Wall Street Journal: Colorado GOP Platform is Candy for Tea Party

The Colorado Republican Party’s “Contract for Colorado” “Platform for Prosperity” has been unraveling faster than a stale fruit roll-up as Colorado media outlets rip into the nonsensical details. Republicans, led by gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, are pushing the 1+1=4 idea that they can reduce spending, cut taxes, and increase or maintain services all at the same time. Sure, it’s not just implausible, but impossible, but that may not be important to the goal.

As The Wall Street Journal reports on its front page online today, Colorado Republicans are using their “Platform for Prosperity” to attract the “Tea Party” folks:

Colorado Republicans last week made a bold move to woo him and other restive tea-party activists by setting forth a conservative agenda — dubbed the “Platform for Prosperity” — and encouraging all candidates for state office to adopt it. The platform stresses limited government, fiscal restraint, opposition to further stimulus spending and a determination, it says, to push back against “a federal government that is too big, too intrusive and all-too-eager to seize power from the states.” The move paid immediate dividends by unifying the party in the critical gubernatorial race…

…To the consternation of Republican leaders, tea-party activists are jumping into primaries for U.S. Senate and other races, promoting their own candidates to challenge Republican front-runners in Kentucky, Florida, Illinois, California and elsewhere.

A similar dynamic is beginning to emerge in Colorado’s U.S. Senate primary, where several Republicans trying to ride the tea-party wave are taking aim at Jane Norton, a former lieutenant governor who has support from the GOP’s national leadership.

By introducing a platform that echoes tea-party mantras — smaller government, less spending, lower taxes — Colorado Republicans say they hope to avoid primary battles. Among the bullet points in the platform: Developing Colorado’s oil and gas reserves, requiring all employers to verify that their workers are legal U.S. residents, and eliminating state subsidies for reproductive health-care services at Planned Parenthood, which also performs abortions.

Adopting that platform avoided an interparty struggle last week when two Republicans who enjoy considerable tea-party support set aside their ambitions for the governor’s mansion and united behind Scott McInnis, a six-term congressman who will likely take on incumbent Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter in 2010.

“People realize if we want to get a victory, we need to unify however possible,” Mr. McInnis said. [Pols emphasis]

That last line from McInnis is key. “Unify however possible,” damn the consequences or the logic behind it. Republicans will do anything it takes to win in 2010, drawing a line in the sand that they may someday wish they had never crossed.

The GOP’s “Platform” may be like crack for Teabaggers, but Republicans are taking a bold risk by essentially trading loud activists for their traditional support from the business community, which doesn’t like the continued weakening of Colorado’s economy.

Republicans are hoping that they can win enough elections in 2010 with support of the Teabaggers that they can force everyone else to fall in line behind them. But if that gamble doesn’t work, we could look back at 2010 as a year that permanently damaged the Republican Party by cutting its ties to the business community in favor of a few loud activists.

It’s a risky strategy for the GOP to go “all-in” with the Teabaggers. Now they have to hope like hell that they get dealt the right cards.

Media Not Buying McInnis, GOP Platform Duck and Dodge

We noted yesterday that while the Republican “Contract for Colorado” “Platform for Prosperity” might be a good political move to get voters to believe that the GOP actually has a plan, the meat of the “Platform” was a little weak.

We aren’t the only ones asking just how GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis plans to fix Colorado’s budget crisis with mystical new cuts and no plan for bringing in new revenue. Even conservative Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll is having a hard time with McInnis’ vague answers:

If McInnis wants to establish a new level of seriousness in political campaigns, however, he’s got to do more than rail against the current administration’s tax hikes and regulatory excesses, and disdain for voter-approved amendments. He ought to explain how he’d balance the budget and make needed investments, too. After all, even the most pro-jobs governor can’t wave a wand and repeal the business cycle.

