UPDATE: You can read our Top 5 after the jump. Tomorrow — the “sleeper” picks.
The NFL Draft kicks off tonight, with the first round being held in prime time for the first time in history. That got us thinking about how a political draft might play out in Colorado.
Which Colorado politician, active or retired, would you select #1 overall if your goal was to win a statewide election in 2010? Here’s the scenario:
Suppose Colorado was awarded a third U.S. Senate seat, so there is no incumbent and no history of incumbency.
You are choosing the best politician to win that seat in 2010.
This is not about who would be the best Senator or do the best job in office. This is pure politics — who is most likely to get elected AND who helps you down the ticket? Ideally you want your top pick to be helpful for the rest of your political “team.” You could make your #1 pick an “Independent” candidate, but that wouldn’t help anyone else down-ticket.
Ignore current partisan labels. You could choose Gov. Bill Ritter and run him as a Republican if you wanted.
Pay no attention to whether or not someone would be putting another seat in danger if they ran for something else (for example, Rep. John Salazar. Pick as though you want the single best chance to win this one race.
So, how would you fill out your wish list? Who would you choose #1? Who would make up your Top Ten, in order? Make your picks below, and read about our Top Five after the jump.
Here is how our Top Five might look, off the top of our collective heads:
1. Ken Salazar (Democrat)
Not only is Salazar very popular in Colorado, but the Interior Secretary would have a lot of support from the White House (Salazar and President Obama are close friends). But the real sweetener in this pick is that Salazar would likely have a strong impact on turning out more Hispanic voters, which would help every down-ballot candidate.
2. John Hickenlooper (Democrat)
The Denver Mayor is really a nightmare scenario for just about any opponent because he is wildly popular throughout Metro Denver (an area that includes a HUGE chunk of the total number of Colorado voters), but he also has a strong business background that makes him attractive to the state’s swing voters who are essentially Libertarians (they want smart fiscal leadership but don’t care much about controversial social issues).
We considered whether it would make sense to run Hick as a Republican, given that he is not very liberal, but reconsidered as we thought about how most of his social positions would really alienate a right-wing Republican base (not to mention the fact that he is from Denver, which automatically gives him a stigma with Republicans).
3. Bill Owens (Republican)
We can’t think of another obvious Republican to put at the top of this list besides Owens. The former Governor left office in 2007 with decent favorability ratings, and he was always good at playing the insider political game that kept a lot of other Republicans in line (and that lack of leadership has been all too apparent for Republicans in recent years). Sure, Owens is probably a little too much of his own man for many Republicans, including those still mad about Referendum C. But we see his bipartisan leadership on major issues like Ref. C as more of a positive than a negative with the majority of voters.
4. Betsy Markey (Democrat or Republican)
A moderate female candidate could really have an advantage in a statewide election, if nothing else because it makes them stand out; Colorado has never elected a woman to the Senate or the Governor’s mansion, and that narrative would get a lot of attention in the last few months of the election (current GOP Senate candidate Jane Norton will benefit from this to a degree if she wins the Republican nomination this year, but it won’t be as effective because she has gone so far to the right on many issues).
Markey has shown herself to be a good fundraiser and a disciplined campaigner who rarely departs from her message. She’s also the owner of a successful small business, which gives her the “businessperson” cache that is so helpful to Hickenlooper. We just can’t decide whether we would run her as a Democrat or a Republican, because there are some obvious advantages to both.
5. Cary Kennedy (Republican)
If you could go back in time and re-invent Jane Norton, you could do worse than making her out to be more like State Treasurer Kennedy (a Democrat). A solid campaigner and good public speaker with a nice-looking family, Kennedy has the financial and policy brains but also a history as a big supporter of public education. She’s like a PTA mom on steroids, and while she’s a little left of moderate, her current elected position has kept her out of the weeds on most of the controversial social issues. Kennedy is a strong candidate as a Democrat, but we think Republicans — particularly women, who have not traditionally been well-represented by the Colorado GOP — would love her.
5(a). Ed Perlmutter (Democrat)
We left out Perlmutter at first mention, but he’s got to at least be in the top six. Perlmutter is a great fundraiser with strong political ties (in both parties) across the state, and he’s also a talented natural politician. But perhaps his biggest advantage is the makeup of his district; Perlmutter represents big chunks of two of the most populous counties in Colorado (Jefferson and Adams) and three of our largest cities (Aurora, Lakewood, Arvada), and his district borders Denver on three sides. That’s a huge percentage of Colorado voters that are already somewhat familiar with his name.