Tancredo, Poundstone’s Absolutely Vicious Anti-Maes Ad

Wow, folks.

Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic:

Freda Poundstone, well-known Colorado conservative political figure, appears in a Tom Tancredo campaign ad released Tuesday in which she calls embattled Republican candidate for governor Dan Maes a con and a liar.

“Dan Maes not only conned me out of my money, he lied to me about his background, and he deceived my friends and myself about his conservative principles,” says Poundstone, brimming with emotion. “I’ve had so many people call me and ask: What kind of a man would do that to an 83-year-old lady? and I don’t want that to happen to the voters of this state.”

Freda Poundstone, a longtime GOP activist and one of the principal figures in this year’s “Dr. Evil” initiatives, is of course no helpless old lady–but we’ll be damned if she doesn’t play one convincingly on television.

At the same time, it’s hard to see how attacking Dan Maes gets Tom Tancredo elected. This ad is going to hurt Maes, to be sure, but it also hurts all Republicans because Maes is at the top of the GOP ticket. Tancredo doesn’t have enough time or money to cripple Maes and damage Democrat John Hickenlooper and put out a positive message about himself.

If the only thing Tancredo accomplishes is to bash Maes (whose campaign was already DOA), and by association, the Republican Party, then what was the point of Tancredo getting in this race? And why are so many Republicans endorsing a guy who is openly destroying another Republican?

Who Will Win the Race for Governor?

Since we can’t really see many of you choosing someone other than John Hickenlooper at this point, we’re going to mix the question up a bit. What do you think will be the order of finish in the race for Governor?

Remember, we want to know what you believe will happen, not what you might want to happen. To repeat our usual description, if you had to bet everything you owned on the outcome of this race, who would you pick?

What Will Be the Order of Finish in the Governor's Race?

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Fundraising Updates for State Races

The financial reporting period for state races running between July 29 through September 1 is now available online. Here’s how the statewide candidates stack up. Keep in mind that cash-on-hand amounts are deceiving at this point, since many candidates have already spent big chunks of money to buy advertising spots (with exceptions for Dan Maes and Scott Gessler, neither of whom has a good reason for having so little left in the bank).

Figures below as Amount Raised Last Period/ Amount Spent Last Period/ Cash-on-Hand as of Sept. 1)


John Hickenlooper (D): $409,859/ $357,158/ $171,542

Tom Tancredo (ACP): $199,229/ $58,376/ $140,853

Dan Maes (R): $50,201/ $54,011/ $19,786


Cary Kennedy (D): $102,161/ $89,189/ $90,250

Walker Stapleton (R): $27,385/ $15,880/ $22,712


John Suthers (R): $64,958/ $15,671/ $346,775

Stan Garnett (D): $43,690/ $120,342/ $23,259


Bernie Buescher (D): $36,158/ $8,708/ $139,661

Scott Gessler (R): $13,745/ $38,071/ $14,725

Maes Agrees to 10 Debates with Hickenlooper

That loud “D’Oh!” you hear is coming from Republican strategists all across Colorado.

According to a joint press release sent out by the gubernatorial campaigns of Democrat John Hickenlooper and Republican Dan Maes (full release after the jump), the two candidates have agreed to 9 more debates through Oct. 29. This is terrible news for Republicans in Colorado, because every time Maes opens his mouth there is a serious risk that he will say something completely absurd, and the lead story in the media will be “Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Maes Said _________ Today.”

Ordinarily, in a race like this with a clear leader heading into mid-September, the frontrunner would be doing everything possible to duck more debates. But this is not an ordinary race, and the more that Hickenlooper gets to contrast himself with Maes, the better off the results for all Democrats.

Most voters may not associate Maes with other Republican candidates in Colorado, but some will, and a debate schedule like this just increases the chances that Maes will damage the Republican “brand” for the General Election. The odds of this happening will only increase as Election Day nears and polls still show Maes to be far behind Hickenlooper; any “Hail Mary” passes that Maes feels like he has to toss are more than likely going to be wounded ducks instead, and a media corps already bored of the governor’s race will be more than happy to point that out.