If he intends to roll back auto-registration fees, for example, how would he repair Colorado’s decrepit bridges, or get a handle on the backlog of road maintenance? How would he invest in infrastructure without going to voters with fees, taxes or tolls? [Pols emphasis]

“I can’t drive the machine until I get the keys to the machine . . . ,” McInnis told me Tuesday. “We won’t even know what we’re facing until after the legislative session. . . . What we can talk about are basic premises.”

I received essentially the same dodge when I asked him about support for higher education, which could plummet when federal stimulus funds expire.

Not only is McInnis determined to spare taxpayers when balancing the budget and shoring up highway or higher-ed spending, he even opposes an extension of Referendum C’s timeout on TABOR refunds – a position that could come back to haunt him if the economy heats up.

McInnis talks as if he will identify major waste or inefficiencies once he dives into the budget and reviews property leases, credit card use, management of state lands and buildings, and so forth. This is unlikely, to say the least. When pressed, he volunteers that more dramatic reform is inevitable. “We are going to have to do with less,” he says. “We are going to have to make very hard decisions between what we want and what we need. . . . We are going to have to downsize.”

Yes, we are – absent new sources of revenue or a visit from a very wealthy leprechaun. And at some point next summer or fall, McInnis should be expected to tell us how. [Pols emphasis]

We’ve seen a noticeable change from the media in recent months in regards to how they cover politicians and their talking points about the budget. Reporters and columnists are no longer letting them get away with broad generalities about how “we need to just cut more” without saying exactly what we could cut that hasn’t already been decimated. Politicians are no longer getting away with boldly claiming “no new taxes” when the stark reality is that Colorado needs some kind of new revenue, and soon.

So kudos to those reporters and other media folks who are keeping a closer eye on the reality of our state’s troubled budget and ignoring empty statements. Telling the public that we can just cut our way out of the problem and won’t need new revenue isn’t just disingenuous — it’s downright dangerous. Whoever ends up as Governor in 2011 is going to have a lot of work to do, and they are going to need the support of the general public to turn the budget around.

UPDATE: More editorial boards weigh in after the jump.

The Durango Herald:

It is only natural that the platform endorses job creation, defends home schooling, calls for denying funding for any organization that provides abortion, promises to support gun rights, end fraud and waste, and combat illegal immigration. That is a Republican definition of good government.

And it is understandable that it promises support for health-care reforms such as allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, which reflect federal laws not up to the governor at all. It is, after all, a campaign document.

But when it comes to money, McInnis needs to be more specific in the coming months. How, for example, can the platform promise to invest more on roads, bridges and water systems, as well as on higher education and work-force training, and create a rainy day fund – while at the same time promising not to raise taxes or increase fees?

The math is inexorable. The economic downturn has left Colorado with a stark choice. We can increase state government’s revenue or we can further reduce the services it provides. And at the point where things are now, that means serious cuts to education, prisons, transportation and other core functions of state government.

The conservative Grand Junction Sentinel:

One can certainly make a reasoned argument that the nursing facility at the Regional Center should have been lower on the governor’s budget-cutting priority list. But that raises inevitable questions: What should have been cut instead? And where would McInnis cut now to meet the state’s requirement for a balanced budget when revenue is declining?

The former congressman from Grand Junction has said he wants to keep state taxes low, improve Colorado’s business atmosphere, examine some of the financial instruments the state uses to see if potential savings can be found and conduct a program-by-program assessment of state services to eliminate waste. But there have been few specific proposals for cuts to date…

The platform also pledges to roll back the highly unpopular increase in vehicle registration fees approved by the Legislature this year with Gov. Ritter’s backing. But the platform also says Republicans will make investing in roads and bridges a top priority.

Voters deserve to know how McInnis and the Republicans plan to make road and bridge investments a priority if they are going to reduce a major source of highway funding.

And as you can imagine, liberal Denver Post columnist Mike Littwin’s piece today is more or less a slaughter. Not that we’re trying to unfairly color your opinion, but it turns out the “Contract for Colorado” “Platform for Prosperity” isn’t exactly the shot heard ’round the world–is it?