The Democratic and Republican state conventions have come to a close, clarifying some ballot positions but complicating others…
The story of the day, without a doubt, is Republican Dan Maes’ upset victory over Scott McInnis for topline on the GOP ballot for Governor. Maes almost certainly cannot go on to win this Primary, but make no mistake — this is a devastating blow to McInnis. Maes is spending most of what he raises on himself, but despite no money, no name recognition, and a last-minute campaign to discredit him, he still somehow edged McInnis on Saturday.
Maes’ victory is more about McInnis’ failings than anything else, and it will force McInnis to spend considerable time and money making sure he wins a Primary that he really can’t afford (literally and figuratively) to worry about. More problematic for McInnis is that he now must spend the next few months going even further to the right with his rhetoric in order to try to win back a base that abandoned him for a guy in Maes who really has no business being this close to becoming Governor. The further that McInnis goes to the right, of course, the harder it will be for him to win back moderate voters in a General Election. This is absolutely the worst-case scenario for Republicans hoping to win back the Governor’s Mansion.
Democrat John Hickenlooper has not run an impressive campaign for Governor to this point, and his lack of a ground game has many Democrats concerned, but Saturday’s results at the GOP Assembly has laid this race out on a silver platter for him. As long as Hickenlooper runs even a somewhat decent campaign, it’s hard to see how he won’t end up as Colorado’s next Governor now.
Republican Ken Buck easily won his Party’s nomination, with both Jane Norton and Tom Wiens going the petition route, so there’s not much to say here.
As for the Democrats, Andrew Romanoff won topline with a 60-40 margin over Sen. Michael Bennet, which means…absolutely nothing. That’s no knock on Romanoff, but just the reality given today’s margin is about the same that he held over Bennet after the caucuses; the only thing that would have made any difference in this race would have been holding Bennet under the 30% threshold required to make the ballot, but that was always unlikely. There’s really nothing different today that wasn’t already true yesterday.
This is still a good day for Romanoff, but unfortunately for him, tomorrow’s headlines will be all about Maes and his surprise win in the GOP race for Governor. After the 2004 Democratic convention, the headlines were all about Mike Miles beating Ken Salazar, but Romanoff won’t be the top story tomorrow. That’s a tough break for a campaign that really needs to try to generate some sort of fundraising momentum out of today; Maes’ win was the worst-case scenario for McInnis, but it was also the worst thing that could have happened to the Romanoff campaign (since he was never likely to lose to Bennet).
At the end of the day, however, nothing has really changed in the Senate race on either side of the aisle. The big questions — can Buck and Romanoff raise the money to have a significant television presence — won’t be resolved by anything that happened today.
This was the only other significant race to play out today, and only on the GOP side. Ali Hasan failed to make threshold for ballot access, giving a big victory to J.J. Ament, who now waits to see if Walker Stapleton will have enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot (which he should). This is a significant win for Ament, since Hasan’s family has strong ties in the Republican Party and Ali had already spent a lot of money on ads. Ament’s overwhelming victory is a show of organizational efficiency that, in our eyes, now makes him the frontrunner to win the Republican Primary.
We still don’t think Ament or Stapleton can defeat incumbent Democrat Cary Kennedy in November, but today’s results are not ideal for the Dems. Kennedy certainly would have preferred to see a three-way primary, with Hasan spending a lot of his own money to beat up both Ament and Stapleton.