With the dust from the 2010 election (mostly) settled, it’s time for our Winners & Losers. Last Thursday, we gave you the Winners–and today, the Losers.
Click below to read about the big Losers of 2010…
A couple of days before the election, David Flaherty, president and CEO of Magellan Data predicted that Tom Tancredo would win the election. Numerous other polls showed the Colorado gubernatorial race to be far, far closer than it ultimately was. Polls released the weekend before the election showed Ken Buck with a small lead. These polls were all wrong, much like polls showing a massive swing of support for Democrat Andrew Romanoff in the Senate primary that never materialized.
Bottom line? In the age of decreasing traditional landline use and more wireless-only consumers every day, polling firms are increasingly unable to obtain valid samples of actual likely voters. It’s not just low-income voters being missed anymore, either. Combine this with the growing skepticism about polling intended to service one partisan aim or another, and you’ve got a recipe for irrelevance. If our job was polling, turning this around before it’s too late would be priority #1.
Election Night Media
When Boulder County votes were incorrectly reported a 30,000-vote boost for Buck, everyone just ran with it. Nobody stopped to think, “wait, that doesn’t make any sense.” At least one Denver television station also mistakenly called the Secretary of State’s race for Bernie Buescher based on an outlandishly erroneous reported total. These are the kind of amateur night mistakes that experienced reporters should have known to avoid.
You can argue that Ken Buck lost the campaign on social issues like abortion, his opinion of gays, or the scandal over his refusal to prosecute an alleged case of date rape that dominated the last weeks of the campaign–and you’re right. These were all issues that aggregated to help sink Buck with the key demographics of women and social issue-averse independents.
But a more accurate way of describing what happened here is this: first Buck articulated a hard-right platform that was difficult to defend, then he responded in basically the worst way possible each time he had an opportunity to clarify himself. Buck’s response to the polarization his statements caused on the campaign trail was to make them worse–either by poorly-worded reversals and denials that were deconstructed within minutes, or incomprehensibly doubling down on ridiculous statements he should have simply apologized for and moved on.
They can blame whoever they want. But they had the money, the national and local momentum, and an opponent who had never been elected to anything before. Any way you slice it, Buck lost because Buck was bad. He never got ahead of the news cycle after the primary. He kept handing his opponents the ammunition they needed to beat him. He couldn’t shut up…
Andy Kerr went from likely Speaker to not even getting top leadership post in minority. Can someone please explain what happened here? It’s a hard fall, and we don’t have all the scuttlebutt necessary to fully explain it.
Two out of 3 Democratic congressional representatives in competitive Colorado districts lost their seats. We do note that the two representatives who lost their seats, John Salazar and Betsy Markey, were members of the Democratic “Blue Dog” caucus, which lost fully half its members to the GOP last Tuesday. By contrast Rep. Ed Perlmutter, arguably the most liberal of the three, won his own race handily.
We’re not making a judgment about Salazar or Markey’s relative conservatism or liberalism, or how closely their Blue Dog membership and voting records may have matched their core beliefs. But it seems clear that while the nation does want moderation, and is averse to either political extreme, they want representatives who are what they say they are. Perlmutter made no attempt to triangulate off of the Party he is a member of, did not disparage the last two years under Democrats as Markey and Salazar felt more necessary to do–and voters responded to his authenticity.
We can’t help but wonder if Markey, or Salazar, would have fared better had they done the same. It’s possible it would not have made a difference, but Tuesday was a clear answer on what doesn’t work. Steer your middle course, but beware lest you you leave yourself with no constituency.
Democrats and Republicans are no doubt thinking the same thing about Tancredo: Just go the hell away already. We would list the unbearably long list of reasons why he should disappear so for the sake of civil discourse everywhere and anyone who cares about the state’s reputation or tourism viability, but as we expected, the margin was enough that we don’t have to. Tancredo had long wondered about his chances at statewide office given his fairly strong name ID. Now he has his answer.
The Chair of the State Republican Party will complete his fourth year in the position in early 2011. Here’s how Republicans have fared during his watch:
It doesn’t matter if he wanted Josh Penry forced out of the gubernatorial race, which many believe he didn’t. It doesn’t matter if he was against the NRSC’s early moves to support Jane Norton, as he claimed, or for them as widely suspected. Wadhams took damage in each of these episodes, after already having suffered heavily from criticism in 2008 that he neglected his duties as party chairman to manager Bob Schaffer’s ill-fated Senate bid. But perhaps Wadhams’ greatest failure in judgment came when he, as the head of the GOP in Colorado, began openly attacking the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee after it became clear that not-so-surreptitious efforts to force him out were not working.
We still do not understand what convinced Wadhams to abandon his party in support of Tom Tancredo. Dan Maes wasn’t going to be Governor, but neither was Tancredo, and the essential abandonment of the gubernatorial race cost Republicans the coordinated field effort that could have made a difference down the ballot. But more than what transpired this fall is the long-term damage that Wadhams has caused the Republican Party; the unabashed efforts to dismiss Maes sent a clear message to Republicans and Tea Party supporters around the state that their vote matters only inasmuch as Republican leaders agree with the outcome. If not, your vote doesn’t matter to them. Wadhams, by chasing the shiny object instead of doing his job as head of a party, exacerbated all of these problems.
Even if you can forget that Wadhams can’t seem to win big races even in a Republican year, and even if you forget his problems with candidate recruitment, it’s hard to overlook the intraparty damage that Wadhams has caused in such a short period of time. Democrats can only hope that he gets re-elected to a third term as head of the state GOP; that should tell you all you need to know about his performance.
