Gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis was once, though just briefly, a U.S. Senate candidate. And as we think he’s amply demonstrated in the last couple of months, McInnis is a pretty scrappy guy–he doesn’t take well to being pushed around.
Everybody remembers what happened to McInnis’ Senate candidacy, right?
“I would have beat Udall, that wasn’t the issue,” McInnis said. “Frankly I have more difficulties with the right wing of my party then I do with taking on a Democrat. Udall was not the biggest threat I faced in the election. My biggest threat was getting through the primary…”
“My problem was that the head of the Senatorial Republican Committee [Pols emphasis] is Sen. John Ensign of Nevada. John was Bob Schaffer’s former roommate, and John made it very clear up front that their pick was Bob Schaffer,” McInnis said, conceding for the first time that his candidacy was torpedoed by “a very small group of people.”
“They said, ‘Look, we are going to aggressively work against you and for Bob. We want Bob as the candidate,’ ” McInnis said…
McInnis confirmed the details of the meeting as presented by NRSC sources. His only point of contention was that he believes the polling data was leaked in Colorado as a stealth maneuver to push him out of the race. [Pols emphasis] McInnis suggested this must have been done by Ensign or other NRSC officials…
“The facts [NRSC sources] gave were correct, other than, it was a push poll, and contrary to them telling me they had held it in-house, they released it,” McInnis said. “So immediately I started getting calls saying these numbers are terrible and you need to step aside.”
John Ensign isn’t the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) anymore, but operationally speaking, this is how they roll–their job is to pave the pave the way for GOP Senate victories from a 30,000-foot strategic view, and as they showed with McInnis they’re not above thuggishly knocking inconvenient people out of the way. There’s even a formal, if secretive, process for doing this–the Denver Post explained back in 2007:
When Bob Schaffer decided to run for Colorado’s open U.S. Senate seat, he knew he probably wouldn’t have a Republican primary opponent. In fact, he told party leaders in May that he would not get into the race otherwise.
To help clear the field, the party invoked a formal process under what’s known as “Rule 11.” Dating back to at least the mid-1990s but little-known among many of the GOP rank and file, Rule 11 allows the national party to abandon its traditional neutral stance and back a candidate long before a primary vote.
Well, folks, don’t look now but the big story all week has been similar rumored NRSC maneuverings in support of someone who hasn’t even officially declared herself a candidate yet, former Lt. Gov. Jane “I’m Not Gale” Norton. ’06 gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez served up a useful indicator that something was going on in the backroom when he abruptly pulled out of consideration–just a few days after it was disclosed Norton was likely to announce.
But by far the clearest evidence that the NRSC has its thumb on the proverbial scale came yesterday afternoon, with word in the Post that the only viable declared GOP Senate candidate so far, Weld County DA Ken Buck, is also pulling out of the race. Buck emerged from the previous quarter of fundraising as the only Republican candidate who could raise actual money, absent rumored challengers he really was in control of his own destiny.
That is, until Jane Norton’s name dropped like a bomb, and tales of the NRSC’s ‘invisible hand’ became the hot item of the week.
The only variable remaining here, in our view, is the fact that a not-insignificant number of local conservative Republicans don’t seem to be very happy about what’s happening, and consider Norton a feckless “RINO.” Since it’s looking like Democrats are going to be a little preoccupied (apparently they don’t have a “Rule 11” of their own), it will be up to Colorado Republicans to decide if having their nominee chosen in a DC backroom is something they’re willing to tolerate.