effort to remove Westminster Sen. Evie Hudak for the same reasons the first two senators were recalled. The difference is, Denver-area Democrats are trying to disrupt the signature-gathering portion of the effort rather than just wait for a recall and then outspend everyone.
In Hudak’s district, the signature gathering is made difficult by the high number of signatures required, since her re-election took place during a presidential year when more votes are typically cast than in off-year elections. That vote determines the number of signatures necessary for a recall petition.
Also, Democrats are much less confident in defeating the effort at the ballot box after two successful recalls.
Furthermore, the outspending piece in recent elections was not as productive for Democrats as in the past. Supporters of Amendment 66 outspent opponents 500 to 1, with a $10 million campaign financed largely by out-of-state oligarchs. But the supporters were never really in the fight. Bell rang — instant knockout.
In other troubling news, school board races in Denver, Jefferson and Douglas counties, which were closely watched and heavily funded by unions and other progressive organizations, were swept by conservative reform slates.
Don’t let all of this make you believe money doesn’t matter a lot in elections. With so many voters already in hardened positions on issues and candidates, the slippery 15 percent to 20 percent who haven’t made up their minds or paid the slightest bit of attention to anything but still may vote, are the group everyone’s looking for at the polls.
Money, enthusiasm and ignorance are the real operational watchwords of political campaigns.
One locates voters apathetic or uninformed on issues and then uses money to lobby them — usually by advertising frightening non-realities or convincing class-warfare messages.
The reason big money didn’t work in some of Colorado’s latest races was because voters were already well educated on the issues and enthusiastic to make a difference on a topic they understood and wanted changed.
Nervous Nellies for the 2014 election are Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.
Hickenlooper is the most vulnerable, despite what Front Range newspapers would have you believe. His support is seldom above 51 percent in polls, and now, thanks to his missteps on guns, the death penalty and Amendment 66, he is in some trouble. According to a Quinnipiac University poll published by the National Journal, his approval rating is an anemic 48 percent, with a plurality of voters thinking he does not deserve re-election.
This has forced him into the dangerous area of supporting fracking to try and win back some centrist support, but this makes it tough with environmental-group members, who spend a lot of time making sure their electric cars don’t catch fire.
Udall, also up for re-election, should be concerned about being among senators referred to by The Wall Street Journal as the “Obamacare Dozen,” who helped drag the legislation across the finish line on Christmas Eve four years ago.
He has $4 million already in his war chest and, like Hickenlooper, hasn’t been presented with a strong contender from Republicans yet. Both men are likely nervous but not yet threatened.
That could still change. So, I predict in the next few months we’ll see our governor guzzling more fracking fluid and thoughtfully visiting drilling rigs. He’ll probably be accompanied by Udall in bib overalls and a Stetson. They don’t get us either.
Rick Wagner writes more on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.