The Tea Party
The Tea Party made a lot of noise in Republican primaries, but that’s when they stopped being relevant. It was pretty obvious early on that this was not a movement that was bringing in real moderates or Democrats and growing its ranks. The Tea Party was just a different name for the same bunch of right-wing Republicans that has always existed; the only thing they had in 2010 that they never had before was a t-shirt with their gang’s name on it.
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the mainstream GOP co-opted the Tea Party for its own purposes where it suited them, and then ruthlessly stomped on them when they didn’t like their choices. We get that Dan Maes was a disaster, but the shunning of Maes by the GOP brass only solidified the bad blood between “insiders” in the Colorado Republican Party and their most ardent base of support. That will, we predict, bear consequences down the road.
2010 was definitely a tough year for Democrats, particularly for one who sits in a Republican district like CD-3. But we still think that Salazar should have been able to defeat a candidate as weak as Republican Scott Tipton. By most accounts, Salazar either took too long to react to the news that he was in trouble, or took too long to figure out that he was in trouble to begin with. Fellow Democrat Betsy Markey could look at the results of her race in CD-4 (a 12-point loss) and reasonably conclude that 2010 was just an impossible year for her to win; we’re not so sure that the same can be said of Salazar.
The incumbent Democrat lost her bid for re-election as State Treasurer primarily because she was just in the wrong place (on the ballot) at the wrong time (a Republican year). Like fellow statewide Democrats Bernie Buescher (Secretary of State) and Stan Garnett (Attorney General), Kennedy’s loss was probably the price that Democrats paid for getting Michael Bennet elected to the Senate and John Hickenlooper as governor; moderate and Unaffiliated voters who picked Bennet and Hickenlooper needed someplace to vent their frustrations at Democrats in general, and they did so in the first place on the ballot where they were largely unfamiliar with either the candidate or the office. The best example of this is in the race for Secretary of State, where Republican Scott Gessler won easily despite not managing his money well enough to even get on television; Gessler was elected because of who he wasn’t (neither an incumbent nor a Democrat) than for any other reason.
As we said above, Scott Gessler defeated the incumbent Buescher for Secretary of State largely because he was a Republican running for an office that voters don’t understand or particularly care about. But we still can’t let him off the hook for his own mistakes. For whatever the reason, Buescher didn’t seem to realize that he was in trouble until sometime mid-summer, at which point he scrambled to raise money from donors he should have been soliciting months earlier. For all of the disadvantages Buescher had entering November, he also failed to take advantage of a few things that were really in his favor.
For one thing, Gessler probably ran the most fiscally stupid campaign in recent memory, spending almost 9 out of every 10 dollars he raised and leaving him nothing for TV time. Buescher also had an American Constitution Party candidate on the ballot with him, which might have made the difference for somebody like Cary Kennedy. But because Buescher sat on his hands for so long, he couldn’t take advantage of either opportunity. Buescher should have had no problem raising enough money to have a solid TV buy in October, but he didn’t. Without raising his name ID or getting out his own message, Buescher was helpless to stop, or even slow, the onslaught of anti-Democrat votes that rolled him out of office.
Sometimes a candidate will lose a big race but do well enough that he or she is considered a rising star. Frazier? Not so much. He got bullied out of the Republican Senate primary to run in CD-7, where he proceeded to get the absolute crap kicked out of him by Rep. Ed Perlmutter. Frazier is a good fundraiser and is decent at delivering a prepared speech, but his campaign was amateurish at best and he otherwise proved to be immature, vacuous and just plain silly in unscripted moments. In one debate, he repeatedly demanded that Perlmutter tell him the page number of something in the health care bill; when your big attack is that your opponent can’t recall page numbers, you’re running a student council campaign.
It’s not losing the race that hurts Frazier, but the fact that he couldn’t even be competitive in a Republican year. Frazier lost by 11 points to Perlmutter and received about 13,000 fewer votes than 2008 GOP candidate John Lerew, a guy whose own yard signs said “John Who?” We never seriously thought Frazier could beat Perlmutter — after all, Frazier barely won re-election to his Aurora city council seat in 2009 — so it’s not his fault that some local and national pundits placed unrealistic expectations on him. Frazier is already talking about running for Mayor of Aurora, but whatever he does next as a candidate, it’s going to take a long time for him to wash the stink off of his 2010 performance.
You can sum up just how terrible of a candidate McInnis was with just 5 little words: He lost to Dan Maes. It’s safe to say that we’ve heard the last of Scott McInnis as a potential candidate for anything other than dogcatcher. McInnis was broadly understood to be intemperate and politically clueless, and for whatever reason he was never very well-liked by Republicans in Colorado — Republicans who were all too happy to vote “Not McInnis” in the GOP Primary. His failure to immediately end his campaign after his plagiarism scandal was exposed effectively brought the governor’s race to an end, with or without him.
Colorado’s new Speaker of the House is both a Winner and Loser in our book. We absolutely give him credit for spearheading the GOP drive to retake the Colorado House despite a slate of scandal-plagued and Tea Party extremist candidates. But we don’t envy the job ahead of him now.
McNulty’s problems are two-fold: He has to show that Republicans can actually do something with their new majority while at the same time preventing various members from wandering off into Crazyville, either through legislation, public comments or interviews with the media. We have no idea how McNulty is going to keep control of a wild and crazy GOP caucus that could resurrect the 1980s “House Crazy” moniker to describe them. Think we’re exaggerating? Wait until Rep. Libby Szabo gives a floor speech on Obama’s similarity to the anti-Christ, followed by Rep. Kathleen Conti calling on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to immediately eradicate the numerous terrorist training camps that are everywhere in Colorado. Two years from now, there’s a very good chance that Republicans will have done virtually nothing legislatively (in large part because of Colorado’s budget problems) while also getting their names in the paper for one goofy statement after another.
If McNulty can really lead this bunch, then Republicans will be in a strong position to expand their majority in 2012. That’s not a bet we would take.