The Republican and Democratic nominees for governor pledged today in a joint press release to run campaigns specific to the issues, and they agreed to a fall debate schedule.

Dan Maes and John Hickenlooper agreed to 10 debates, including the Colorado Decides 2010 “Gubernatorial General Election Debate” that aired last week.

“Coloradans are sick and tired of the personal attacks that tend to typify election season,” Maes said. “John and I will engage each other on the issues on these 10 occasions and at numerous other forums and smaller events to let Colorado voters decide whose vision for the state they prefer.”

Hickenlooper said he appreciated the commitment to a substantive campaign from Maes.

“Dan and I have had healthy disagreements on various issues throughout the campaign so far, but I respect the way he has campaigned with class and respect,” Hickenlooper said. “I’m confident our joint commitment to discuss the issues facing our state will mean the rest of the country takes note of Colorado as a place that does things the right way.”

In addition to the agreed upon debates, both campaigns will participate in numerous forums on a range of issues before Election Day.

The debate schedule is based on invitations the campaigns received and joint availability of the candidates. Any decision on inviting third-party candidates is up to the individual event sponsors.

The Maes and Hickenlooper campaigns have formally agreed to the following debates:

Sept. 2:            Colorado Decides 2010 “Gubernatorial General Election Debate;” Denver

Sept. 11:          Club 20; Grand Junction

Sept. 17:          Progressive 15; Loveland

Sept. 25:          Action 22; Colorado Springs

Oct. 5:             Channel 7; Denver

Oct. 12            Pueblo Chieftain; Pueblo

Oct. 13:           The Denver Post/ 9news; Denver

Oct. 14            Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry; Denver

Oct. 22            Fox 31; Denver

Oct. 29            CBS 4; Denver

Bennet Leads Buck as Third Party Candidates Pull Votes

New bipartisan polling data released today shows the U.S. Senate race to be a dead heat, while the race for Governor is what we all thought it was — in the bag for Democrat John Hickenlooper.

According to the polling memo, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet leads Republican Ken Buck 43-40, while Hickenlooper (48%) is running away with the Governor’s race over both Republican Dan Maes (25%) and American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo (15%):

A recently conducted survey of Colorado voters conducted by the bi-partisan research team of Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (R) and David Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (D) highlights two very different races at the “top of the ticket” in Colorado. The results of the survey show a dead heat for U.S. Senate with Republican Ken Buck and Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet’s support within margin of error of the other (43% Bennet and 40% Buck). The data also shows how general antipathy toward both parties is having an impact on electoral politics this year, as a Libertarian candidate garners 5% of the vote – greater than the margin between the two major party candidates.

“The anti-Washington sentiment and general political environment would seemingly be working against Bennet,” stated Lori Weigel. “Incumbents tend to receive what they see in the polling, with undecided voters more likely to opt for change. However, this year, with disgust at politics and both parties running high, we have the potential for relatively unknown third party candidates to siphon off enough votes to change traditional campaign dynamics.” [Pols emphasis]

That last quote from Weigel is what we were talking about last week when we said that any poll in CD-4 that doesn’t include the third-party candidates on the ballot is inaccurate. Also particularly interesting to note is that the poll shows 85% of Democrats backing Bennet but only 76% supporting Buck, which is understandable given Buck’s far-right positions on many issues.

As for the Governor’s race:

The gubernatorial race appears to be a foregone conclusion, barring a fundamental shift in the race dynamics. Democrat John Hickenlooper is capturing 48% of the statewide vote, compared to just 25% opting for Republican Dan Maes and 15% selecting Tom Tancredo, running on the American Constitution Party label. Whether Tancredo is siphoning off GOP support that could have been available, or whether Maes’ self-inflicted wounds have boosted Tancredo’s support is open to interpretation. However, the former Congressman’s presence on the ballot and Maes’ continued problems appear to have all but sealed Democratic retention of the Governor’s mansion…

…Even before all of the prominent withdrawals of endorsements, rank and file Republicans’ support for their party’s nominee was tepid. Just 50% of Republicans say they would vote for Maes if the election was being held today, while 24% defect to Tancredo and 12% to Hickenlooper. This stands in stark contrast to Hickenlooper’s support within his party, as 84% of Democrats choose their party’s nominee for Governor.

