Primary Day Winners

Just like in real life, losers follow the winners. Today, click below to read our WINNERS from Tuesday’s Primary.

Doug Lamborn

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.

Jared Polis

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.

Robert Becker

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.

Will Shafroth

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.

Mike Coffman

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.

Who is the Biggest Winner from Tuesday?

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33 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Arvadonian says:

    1)  Polis is young and has unlimited funds and he upset one of the most powerful democrats in the state.  He has estabilshed himself as a player in Colorado politics for as long as he wants to be.

    2) Becker.  Turned around a floundering campaign.

    3)  Shafroth.  Didn’t embarass himself in his campaign.  Managed to raise from an asterisk candidate to a candidate endorsed by both major papers.

    4)  Coffman was already the strongest Republican in the state and that hasn’t changed–just reinforced his standing.  

    5)  Democrats.  Picked up the SOS office!  

    6)  Lamborn isn’t so much a winner as he was lucky enough to have beaten two losers that he could not have beaten one on one.  He could still be taken out if Crank and Rayburn can settle on which of them will take him on.

    7)  Postal Service.  Careful what you ask for.  Lost mail could be the “hanging chads” of future elections….

  2. parsingreality says:

    Now the SoS will be Dem and you will, presumably out of Colorado state politics for many years to come.  That’s sad, because you were definitely one of the strongest Republican players on the bench.

    You and Doug can hang out with each other and wonder if things will get better for many years to come.  

  3. DrewKerin says:

    If Wil’s last name wasn’t Armstrong, and if he wasn’t the son of a popular former U.S. senator, would his campaign gotten as far as it did?  There are a significant number of people who are uncomfortable voting for candidates who think their first political office should be one at the top:  congressman, senator, governor, or president.  

    Armstrong made a big deal out of running against three “career politicians.”  Yet he seemed to have solicited the endorsement of every career politician he could find in his father’s Roledex, except a number of GOP state legislators who prematurely — probably to their regret — endorsed Ted Harvey early on.  It gave one the impression that Wil needed established GOP politicos to “hold his hand” while he made his first run at elected office.

    The Mitt Romney endorsement had to be the strangest one of all.  Why would someone from the reliably Democratic state of Massachusetts, and who had a less than conservative record as governor there, get involved in a clearly conservative Colorado GOP primary in the first place?  It came across more as a favor to Bill Armstrong than Romney being enamored with Wil’s candidacy.  If Wil actually thought such an endorsement would rally the Mormon vote to his cause, then he grossly misjudged them.  They are not sheep and Wil is not Mormon.      

    Wil’s desire to “Change the Way Congress Does Business” sounded more like the mantra of any of the Democratic candidates in the 2nd CD.  How was he planning on making this change as a freshman in the minority party?

    Wil often stated “Imagine a Congress with more doctors, ranchers, teachers, and small businessmen and women, not more career politicians.”  The problem was — had he got elected — he would have been surrounded by mostly career politicians in the U.S. House of Representatives.  I’m sure very few of them would be supporting his lofty goal, even the Republican members.

    Wil seemed to be surprising naive about politics.  At age 41, many wondered why he hadn’t already sought election to a city, county, or state legislative seat.

    The most significant blunder by Armstrong was when his campaign manager, Jack Stansbury, contacted the Rocky Mountain News to pan Mike Coffman’s military service in the Army and Marines.  While it is certainly within Wil’s prerogative not to have joined the military, you don’t let your campaign criticize someone for actually putting his life on the line in actual combat.  I really do think that was a defining moment in the campaign, as it turned off a lot of veterans in the 6th CD.

    Lastly, when you look at Wil’s print and TV ads compared to Coffman’s pieces, Wil came out looking immature.  Rick O’Donnell suffered the same fate when his countenance was compared to Ed Permutter’s in 2006.  Unfair as it may have been, Wil just didn’t look mature enough to handle the job of being a congressman when compared to Coffman.

    • Republican 36 says:

      He lost Arapahoe County by 717 votes (Coffman 11, 331 to Armstrong’s 10,614)or 39.83% to 37.31%.  Also county wide counting all Republicans and Democrats 60,743 people voted but the important fact is that only 4,074 of those voted on August 12th.  The other 56,267 voters did so by mail-in ballots.

