Why Colorado didn’t follow GOP tide in its top two races

It’s not too much of a stretch to say that on Nov. 2, the people spoke and large numbers of the liberal tribe were voted off the island. I use the term island not for a hip, pop-culture reference (well, a little bit) but because when one glances at a color-coded map of the United States with results for congressional races, one notes a sea of conservative red, stubbornly populated by small island fortresses of liberal blue.

The Democrats have become what they had hoped for Republicans — a largely regional party, clinging to scattered areas of the country, awash in a hostile political sea.

In observing the location of these fortresses, we see they cluster mostly around large cities and the coastlines — spots vastly overrepresented among the economically failing and spendthrift shrines to the fatted calves of big government and high taxation.

It’s not hard to see how many might arrive at the conclusion that we are seeing the broad strokes of a society described by Ayn Rand in her novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” with much of the country working as producers while others rely — as Blanche Dubois did in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” — upon the kindness of strangers. Perhaps in this case, they rely on the producing portions of the country that do not eat more than they grow.

Colorado resembles this scenario as the mostly red state surrounds the clenched fists of the Denver/ Boulder corridor, which bravely battle the forces of financial responsibility.

But if this is the case, what happened to the top two races in Colorado during an election that featured a national change of power in favor of conservative and Republican candidates unequaled since 1938?

More galling, Republican candidates captured over 680 seats in state legislatures, the most in modern times, and won 23 of the 37 governorships up for election, while not losing a single incumbent.

Republicans even elected governors in the surrounding states of Wyoming, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas.

The failure in Colorado’s gubernatorial race can be explained to some extent as a wild comedy of errors resulting in a Republican nominee who was unelectable at any speed and a rising third-party candidate with no political infrastructure to support his candidacy.

A more detailed understanding of how this might happen can be seen by watching the musical comedy, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

The Senate race is more problematic — especially as one examines the numbers.

Republican nominee Ken Buck was the district attorney of Weld County, but the Weld County election results for the Senate race show Buck surprisingly only carried his home county with 57 percent of the vote. He won Mesa County, all the way across the state, with 59 percent of the vote.

Is Weld a tough county for Republicans? Not for others, who were hardly regular residents. Republican candidates for secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general (all statewide winners) finished with larger margins.

Cory Gardner, the winning Republican 4th District congressional candidate, who is from Yuma County, also carried Weld County with slightly more votes than Buck. In neighboring Larimer County, Buck lost to Bennet, but all three down-ticket statewide offices went Republican and by noticeably larger margins than Bennet bested Buck.

Weak candidate, destructive primary or a last gasp of superior Democratic infrastructure?

It does seem Buck had a problem with likability among women voters, which was not helped by his seemingly dismissive comment about not wearing high heels during his primary with Jane Norton.

A nice guy in person, Buck came across as distant during the campaign, and in a close race the other side fills in the blank spot with all sorts of implications, pounded in with tens of millions of advertising dollars.

I, however, put more responsibility on the decision by the Norton campaign to not go to the Republican state assembly and instead petition onto the ballot. Once that happened, fractures developed among supporters of each candidate and a valuable forum to test and debate positions disappeared. Lines were crossed and feelings hurt that should never have been an issue and, with no head-to-head test of power, the candidates clawed at one another in the darkness until Colorado’s late primary.

They both won: The other candidate didn’t get to be senator.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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