Republicans are positioned for a strong Colorado showing in 2010
One thing political developments such as we’ve had over the last couple of weeks do is fill up my e-mail inbox. With the disorienting withdrawal of state Sen. Josh Penry from the gubernatorial campaign recently, my inbox runneth over.
Breaking news of Penry’s exit was awkwardly conveyed. It appears the announcement was to take place in a measured fashion to allow him to speak individually with a few interested parties prior to it becoming public knowledge, but somehow it was leaked to the press in Washington.
The news subsequently ended up in a Washington Post blog and was immediately followed up on by The Daily Sentinel and The Denver Post. The two campaigns involved in the story had to completely revamp plans for the announcement and do long-range damage control.
The awkwardness began and gave rise to the dreaded, “Does anyone know what they’re doing?” question that leads to questions about competency in handling one’s message. Eventually, the roller coaster came to a rest and rumors were confirmed, heads were put together and a consensus was reached. This culminated in Sen. Penry’s endorsement of former Congressman Scott McInnis’s gubernatorial campaign and in former Congressman Tom Tancredo declining to endorse himself as a candidate.
Some have wondered if the delay of an endorsement by Penry and the decision by the quite conservative Tancredo were the result of the McInnis campaign agreeing to sign onto the subsequently launched “Platform for Prosperity,” a pledge outlining fairly conservative principles designed to return the state to fiscal and mental equilibrium. The platform is modeled after the 1994 GOP “Contract for America,” which turned Congress over to Republicans and Bill Clinton over to moderation.
Many have worried that McInnis, without pressure from the conservative Penry, will begin to tack to the left — assuming that without a well-financed challenger on his right he should run to the middle.
That would not be a clever move in this political season. Even in the most mundane of political eras, the chances of covering much ground while riding the fence are slim. I am confident that Scott McInnis is smart enough to not throw his saddle over the split rail and hope to ride it to the governor’s mansion.
Fence mending needs to be done by the McInnis campaign, however, among former Penry supporters — especially conservative independents.
The importance of this cannot be overstated, as statewide Republican candidates wrongly assume they will simply be awarded votes from conservative areas of the Western Slope. In order to win a statewide race, a Republican candidate needs more than passive agreement from conservatives. He or she needs vigorous support.
Furthering Republican gubernatorial hopes in 2010 is a boost from what I refer to as “The Triangle of Doom!”
In the shifting political landscape of Colorado in 2010, the 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts may provide the excitement necessary to spur Republicans and conservative independents to the polls. The three points of the triangle in question lie in Mesa, Pueblo and Larimer Counties.
Third District Congressman John Salazar is seen by Republicans as extremely vulnerable to a strong challenger, which many believe is southwestern Colorado state Rep. Scott Tipton, or even dark-horse candidate Bob Mcconnell of Steamboat Springs.
Congresswoman Betsy Markey in the 4th District, politically centered in Larimer County, who painted herself as an ultra-moderate, won her seat from incumbent Republican Marilyn Musgrave in 2008. Musgrave is an outspoken social conservative who served her Eastern Plains business and agriculture constituents poorly and therefore didn’t have strong support. Markey also benefited from Obama’s coattails, which seem likely to turn to anvils by next November. Presently, a real challenge is being mounted in the 4th District by state Rep. Cory Gardner, a conservative Republican from Yuma.
Meanwhile, Pueblo County has become restive, with a grinding economy even worse than other areas of the state, and a strong showing by a Republican looks increasingly possible. A strong showing in that neck of the woods for a Republican would be in the ballpark of 40 percent of the vote. It would spell real problems for statewide Democratic candidates and almost certain electoral doom for Congressman Salazar.
Here is the math: If a statewide Republican candidate carries 65 percent of the vote in Mesa County, 57 percent in Larimer and 37 percent in Pueblo, with the help of strong congressional candidates, everything changes.