Last-Ditch Attempt to Force Maes Out Underway?

THURSDAY UPDATE #6: The Wall Street Journal puts Dan Maes’ name in lights again, accorded the no-small honor of Quote of the Day:

Enjoy the ride, Mr. Maes. Whatever happens tomorrow, he’s writing his poetry and the newspapers are printing it.

THURSDAY UPDATE #5: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols Tweets from today’s debate:

THURSDAY UPDATE #4: This is all becoming really very silly. Former Senate President, and Republican right-wing standard bearer, John Andrews issued this statement this morning:

This morning I called Dan Maes to withdraw my endorsement and urge him to end his candidacy, for the public good.  As a conscientious Republican who earlier voted for Dan, I cannot support a manifestly unfit nominee.  He has flunked his job interview with the people of Colorado in the weeks since Scott McInnis faded.  The party should cut Maes loose if he does not resign the nomination.  I intend to write in a vote for Jane Norton for Governor. [Pols emphasis]

Jane Norton? This makes perfect sense. Try to kick out someone who won the Republican primary in order to replace him with someone who lost a primary election of her own. We’ve absolutely reached the point where this is causing more harm than good for Republicans, whether or not they can convince Maes to withdraw.


THURSDAY UPDATE #3: There is a Gubernatorial debate scheduled to be taped today at Noon as a joint production between Colorado Public Television (CPT12) and CBS 4. The debate is scheduled to air at 9:00 p.m. tomorrow, which could be a bit odd if Maes did withdraw from the race.


THURSDAY UPDATE #2: Moments ago, Dan Maes posted this defiant-sounding update to his Facebook page. Does this read like a man about to pull out of this race?

THURSDAY UPDATE: The Colorado Statesman’s Jody Strogoff confirms much of this story in a detailed must-read report this morning: renewed pressure to withdraw, a few days of expressed leeway by the Secretary of State’s office should a vacancy committee be necessary, and a twist you may not have expected: Bob Beauprez waiting in the wings?

According to sources in the Colorado Republican Party and elsewhere interviewed Wednesday by The Colorado Statesman, major escalating problems and daunting revelations about Maes’ gubernatorial candidacy – with still more possible bombshells to drop – could unravel any hopes Maes has to stay on as the GOP standard bearer by Friday, prompting the state party to convene a special vacancy committee to select a new nominee after the required five-day advance notice. If that happened, the meeting could be held Tuesday, Sept. 7, and a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office said that even though the general election ballot is set to be certified this Friday, Sept. 3, there is probably enough wiggle room for county clerks to update ballots next week if necessary…

Although Wadhams would not discuss possible scenarios for replacing his party’s nominee, he confirmed Wednesday night that the required five-day advance notice under state election law would allow a vacancy committee to meet as early as next Tuesday, if it became necessary. Colorado secretary of state spokesman Richard Coolidge confirmed that county clerks have some leeway to order ballots printed, and agreed that changes could still be made…

“I’m flattered,” Beauprez said when asked whether he might step in. “What I have told them is that, if a vacancy were ever to occur, I’d entertain the phone call to think about it seriously. I like to think I have plenty of gas in the tank and plenty to give. But it’s a bit idle (to talk about) now. First things first,” Beauprez cautioned.

That being said, Beauprez acknowledged that he would be “a better candidate than I was in 2006,” and emphasized that he has learned from that experience.

“I believe that was a job that had my experience and credentials and passion written all over it,” he said about the governor’s race four years ago. “That hasn’t changed. I still have another rodeo in me. If that vacancy were to occur, I would take the candidacy discussion very seriously,” he said.

Original post follows–major developments likely today.

