Schrager and Witwer’s “Blueprint” a Worthy Read

We’re getting acquainted with the new book from 9NEWS political reporter Adam Schrager, co-authored by former GOP Rep. Rob Witwer, “The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care).” In stores now, it’s a revealing look at key players behind the Democratic Party’s string of Colorado electoral victories beginning in 2004. The Denver Post ran an excerpt over the weekend:

For the year prior, multimillionaires Jared Polis, Pat Stryker, Tim Gill and Rutt Bridges had been gearing up to get involved in legislative elections. They held parallel conversations, each trying to find the best way to make a difference. In 2003, Al Yates and Stryker reached out to Polis and Bridges. In April 2004, Yates met with (lobbyist Ted) Trimpa for a lunch that established the connection between Stryker and Gill. One month later, Yates and Stryker took Stryker’s private jet to meet with Gill at his Aspen home, where they discussed transforming Colorado politics. Afterward, Yates, Bridges and Polis met in Fort Collins over dinner.

In time, isolated one-on-one conversations became group meetings involving more players with more access to resources.

Everyone wanted to knock out the Republican monopoly at the Capitol. To that end, Bridges, Gill, Polis and Stryker – who would be dubbed the “Gang of Four” by the Colorado press – agreed to pool their resources in pursuit of that objective. By the summer of 2004, they were ready to give money on a level never before seen in Colorado politics…

That summer, the group began to gather for regular weekly meetings in the Columbine Room [of the Colorado Education Association]. Joining them were Trimpa and Yates (who represented Gill and Stryker, respectively); progressive attorney and activist Michael Huttner; Bridges and Polis; state House assistant minority leader Alice Madden; Colorado Senate minority leader Joan Fitz-Gerald; and staff members and field coordinators Brandon Hall, Jill Hanauer, Anne Barkis, Paul Lhevine, and Tyler Chafee.

And so the Roundtable was born.

None of the participants remembers an “ah-ha” moment, no specific meeting where it all came together. When they started communicating, they had no clue what kind of an impact they could have.

“We really didn’t truly know how big this would become,” said Polis. “Clearly, when we started, we had no idea. I didn’t know this would have great historical significance, nor did anybody there, that we would transform Colorado. ‘Let’s get together and maybe we can flip the state Senate,’ that’s what we were thinking.”

Three elections later, with Democrats in control of the state legislature, governor’s office, both U.S. Senate seats, 5 of 7 House seats, every statewide elected office except for Attorney General–we’d say the historical significance question is settled.

Here’s another quote from Blueprint, that we think might sum up the role of “The Four Horsemen,” as they’re called disdainfully by bruised Republicans–from the horse’s mouth, page 199:

“Republicans don’t have principled, egoless financial leaders like Tim Gill and Pat Stryker who are willing to provide long-term investments,” [Jon Caldara] said.

Jon Caldara would know, since in many ways the “Colorado Model’s” initial inspiration, though it’s grown well beyond by now, was Caldara’s own Independence Institute, and the dominance the GOP itself enjoyed for years in Colorado prior to 2004. The key theme we see in Blueprint, which helps explain what Schrager and Witwer mean by “Why Republicans Should Care,” is the level of organization and professionalism (evinced by an absence of purity tests or friendly fire in general) among Democratic-aligned groups, thanks to the patient management of former CSU President Al Yates and attorney Ted Trimpa–versus a Republican apparatus that was plagued by infighting, dependent on wedge issues to rally the base, and above all, out of touch with voters.

Obviously much has changed beween the spring of 2004 and the present, and some of the dynamics that enabled Democrats to prevail in Colorado in election after election have shifted as an ipso facto consequence of majority power–but Blueprint provides a thoughtful examination of how Democrats got to the point of having something to lose to begin with.

33 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JeffcoDemoJeffcoDemo says:

    “Joining them were Trimpa and Yates (who represented Gill and Stryker, respectively); progressive attorney and activist Michael Huttner; Bridges and Polis; state House assistant minority leader Alice Madden; Colorado Senate minority leader Joan Fitz-Gerald; and staff members and field coordinators Brandon Hall, Jill Hanauer, Anne Barkis, Paul Lhevine, and Tyler Chafee.”

    Ummm, they missed somebody, Candidate Romanoff told me this weekend that he was responsible for leading the change from red to blue in 04.  Actually I’ve heard him take credit for this a number of times.

    Is it too late to edit the book?

    • redstateblues says:

      That summer, the group began to gather for regular weekly meetings in the Columbine Room…

      …And so the Roundtable was born.

      Are you saying Romanoff was a member of this group? I wasn’t politically active back then, so I don’t know for sure. Something tells me Schrager and Witwer probably checked on those facts.

      Romanoff played a role in turning Colorado blue, but don’t castigate the authors of the book for no reason other than to score some cheap political points.

      • Earnest says:

        JeffcoDemo’s comment was tongue in cheek.  But I may be wrong.

        • JeffcoDemoJeffcoDemo says:

          I was quite serious, about Romanoff mentioning it again in his speech at the county assembly.

          Not so serious about the authors editing the book.

