“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
— George Santayana, 19th century philosopher and poet.
Good luck trying to find someone who hasn’t heard this sentiment in one form or another; over the years it has been paraphrased and misattributed more often than a 1980s rock ballad. The irony, of course, is that the general concept is well-remembered, even if the details are not. Nouns and verbs get replaced here and there, while credit is given to everyone from Santayana to Edmund Burke to Winston Churchill. Heck, some version or another has probably appeared more than once in this very space.
There is good reason why this quote is so often recalled – it rings true, more often than not. And there may be no more apt description of the current state of the Republican field for U.S. Senate in 2016. The ghosts of Senate past have returned again to haunt the GOP.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is pushing Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler as their top candidate for Senate, largely following the advice of current Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), and that isn’t sitting well with a cadre of powerful business leaders in Colorado.
Brauchler showed his cards on Thursday in an interview with the Colorado Independent, in which he said of his own possible candidacy, “Early October, mark my words — I’m gonna put the guessing to rest.” Obviously, he would like you to believe that the political world is at a standstill awaiting his decision. But as Colorado Pols has learned, influential business leaders and Republican donors in Colorado do not support Brauchler and are recruiting their own candidate for 2016: State senate Majority Leader Mark Scheffel.
What’s going on here? We sat down with ourselves and did a quick Q&A to answer these questions and more:
Q: Why are top Republican donors and business leaders recruiting Mark Scheffel instead of supporting George Brauchler?
A: We’re glad you asked. There are two big reasons: 1) Influential Colorado Republicans are not happy that the NRSC is once again trying to force a candidate upon them, and 2) Top Republicans are not as impressed with Brauchler as you might think. They have learned from recent history – finally – that the NRSC-supported candidate doesn’t tend to do well in Colorado. Say what you will about Brauchler – and we’ll get back to him in a moment – but the NRSC doesn’t have a strong track record of success when it comes to hand-picked Senate candidates:
|YEAR||NRSC CANDIDATE||REPUBLICAN PRIMARY WINNER||GENERAL ELECTION WINNER|
|2010||Jane Norton||Ken Buck||Michael Bennet (D)|
|2008||Bob Schaffer||Bob Schaffer||Mark Udall (D)|
|2004||Pete Coors||Pete Coors||Ken Salazar (D)|
|1996||Gale Norton||Wayne Allard||Wayne Allard (R)|
Republican activists remember this laughable record by the NRSC, and those who don’t will surely be reminded repeatedly.
Brauchler, meanwhile, has come across to top donors as arrogant, entitled, and bit of a windbag, and there is legitimate worry that he is unprepared for the type of onslaught he would face in trying to unseat Bennet (NRSC officials don’t really know Brauchler and are relying heavily on Gardner’s opinion). Brauchler doesn’t have an impeccable resume – remember, he first ran for Arapahoe County DA in 2008 and got crushed in a GOP Primary – and donors are more comfortable with Scheffel, who has been doing the majority of the fundraising for the GOP Senate Majority Fund over the last couple of years and has a track record on issues that won’t be a surprise to business leaders.
Brauchler’s preference for Governor over U.S. Senate is also working against him; top Republican politicos know that Brauchler would prefer to run for Governor in 2018, and while nobody faults him for taking advantage of an opportunity to run for Senate, they know this isn’t where his heart really lies. Many top GOP donors would prefer that Brauchler run for re-election as DA in 2016 before jumping into the Governor’s race in 2018; the logic is hard to argue against, because Brauchler’s political career will be all but dead if he loses a Republican Primary next June.
Q: Would Scheffel run against Brauchler in a Primary? What about Tim Neville and Robert Blaha?
A: From what we understand, Scheffel has received some pretty significant promises of support if he gets in the Senate race. It’s not yet clear if Scheffel would balk at participating in a bloody GOP Primary, but the projected makeup of the Republican field does favor the Douglas County Republican. State Sen. Tim Neville has been telling donors that he is definitely in the 2016 Senate race, and he’s not going to change his mind based on what someone from the NRSC says. Blaha probably wouldn’t still run in this projected field, but a three-way Primary with Scheffel, Brauchler, and Neville still doesn’t look good for Brauchler.
Hold on to those rolling office chairs, friends – especially if you are a Republican hoping to knock off Sen. Bennet in 2016. There may be a few surprises left before the campaigning really gets going.