A series of events in the last 24 hours leaves us more or less convinced that GOP leadership has commenced one final concerted attempt to force gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes out of the race. This morning, the Denver newspaper published long-rumored information about Maes’ brief record as a police officer in Kansas, showing where Maes has possibly embellished his record and subsequently removed said embellishments from his campaign website.

It’s not a new story–inferences about Maes’ time as a cop in Liberal, Kansas 25 years ago, a job from which he was fired, have been widely circulated. We’re not downplaying the story, because it’s obviously the last thing Maes needs, but the story certainly doesn’t seem any worse than, for example, Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois–who despite revelations of much bigger exaggerations about his military service record remains the GOP’s nominee for U.S. Senate in that state.

But it seems to be the pretext that Colorado GOP kingpins were looking for.

We’ve reported in this space about at least two not-so-secret attempts by GOP chairman Dick Wadhams and other powerbrokers to force Maes out since his narrow primary win over Scott McInnis at the beginning of the month. Today, allegedly on the strength of this report about Maes’ history as a police officer, Karen Crummy reports at the Denver newspaper’s blog that former Sen. Hank Brown is withdrawing his endorsement of Maes, and Bob Beauprez is calling on Maes to pull out, while Allison Sherry writes that leading “9/12” groups in the state are demanding a meeting with Maes before the end of the week. Maes himself was summoned to DC on a red-eye flight this morning according to FOX 31’s Eli Stokols–either for recommitment from the Republican Governor’s Association like his spokesman hopes, but more likely something else.

First of all, we don’t buy that the “9/12” groups–who, mind you, are not the ‘Tea Party’ and subject to their own influences–are spontaneously rising up against Maes, any more than we think Hank Brown didn’t know all about Maes when he endorsed him. After everything Republican leadership have themselves done to force Maes out since his victory over the tainted McInnis, there’s very little question who is orchestrating this avalanche of bad press for Maes, slamming home just as the last day his name can be replaced on ballots approaches.

Look, folks, we’ve been clear about our estimation of Maes’ chance at winning the governor’s race, and we understand on a bare strategic level why Wadhams and the other Republican kingmakers want him out. But what you are seeing play out here, far too publicly, is seriously jeopardizing prospects for GOP success in Colorado–up and down the ticket. What they’re basically asking is for the voters to get behind a fourth gubernatorial candidate: after forcing Josh Penry out of the race, watching McInnis self-immolate, and now with the Republican brass trying one last time to veto the choice made by almost 200,000 Republican rank-and-file voters.

And for all the angst about Maes among GOP leadership, why don’t the voters share it?

Tom Tancredo is substantially underperforming expectations in polls. Obviously, with a Congressional resume, long history, and very high name recognition, Tancredo has assets in his favor that should make him competitive with Maes–especially as Maes stumbles–but his numbers have steadily declined from their peak. As Tancredo’s numbers have unexpectedly weakened, and as Maes has weathered repeated attempts to force him out, many Republicans we’ve talked to have been more interested in stabilizing the situation so they can proceed where they have an advantage–not another day of uncertainty in the governor’s race. They said so a couple of weeks ago when Wadhams acted as Tancredo’s emissary in that attempt to force Maes out of the race.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the negative reports on Maes in the last few days that either was not known or warrants on merit another attempt to force Maes out. And yet here we are.

With all the stops pulled out in a last-ditch effort to have their way, hoping Friday’s important-yet-obscure deadline can be beat without inspiring rebellion, there’s just not a lot of pretense left to hide behind. And you can’t tell us, no matter how optimistic Republicans are for success across the nation, that this weakness and disorganization at the top of Colorado’s Republican ticket doesn’t imperil much more than this race.

As for Maes? What possible incentive could you offer him to not ride this coaster all the way? Maes is the only man on either side with absolutely, positively nothing to lose here.

