Recalls: The Last Gasp of a Beaten Republican Party

GOP operative Ben Engen.

The 2018 election, which in Colorado was an unprecedented landslide in modern political history for Democrats, almost immediately resulted in threats by Colorado Republicans to initiate recall elections this year. Back in April, we were forwarded since-deleted video of a briefing by GOP political consultant Ben Engen of Constellation Strategies in which Engen very frankly lays out the real reason why Colorado Republicans should pursue recalls–because voters “aren’t as aware…of a special election like a recall that just comes out of nowhere and blindsides them.” Engen admitted that Republicans can’t win the seats that would be targeted in recalls in general elections, instead telling them to rely on the “re-weighting of the electorate” afforded by an “surprise” recall election.

It took a few months, but in a must-read AP wire story today running coast-to-coast local reporter James Anderson unpacks Engen’s admissions in their full context–and in so doing severely undercuts the whole strategy:

Once reserved for targeting corrupt or inept elected officials, the recall has become part of the toolkit for Republicans seeking a do-over of election results. One GOP strategist in Colorado has put a name to it — “recall season.”

“…There’s a drop-off in turnout from presidential to midterm elections, and the same thing between midterms and off-year elections,” Engen said. “Initiators of a recall can use the timing to maximize that enthusiasm gap.”

To Democrats, that’s essentially an admission that Republicans are using the recall not as a vehicle to oust corrupt officials, but rather as an attempt to game the system and flip seats they otherwise could not win in a regular election. [Pols emphasis]

“The strategists see that a recall may be the best chance of winnowing down the electorate in such a way as to sneak through a seat,” agreed Jason Bane, a Denver-based Democratic operative. “They need something that goes under the radar for it to work.”

Here’s the thing: if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Republican only interested in politics from a team-sports perspective, Engen’s frank admission that the recalls are nothing more than an exploitation of voters’ short attention spans for political advantage isn’t a problem for you. But for regular people not already part of the daily talk radio/social media rage fest against majority Colorado Democrats who actually poll quite well, this is all they need to know to realize that recalls are a massive waste of time and money–solely for the purpose of giving angry partisans a do-over.

And that makes them much less likely to sign a recall petition.

As Anderson summarizes in today’s story, recalls are emerging as a go-to tactic in several other Western states where Republicans are in decline–like in California, where a freshman Senator was recalled in June 2018 just to deny Democrats a supermajority in that state’s legislature for a few more months. In all of these cases, recalls are being used to obstruct the clear intent of general election voters, and achieve electoral results that Republicans no longer obtain legitimately.

If you’re a Republican, and this acknowledgment that your party is in long-term decline and reliant on desperate measures to obstruct an increasingly permanent majority doesn’t trouble you, you’re not likely to be receptive to arguments that the recalls underway in Colorado constitute a gross misuse of the system. But a growing number of influential Colorado Republicans have soured on recalls after the disastrous misfire against Rep. Tom Sullivan. Editorial boards across the state are sounding off as loudly as they can. There is a scenario in which the entire recall movement simply falls apart over the next few weeks as the dubious campaigns underway die on the vine.

But whatever happens will not be a show of strength. In every way that matters, this is a story of GOP weakness.

They admit it.

8 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. dan axelrod says:

    Well, the largest of the recall groups here in Colorado has basically folded their tent. Here is their post for the day. 

    Dear Colorado Patriots,
    UPDATE: We are still here and working towards recalling the SOB that bought the Governor seat. We have had to pivot with our original plans due to the hijacking of our original intended recall. The current petition in play has poisoned the chances of running a successful recall this year. If this petition fails, it will embolden the governor and the progressive movement by giving more power to the left. This will make our job MUCH harder to run the recall when the time comes. That being said – WE ARE NOT GIVING UP!!! While this other petition is in play, the committee will be working in the background to devise a new action plan to take back our state. Much of what we must do is educate those that are asleep and letting those that are awake know that a recall is going to happen and why they must participate. We need at least 60% of the people in Colorado to know that a recall is happening before it can be launched. We have been working on an app that can track petitions and signatures in real time and we will be fine-tuning this during this time as well.
    The People are being called to SAVE COLORADO. Thank you for your continued support and for Caring about Colorado!!!!

    Juli-Andra Fuentes
    Chair of the ORCGJP

    In the meantime the Resist group continues to claim they're getting 10k signatures a day, which is a minimum to succeed. Based on their FB metrics they aren't coming close to that and the clock is ticking. 



    • Diogenesdemar says:

      “ . . . last gasp . . .” ????

      ” . . . we’re working on an app for that!”

      • dan axelrod says:

        lololololol…gin and tonic meets keyboard. well done. 


        • Diogenesdemar says:

          Cuz’ isn’t it about time for some real-time tracking of Colorado’s “Patriots” homophobes, anti-semites, gun nutters, and assorted and sundry other Neville extended family members? . . . 

          • MichaelBowman says:


            Much of what we must do is educate those that are asleep and letting those that are awake know that a recall is going to happen and why they must participate.

            Question: which category defines our PoddyMouth? Woke or asleep?


    • JohnInDenver says:

      Lemme see if I can follow this.  The people (bless their hears) are split among

      • Colorado Patriots;
      • hijackers, who poisoned the chance of a recall;
      • the governor (who bought his seat) and the progressive movement who give more power to
      • the left;
      • those who are asleep;
      • those who are awake who don’t know that a recall is going to happen

      That sounds complicated and isn’t a clear organizing strategy. An app WON’T solve this particular problem.

  2. Genghis says:

    I have trouble keeping the recall Nazis straight. Is Fuentez the "America needs a Hitler of its very own" Nazi or the "Jews did 9/11" Nazi?

    • mamajama55 says:

      Fuentes is the “Hitler was loved by his people” Nazi, but her group’s head Shane Donnelly, shared some “Jews did 9/11” stuff until he got called on it.

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