At this point in the crowded Republican gubernatorial primary, post-caucus but before the state assembly and June primary election, we're beginning to see trajectories emerge that allow for some predictions as to who–in what has been a gaggle of undistinguished candidates–might emerge as clear frontrunners.
Before the entry of ex-Congressman Bob Beauprez into the gubernatorial race on the day before the caucuses, the race seemed to be settling into a two-man contest between Secretary of State Scott Gessler and firebrand 2010 American Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo. The other candidates in this race, principally state Sen. Greg Brophy and former Sen. Mike Kopp, were already more or less relegated to the second tier–Brophy's good early debate performance being quickly forgotten.
Interrupting the natural propensity for big fields of candidates to winnow down to two, Beauprez undeniably shakes up this race. The biggest reason Beauprez had space to get into the race at all is the persistent unease many institutional Republicans have with Gessler. The court ruling this week upholding the ethics commission's finding that Gessler "breached the public trust for private gain" is a big problem for his campaign, who would really like to consolidate the limited victory he achieved on caucus night in counties that carried out preference polls.
Tancredo has a relatively large base of loyal activists left over from his days as a firebrand anti-immigration activist and presidential candidate, and good name ID, but Republican strategists understand he cannot possibly win a statewide general election. Although Beauprez's real opponent for the nomination is clearly Gessler, Tancredo is the one with the most to lose from Beauprez's entry into the race, and the most quickly.
Which brings us to Beauprez, who is energetically calling in favors from Washington, D.C. friends to generate buzz for his campaign. Beauprez has been described in at least one news report as the "prohibitive favorite" of the Republican Governor's Association (RGA), a reflection of his ability to woo D.C. Republican kingmakers. But Beauprez faces an almost insurmountable obstacle to winning: himself. In barely two weeks, Beauprez has already stuck his foot in his mouth over the "Personhood" abortion ban, re-earning the title "Both Ways Bob" that was used against him so effectively in 2006. He's supplying the same laugh-track material in early interviews that made him the easiest mark most Colorado Democrats can remember–practically the textbook bad candidate to set up and knock down over and over. Whatever Beauprez has done to re-ingratiate himself eight years later in D.C., his 2006 run was a disaster of the kind that probably should end a political career. And he shows every sign that if nominated, he'll bomb in 2014 just as badly.
Bottom line: what we have in the Colorado Republican gubernatorial race today are three potential frontrunners, and to be honest, Democrats should relish the prospect of running against any one of them. For strategic and logistical reasons, Democrats may prefer a candidate unable to self-finance or raise big money so they can truly put Gov. John Hickenlooper's re-election on autopilot. Setting the money aside, we'll turn the question over to our readers: which of these three should Democrats want to run against the most?