As the Denver Post reports:
As top Republicans began lining up behind gubernatorial hopeful Scott McInnis, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter derided his opponent’s adoption of a new conservative agenda that debuts today and defended his own record on economic issues…
At a Sunday-night news conference, Ritter characterized the Republicans’ multipoint agenda as “just (being) against things” and cast McInnis’ support of it as buckling to pressure from Republican leaders.
“There’s not anyone who has sat down with me and said I have to agree with (an) agenda to be my party’s candidate,” Ritter said. “We’re keeping our focus on creating jobs and will let our actions speak for themselves.”
Ritter’s talk has toughened as the Ritter-McInnis matchup has become more certain and Republicans have focused their attacks on the incumbent instead of one another. Political novice and Evergreen businessman Dan Maes remains McInnis’ sole challenger for the GOP nomination…
The agenda out today – dubbed the Contract for Colorado – includes such promises as limiting state spending and requiring employers to verify new hires’ immigration status.
The plan specifically vows to undo a number of Ritter’s policies, including an executive order that allows state employees to unionize and a recent increase in vehicle-registration fees.
On the one hand, you have to give Republicans credit for “solving”–however brutishly and undemocratically–their internal primary dilemma. It’s our contention that what you’re seeing is theater to paper over serious discontent among the GOP rank-and-file with McInnis and the sudden withdrawal of conservative candidate Josh Penry, but to many low-information Republicans this all looks like a wonderful Kumbaya moment. Also, a list of specifics like this is, generally speaking, good politics.
Once the spectacle wears off, though, Republicans are going to have to actually sell the “Contract for Colorado” to the state’s voters–and that’s where the rubber will meet the road. This “contract,” for all the hype, is not a realistic solution to anything the state is facing today. So, you want to repeal the FASTER plan’s increases in motor vehicle registration fees, do you? How will you pay to repair the hundreds of structurally-deficient bridges in Colorado? You want to repeal the mill-levy freeze? How will you pay for already-underfunded schools? You want a “rainy-day” fund? How do you propose funding it in the middle of a fiscal hurricane?
As for the ‘sanctity of life’ and anti-immigrant stuff that Tom Tancredo and Penry demanded? Well, if the voters can be made to understand that the ‘fiscal responsibility’ planks are a bunch of unworkable ideological poppycock, the wedge issues will be what really hacks them off. Seriously, did it ever occur to McInnis that before he jumped in bed with Tancredo, he might actually have had a shot at the increasingly pivotal Latino vote? Or the over 70% of Colorado voters who rejected last year’s “personhood amendment?” How can McInnis offset support he’s losing by embracing wedge issues–to gain the support of a base that was never going to support his opponent anyway?
Bottom line: Scott McInnis may have made a grave mistake by giving ground to Tancredo instead of shunning him. McInnis’ strongest asset going into a general election against Bill Ritter is his reputation as a ‘moderate’ compared to most other Colorado Republicans–it’s why Democrats would have preferred to run against Penry. As good as it must feel to finally, after months of vicious infighting, come out on top of the GOP primary, the question awaiting McInnis is how much support among the critical independent and moderate vote he has squandered to do so.