          • Earnest says:

            I thought if you were serious about the book part, you wouldn’t have presented Romanoff’s behavior as so clownish.

            • JeffcoDemoJeffcoDemo says:

              He was mentioned twice in the book.  Once in 03, going along with Madden to visit Mrs. Styrker to present a plan to capture the house.  The second mention wrote about him and Madden putting a plan together to defend the house shortly after taking control in 04.

              From reading the book, it really seems like Madden was the one driving the plan, the one who lead the charge to flip the state house.  Which is weird, because I would swear AR said it was him this past weekend: )

              • RedGreenRedGreen says:

                It’s reasonable to infer he delegated some of the meetings to her, isn’t it?

                But you’re right, if that’s the extent of Romanoff’s appearances in the book, it raises the question whether he was as central to things as he’s portrayed.

                • JeffcoDemoJeffcoDemo says:

                  Madden was the one at the roundtable meetings.  I have no doubt that AR knew what was going and had a hand in putting together the plan.  But the leader as he has been touting, no, at least not the way portrayed in this book.

        • redstateblues says:

          Maybe I should try reading.

      • harrydobyharrydoby says:

        I think the “Romanoff responsible for turning Colorado Blue” meme really got legs around 2008 during the Amendment 59 campaign.

        I don’t doubt that Romanoff made a significant contribution as well. But the list of players looks pretty comprehensive.  If Assistant House Minority Leader Alice Madden was there, it could be inferred that she was there at Romanoff’s behest.

        But we may be seeing a little resume puffery as well, which in an election year, isn’t unheard of.

        Definitely would like to hear Adam Schrager chime in about the apparent omission, if any.

        • harrydobyharrydoby says:

          This part of the story is about the 2003 run up to the 2004 elections. Romanoff wasn’t Speaker until after the 2004 elections.  So his name not being there may not be that much of a surprise.

          2006 elections would be a different story altogether.  No doubt he really played a major role there.  But I’ve only read the excerpt from the Post, and don’t have all the details.

  2. Earnest says:

    Caldara labels you “principled”?

  3. Ellie says:

    that funded Amendment 41 in 2006 that Polis admitted had unintended consequences?  

  4. GOPwarrior says:

    Yes it has, Pols. In four years we’ll be talking about the “Colorado Model” again, just OURS not YOURS!

    Ipso facto? Go right on whistling past that graveyard!

  5. parsingreality says:

    “They, they, they used their own money!”

    Surely a new concept to Republicans, rich party members funding campaigns.  Surely…..

  6. Thanks for the post. Researching the book was eye-opening and the candor shared by those on the ground was fascinating. Speaker Romanoff is mentioned in the book in a couple different areas. He certainly played a role strategizing initially for the ’04 campaign, recruiting candidates and raising money, but the day-to-day Roundtable activities for the State House candidates were run by Alice Madden. If you all read the book and have further questions, I’m sure Rob and I would love to answer them some day. Thanks again for mentioning the book. We sought to let the people involved tell a story with national political implications and to allow the analysis/interpretation to take place in venues/formats like this. Hopefully, if you read it, you’ll agree.  

  7. Republican 36 says:

    as a former Republican activist one item is very important. The Democrats deserve great credit for organizing and funding a great comeback from the wilderness but the reason they were able to accomplish so much over so short a period of time rests in the fact that beginning in the early 1990’s the Republican Party left its flank wide open by moving so far to the right it no longer represented a majority point of view. By 2004, with funding and a message, the Democrats could rightfully characterize the Republicans in Colorado as far right fanatics. The Republicans did that to themselves. They are still out there on the far right flank, still trying to orchestrate a comeback by demanding that anyone who wants to be in the party must pass every litmus test 100% of the time. Until that silliness ends, they will remain in the wilderness.

    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      They assume that control is permanent and those out on the wings then figure that they can require intellectual purity and still maintain control.

      Usually once a party loses power, they go back to trying to be all encompassing. For some reason the GOP thinks that is not necessary. A couple more losses and they’ll figure it out.

  8. Republican 36, that ingredient is in there and frankly, is one of the more interesting parts of the book in my opinion. As former Senate Majority Leader Norma Anderson told us, “Republicans have forgotten that politics is a game of addition, not subtraction.”  

    • DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

      The AFL-CIO took advantage of a loophole in campaign finance law allowing labor unions to raise up to $50 per year from each of their members into “small donor committees” – which were, in turn, allowed to give 10 times more in hard money contributions (i.e., direct donations) to candidates than any other donor.

      This reads very slanted against unions to me, unless the laws have changed recently.

      If my current understanding applies to 2003, Small Donor Comittees are not limited to unions.  Any non-profit can solicit memberships in their SDC, and pool the finances this way.  It’s not a loophole, it’s campaign finance law.  Smart organizations know the law and use it to their advantage.

    • Republican 36 says:

      I’m glad you covered that aspect. I certainly will purchase a copy. I lived through that period as a Republican activist who gradually, over a long gestation period, soured on the Republican Party.

  9. sandra fish says:

    is here today.

    kudos to Rob and Adam – this book is a great read – i read it on plane trips between Denver and San Francisco and was really captivated. well written and loads of juicy details!

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