Just like in real life, losers follow the winners. Today, click below to read our WINNERS from Tuesday’s Primary.
Lamborn is a big winner not just because he won a three-way primary on Tuesday, but because he probably ended any future challenges by doing so. He has absolutely no chance of rising any higher than he is now, so Lamborn is officially “Congressman for Life,” or at least “Congressman Until Drastic Redistricting.”
Either Jeff Crank or Bentley Rayburn could have beaten Lamborn in a straight fight, but the ego of Rayburn (clearly the lesser challenger) prevailed instead. Two years after a tough six-way primary, CD-5 again played out like a Shakespearean tragedy – a tale won by an idiot.
Indisputably the biggest winner of Tuesday, Polis overcame a laughably bad campaign in the early going, changed managers, imposed some self-discipline, and rode his new strategy (and his wallet, of course) to victory in CD-2.
After a disastrous first six months on the campaign trail, Polis seemed destined to join the list of eccentric rich guys who bumbled their way through an ill-advised attempt at moving out from being behind the scenes. His Amendment 41 was a disaster (and still is, to be fair), and combined with his goofy congressional campaign, Polis was a few months from a permanent place as a snide joke in Colorado political circles. It wasn’t that long ago, in fact, that friends were quietly suggesting that Polis withdraw from the race in order to live to fight another day.
When you’re as wealthy as Polis, you often end up being surrounded – intentionally and unintentionally – by people who just tell you what they think you want to hear and insist that you can spend your way out of trouble. It takes some real fortitude to admit when things are going wrong with your campaign and make a change in midstream, as Polis did in dumping Manager Wanda James and hiring the much more seasoned Robert Becker. We said a year ago that Polis was wrong to go with the inexperienced James in the first place, instead of using his limitless resources to find a top talent nationally, but he ended up making the right move before it was too late.
Becker gets a good deal of credit here, of course (more on him in a minute), but the biggest and most important change in Polis came in his own self-discipline. With the exception of his weird attack on talk-show host Jay Marvin and his producer, Polis buckled down for the last few months, stayed on message and (finally) stopped tripping over his own shoelaces. Polis spent a long time trying to use his money to erase his mistakes (like hiring a bunch of lobbyists to help him with Amendment 41 in early 2007), but when he finally learned to just become a better candidate, he was on his way to winning the congressional seat that he has been dreaming about for years.
You don’t hear a lot of nice personal things about Becker from those who have met him, but Karl Rove wasn’t a success because he was everybody’s favorite drinking buddy. In a state that has largely been dominated by the same consultants for years, Becker just earned his place on the speed dial of a new generation of candidates.
Becker was sold to the Polis campaign as the best strategist money can buy (and he was expensive), and he didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t the massive ad buys that any old consultant could have put together – it was Becker’s construction of a huge field apparatus that ground-pounded virtually all of CD-2 in the months leading up to the vote. That Polis was able to perform strongly in Fitz-Gerald strongholds like Jefferson County isn’t because he was on TV more than everyone (although that didn’t hurt), it was because his ground operation was better. Sure, much of that had to do with the fact that Polis could pay for a bigger ground attack, but Becker made it work and beat the favored Fitz-Gerald at her own game.
Shafroth was never really in contention in CD-2, but no loser came out of Tuesday’s primaries looking better than the erstwhile unknown Shafroth. You could argue (as we would) that going on television in February or March would have been a worthwhile gamble that might have put Shafroth in position for the upset, but that doesn’t diminish what he did accomplish. Shafroth ran a clean campaign and ended up with the endorsement of both the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. He raised enough money to show that he could be a serious candidate, and the money also allowed him to say hello to a lot of regular voters. He may have come in third in a three-way race, but Shafroth will now be near the front of the Democratic bench when future races are considered.
Even the most hardened of political observers has to at least feel somewhat happy for Coffman. For years Coffman won election after election, biding his time until it was his turn to run for Governor in 2006 (which had always been his ultimate dream). But then he was unceremoniously pushed aside for Bob Beauprez, who went on to wage the worst campaign Colorado has ever seen while Coffman dutifully stepped back and was elected Secretary of State. Fool me once…
When Coffman decided to run for congress in CD-6, GOP leaders like State Party Chair Dick Wadhams urged him to stay in office for fear that he would win the congressional seat and give the SOS office over to the Democrats (Gov. Ritter can appoint Coffman’s successor when the latter is sworn-in to Congress). Republican heavyweights told Coffman to take another one for the team while Wil Armstrong, whose only dues were paid to a country club, stepped in for the brass ring that is a lifetime congressional seat in CD-6. Coffman told Wadhams and friends to shove it up their ass and went on to beat the snot out of Armstrong despite a litany of endorsements for Bill’s son. Coffman could have done right by the “Party faithful” and just run for re-election as SOS, but who’s to say that when it was time for him to run for another office, like Governor in 2014, that he wouldn’t have just been elbowed out of the way once more. We can’t blame Coffman for that, and nobody who’s honest with themselves can either.
Coffman’s primary victory and inevitable November drubbing of nobody Hank Eng means that Democrats will get to put someone into the Secretary of State’s office in January. Whoever is appointed will get a two-year head start on a Republican challenger before running for re-election in 2010, all but assuring that no strong GOPer will bother.
The Postal Service
Reports from across Colorado showed a huge mail ballot turnout, and short, if nonexistent, lines on Election Day. We’re going to look back on 2008 as the year that election strategy changed forever in Colorado, with the overwhelming majority of voters choosing to fill out their ballots early and quietly. Now we’ll see if the newspapers figure it out in time to make their endorsements for the General Election; endorsing a candidate three weeks out is now almost meaningless, as Shafroth and other endorsed losers found out.