‘We the people’ and our mixed messages

“It doesn’t matter if they knock down the wall when they vote for you or hold their nose. It all counts the same.” – Richard Nixon

Whether you went to the polls enthusiastically last Tuesday or made a “clothespin vote” or two while pinching your nose closed, we’re probably all happy to have the 2010 election over with and reclaim our televisions and telephones.

Personally, I’m most grateful to reclaim my computer after just five days off hunting in the week before the election, I deleted almost 100 campaign e-mails while sitting in a Gunnison coffee shop the Wednesday before the election. That and knowing Bonnie and I can look forward to a couple of nights of fine dining courtesy of one of my Republican friends after winning bets on the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

As with other competitions where scores are tallied, there were winners and losers. Here’s my take on what happened a week ago today.

Winners obviously included Governor-elect John Hickenlooper, Sen. Michael Bennet, and our incoming congressman, Scott Tipton. It’s easy to place their opponents on the losing side of the ledger, alongside the Colorado GOP, local and state versions of the Tea Party, and other candidates such as soon-to-be former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher.

Hickenlooper may not only be the luckiest statewide candidate in quite a while, courtesy of self- destructive tendencies of Republicans and their tea party allies. He may also be the perfect governor to deal with a divided state legislature. If you’ve watched Hickenlooper govern as mayor of Denver, you know his modus operandi is collaboration, which bodes well for his dealings with a state House of Representatives that went to GOP control by the narrowest of margins.

For Bennet, the major benefit of his narrow win over Ken Buck is the ability to walk away from the “appointed senator” tag. “We the people” of Colorado have now chosen him to represent us for the next six years. He’ll now have a full term to bring his vision of change to Washington and winning election in his own right should put his already rising star in a sharper upward trajectory to the benefit of his Colorado constituents.

Part of the blame for John Salazar’s loss can be assigned to the general grumpiness of the electorate this cycle. But a good chunk of his problem may have been taking Scott Tipton too lightly and assuming another easy campaign a la 2006. By the time the Salazar camp realized it was in trouble and brought in additional help around August, reinforcements came too late. Over reaching negative advertising also irritated centrist 3 CD voters. Now we’ll see what kind of Congressman Tipton will be.

The GOP and its tea-party wing are inextricably linked in the loser’s category. As 2010 began, it was hard to avoid the expectation that we’d be inaugurating a Republican governor in January of 2011. Despite notable accomplishments, Bill Ritter was beset with budget difficulties and a down economy. His ineptness in managing relationships with a supposedly friendly Dem-dominated legislature wasn’t helping. Leave it to Dick Wadhams and the state GOP hierarchy to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, albeit with a nudge from Hickenlooper, the most formidable candidate Democrats could have nominated.

For all the noise it generated, the tea party is left with little to celebrate in Colorado. Dan Maes became a laughingstock even some tea sippers shunned at the end. Ken Buck mounted a credible campaign but was fatally wounded by the need to cater to his party’s right wing in order to beat Jane Norton in the primary. Tipton crushed Bob McConnell in the August primary. The “Ugly 3” amendments were defeated 2-1. In summary, the tea party provided great political theater and little else.

Chalk up Bernie Buescher’s loss to election law violator Scott Gessler and Treasurer Cary Kennedy’s loss to a couple of phenomena peculiar to down ballot statewide races. That’d be GOP voters who voted for Hickenlooper and perhaps Bennet feeling a need to “go home” in those contests featuring lesser known candidates and unaffiliated voters looking to those races to strike a balance on their ballots.

All in all, Colorado is still a purple state rather than a red or blue one.

Jim Spehar looks forward to writing about something other than politics next Tuesday. Your suggestions are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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