      Armstrong lost by 7 points district wide.  

      According to the Rocky Mountain News yesterday, Coffman began TV ads in mid-June while Armstrong waited until July 8th.  I know Coffman sent mail pieces in late June and early July. In short, Coffman realized he needed to communicate with voters before the mail-in ballots were sent by the county clerks and immediately after the ballots were received by voters. Armstrong waited to begin his communication blitz after most people had already voted.  The studies I’ve seen show that the majority of mail-in voters vote within two or three days after receiving their ballot. The point is obvious, when Armstrong began his heavy media blitz at the end of July (and I received several direct mail pieces from him then) many, if not most, people had already voted.  He was communicaitng with an empty room. This was a strategic blunder on his part and his campaign staff should have figured this out months ahead of the primary. This blunder can be compared to the miscalculation Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff made by failing to assess the importance of the caucus states.    

      • DrewKerin says:

        It all goes to the remarkable naivety of the Armstrong campaign.  It’s the difference between a veteran campaigner and a rookie.

        • Republican 36 says:

          It has a complete breakdown of the 6th CD race in Douglas County, including total votes for each candidate and how many votes each candidate received from the absentee precinct (mail-in ballots), ealry voting precinct, and on election day.  The results support the point I raised above.  

          Coffman defeated Armstrong by 2,506 votes in Douglas County.  In the absentee precinct, Coffman won 8,812 to 6,288 or by a margin of 2,506 votes. In short, all but six of Coffman’s total margin came from the absentee precinct (mail-in voters).

          In the early voting precinct, Coffman won over Armstrong 400 to 370 votes or by a margin of 30 votes.

          Then look at the results for those who voted on election day after Armstrong’s all out media and direct mail blitz.  Armstrong wins by a margin of 48 votes, 791 for him to 743 for Coffman.

          By waiting to begin his media and direct mail campaigns until after mail-in ballots were mailed, he committed a strategic blunder.  These results seem to indicate that if he had begun his communications campaign in mid-June instead of mid-July, he could have won the election.

          I am very surprised his campaign didn’t understand this, especially given the fact they were running against a well established political figure like Mike Coffman.  As General Douglas MacArthur once said:  “The history of defeats can be written in two words ‘too late.'”

      • One Queer Dude says:

        before mail-in ballots became so popular.

  4. One Queer Dude says:

       But money alone won’t close the deal.  If you just have a lot of money with an empty-suit candidate and no message, you get things like Mitt Romney or Pete Coors.

      The RMN put it best when they said that J.P. has other assets besides his fat bank account.

  5. RavenDawg says:

       raking in all those campaign dollars for advertising.

    • parsingreality says:

      the greatest resisters to campaign finance reform.

      Follow the money.

    • BoulderDem says:

      I think TV stations actually lose money during election season, because they are required by federal law to charge less to political campaigns than to their other advertisers. And most don’t increase the number of ads they run, just replace beer commercials with candidates.

  6. Skyler says:

    who has had their head eaten off by Robert Becker, I can honestly say that he’s a grade-a hardass. But he wins, as demonstrated by the Polis campaign.

  7. davebarnes says:

    you guys ignore my CD (home of Diana) in the Big LIne.

    What do you have against Denver? Not enough Democrats for you?

    • DavidThi808 says:

      She has an opponent. If someone is willing to stand up and run, they deserve the respect of a mention on the big line. A vibrant Democracy needs every seat contested and that should be encouraged every way we can.

      • Colorado Pols says:

        But just because you run doesn’t mean you should be guaranteed respect. Any fool can fill out paperwork to run for office. We generally only acknowledge those who put in a real effort.

        For this same reason we almost always ignore third party candidates. Someone who just puts their name on the ballot absolutely does not deserve the same respect as someone who spends 40+ hours a week working their ass off in running for office.

        We’ll admit to not knowing much about DeGette’s opponent. If he’s actually working hard and making a real effort, we’ll acknowledge him. But if he just put his name on the ballot for the hell of it, then no, he does not deserve a mention for that.

  8. BlueCat says:

    Ummm…. 2008? What's up with this?

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