2010’s Top Story: Inside a Broken Wave

Across the country, the 2010 election will be recorded as an historic defeat for the Democratic Party. From the sweeping wins in state legislatures we discussed earlier for the GOP to the biggest loss for Democrats in the U.S. House in many decades, these midterm elections saw the usual trend of a new President’s first midterm going badly for his party magnified, with a few notable exceptions, into a rout.

That the state of Colorado was one of those exceptions is the result of well over a year of hard work by highly dedicated Democratic campaign staff raising funds and chasing ballots, combined with key individual scandals that broke up the Republican ticket just enough for Democrats to pull out something they can call a victory here. That Democrats were able to win in the highest-profile statewide races, namely U.S. Senate and the governor’s race, but lose three other less prominent statewide contests, shows where Democrats were able to stave off through pugnacity and timely investment their “wave” backed opponents–and where they weren’t.

But above all, the GOP in Colorado blew the greatest opportunity for a sweeping victory that they had since they began losing elections here in 2004. For a host of reasons including the ongoing economic recovery, the fading of recent polarizing battles over economic recovery spending and health reform from memory, and an aging, in many cases already-beaten bench of contenders for high office, the Colorado GOP’s best opportunity to start undoing the long-term damage done to its prospects in recent years was this year; and they failed to take advantage.

Reacting desperately to their failure to thrive on the national “wave” that resulted in wipeouts for Democrats all around the nation, Colorado Republicans pushed every chip in the center of the table in 2010, and we believe it’s going to cost them at the polls in future elections. Republicans alienated Latinos, the fastest-growing bloc of voters in the United States, with Tom Tancredo, and women with Ken Buck. Internal strife, fault lines that trace back to the battle over 2005’s Referendum C and even before, racked the party from the earliest stages of the primaries.

Republicans bowed to the extremist “Tea Party” to win primaries and chase the myth of their influence, and they made insane claims and promises that they cannot possibly keep in the process–like Scott Tipton’s “plan” to cut the government in half, and Walker Stapleton’s blatherings about schools “competing with prisons” for funds. They elected some positively crazy new people in the legislature like Kathleen Conti; who are going to feed material to the Democrats for as long as they are in office, and who they may come to regret lending their brand.

2010 served as a powerful validator of the reasons we’ve been giving for years that success has eluded the GOP: in Colorado, Republicans could win; and have won in past elections by running moderate, trustworthy candidates who don’t seek office on a platform of tearing the civic institutions of this state to the ground. But instead, the GOP in this state has veered toward thoughtless ideologues and wedge-issue obsessed embarrassments in recent years, while Democrats have been able to present themselves as responsible (and restrained) leaders who are serious about governing–and protecting the basic things everybody values. Things that will make even the most fickle and impressionable voter stop and think.

Unless that changes–and it hasn’t since Democrats started winning elections in Colorado a little over six years ago, with the GOP only moving farther right in response–the result will not.

30 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bjwilson83 says:

    I’d say things went pretty good for the GOP. We won ALL of the state offices except the senate and governor’s races (one wasn’t a real race, the other was pretty close and Democrats only held on by running the dirtiest, most dishonest campaign in decades), 4 out of 7 congressional seats, and the state house. All in all, it was a good year, and we’re just warming up. As long as Obama is in office, we’ll have no problem winning race after race in the future.

    • AristotleAristotle says:

      “We won all the races except the very most important ones which were decided fairly and honestly.” That’s what you meant to say. You’re welcome.

      • 2008 was actually an excellent Republican year in Colorado too. Unless you count Obama. And Udall. And Markey. And all of those legislative races. But those don’t really count either.

      • droll says:

        So is GOPWhatever.  Using candidates’ words on video is despicable.  When will we bastards learn!

        And the Guv race was dirty, too.  And no fault of the GOP, who nominated an idiot (over a long time political figure who is (gasp!) a cheat) and then supported another idiot creating a third party that will undoubtedly end in a complete Dem takeover in two years (do the math on the races – 2-7% taken away screws the GOP in all but two).  All. the left’s. fault.


        • AristotleAristotle says:

          If the GOP does it, it’s fair.

          If the Dems do the exact same thing, it’s dirty.

          Oh, and don’t forget – when your party bosses tell you that you’re going to support someone other than who you nominated (and in his case, fully supported from the get-go), say “Sir yes sir!” and do it like a good little robot.

    • raymond1 says:

      “We won ALL of the state offices except the senate and governor’s races”

      Translation: “Yay, we Republicans won the three of five that were the much, much less important offices, while you won the two much, much more important ones!”

      Anyone think the Dems would be happier if we had the opposite — Governor Tancredo and Senator Buck, but keeping democratic the secretary of state, ag, and treasurer seats?

      • bjwilson83 says:

        So we only lost one of them, and that would have been easily been won if we had a good candidate for governor. And the Dem candidates that did win were forced to run on a fiscally conservative platform. So yes, I consider it quite a successful year in Colorado.

        • AristotleAristotle says:

          Nice try. Statewide is what matters, but way to try to make it look better than it actually was. Anything to avoid the obvious implications of the GOP failures to pick up a very vulnerable Dem Senate seat, right?

        • Ralphie says:

          aren’t you?

          The university you work for needs to know how exactly much of an embarrassment you are.

        • raymond1 says:

          … so that you get Gov. Tanc & Sen. Buck, while we get SOS, AG, Treas?  Unless you’re even stupider than we all thought, the answer surely is “hell yeah,” which means this wasn’t “quite a successful year.”

          And even if 2010 wasn’t a total disaster for the Rs in CO, they got a net loss in CO in a year when every other goddamn state of the union saw an R tide (except some hard blue states like NY, DE, etc.).

      • BlueCat says:

        No more than anyone with a few brain cells thinks Wadham’s prefers what he got to getting a Governor and a Senator (yes I know  Senate is federal level but let’s be real here). Anyone think they weren’t hoping to do much better in the state leg than a skin of the teeth majority in one chamber in an election in which other purple state R parties did so much better without breaking a sweat?

        Think Wadhams is a big star to the GOP off this last election? I suppose Beej does. Everyone else has probably noticed that Wadhams isn’t exactly being hailed as the conquering hero and Colorado isn’t in the news as one of the places where the GOP scored its most breathtaking successes.  

  2. reubenesp says:

    Not a good sign for the Republican Party in Colorado, especially as the state faces huge budget shortfalls.  

    The end of transfer payments to the states under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus bill) spell draconian cuts to Colorado’s budget.

    Already, the state on Friday told counties to slash the already meager benefits for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Aid to the Needy Disabled (AND), Aid to the Blind (AB) and Old Age Pension (OAP).  Funding of homeless programs and food pantries have been slashed as well.

    Massive reductions in public education funding and the possible privatization of CU loom in 2011.

    How will the new state legislature and the new governor respond?  I don’t think most Coloradans will appreciate Republican obstructionism in such dire circumstances.

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