The Hill's Jonathan Easley reports on the Colorado Republican bench looking ahead to 2016 and beyond:
Republicans might be newly optimistic about their success, but the brutal reality is their bench beyond Gardner wasn’t deep. [Pols emphasis]
For 2016, political operatives in the state mention two names as leading the pack of potential GOP candidates with a chance to unseat Bennet: Rep. Mike Coffman and Walker Stapleton, the 40-year-old state treasurer who cruised to reelection this year.
“After that, there aren’t any names that are immediately apparent right now,” said Floyd Ciruli, a Colorado pollster and political analyst.
Former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams acknowledged that neither Coffman nor Stapleton has the “presence” of Gardner, but he said they shouldn’t be so easily dismissed in the search for the next great GOP hope in the state…
This story makes some points worth considering, like the strength Mike Coffman showed in his bigger-than-expected win over Democrat Andrew Romanoff, and the vote-getting ability of Attorney General-elect Cynthia Coffman–who also gives the newly minted Coffman Dynasty a footprint in two congressional districts!
We digress, but you've got to admit that was a weird story. All told, though, we agree with Dick Wadhams that Coffman lacks the charisma and message discipline that powered Cory Gardner to victory in this year's U.S. Senate race. And without those qualities, Cory Gardner may not have won the close race it turned out to be even in a wave year.
As for Bush family scion and Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton…sorry, folks, but we just don't see it. Stapleton's family ties, represented in this story as his primary asset, have never resonated in his favor on the campaign trail, and his advertising has tended to put the label of "career politician" on his opponents without mention his membership in one of America's foremost political dynasties. Stapleton has the connections to get his name mentioned in national political press as a possible contender either in 2016 for the U.S. Senate or 2018 for governor of Colorado, but he's done nothing to prove that he could win either race so far beyond bringing his cousin Jeb Bush to the state to campaign for him.
You never want to be too judgmental about the ability of new candidates to rocket to high office (see: Obama, Barack), but we have to agree that the overall state of the Republican bench in the long term in Colorado remains quite bleak. Democrats have a wealth of talent, particularly young up-and-comers from years of dominance in the state legislature. Democrats may have underestimated Cory Gardner for 2014, but as far as the next white knight for Republicans in this purple state?
We'll be damned if we can tell you who that is.