Big-Name Republicans Backing Hickenlooper

As Jody Strogoff of The Colorado Statesman reports, major Republican donors Larry Mizel, Greg Maffei and Fred Hamilton are co-sponsoring a big fundraising lunch on Sept. 22 for Democrat John Hickenlooper’s campaign for Governor:

With Mizel, Maffei and Hamilton out of the closet, so to speak, others will likely follow.

Mizel, chairman and chief executive officer of M.D.C. Holdings, Inc., is also one of Colorado’s major political players, although most of his activities are behind the scenes. Between 1989 and 2006, Mizel and his wife are reported to have contributed about one million dollars to federal candidates, PACs, and political parties; 94 percent went to Republican candidates and party committees. His large donations, which have continued over the last few years, have placed Mizel among the nation’s top 100 political contributors.

Mizel wasn’t supporting McInnis for governor, and clearly won’t be lending his name to Maes. But rather than having his endorsement of Hickenlooper construed as anti-Republican, Mizel views it simply as a smart business decision. He says Hickenlooper provides bipartisan leadership that is good for the city, good for the state, and good for business in general.

Hickenlooper, Mizel says, has shown his brilliance in terms of economic development leadership and will do well in reestablishing Colorado as a state that welcomes growth and development, business and a good quality of life…

…Greg Maffei also has a strong personal relationship with Hickenlooper. According to a profile in the Denver Post a few months ago, the Liberty Media Corp. chief executive was one of the first people Hickenlooper turned to when he was considering whether to run for governor. Maffei told Hickenlooper he thought the job was a good fit and urged him to run.

Maffei has strong Republican Party ties, here in Colorado as finance director for the state Republican Party, and as a major figure in Sen. John McCain’s political activities over the years.

As the Statesman story points out, expect to see more major Republican donors migrating to Hickenlooper. After all, these guys didn’t make their money by betting big on long shots.  

BREAKING: Republicans Meeting with Maes Today on Pulling Out

SATURDAY AM UPDATE: As we suspected, Dan Maes is not proving agreeable to ‘suggestions’ that he exit the race–posted to his Facebook profile last night:

To be clear, the story is about high-level Republicans wanting Maes to get out of the race, or failing that to select a running mate from their approved roster. The only part of the “rumor” he has control over is his response–and for the time being anyway, there you have it.

UPDATE: In this video from a gubernatorial debate between Scott McInnis and Dan Maes at the end of last month, McInnis strongly defends Maes (and himself) from any attempt after the primary to force either of them from the race. McInnis calls attempts to force either of them out a “bait and switch,” and flatly states it would be “out of line” to go against the choice of primary voters.

No doubt he still thinks so.

Top Republican “emissaries” are meeting with Republican Gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes today in an attempt to convince him to drop out of the race and let the GOP replace him with someone else.

According to an anonymous Republican source, GOP Chair Dick Wadhams is not among those involved in the meeting in an effort to keep some official distance from the process. The message from Republicans is that there will be no outside money and no fundraising assistance for Maes if he stays in the race, but if he drops out there could be support for him for future opportunities.

Republican leaders have been conspicuous in their public silence about Maes, and that silence was apparently part of the plan leading up to today’s meeting. Top Republicans wanted to let Maes have a few days to himself after the election, hoping that their lack of attention would show him that he doesn’t have the support he would need to win in November.

From what we have heard over the last 24 hours, however, Maes is unlikely to agree to any terms that would see him remove himself from the race for Governor because he truly believes that he has earned the nomination. As part of a last-ditch effort, top Republicans may try to get Maes to agree to their choice for a running mate, in hopes that a stronger Lieutenant Governor could be in a position to take over the ballot at some point.

It’s important to keep in mind that these discussions are not really about finding a candidate who can win the governor’s race in November. As we first reported in mid-July, Republicans recognize that their chances at beating Democrat John Hickenlooper are close to zero. What they want now is to find someone who can excite the GOP base and not be a drag on the ticket — both for Ken Buck’s U.S. Senate bid and for the downballot races. Maes can’t win, and neither can a potential replacement; but at least a potential replacement isn’t regularly being mocked both locally and nationally as a joke of a candidate. Maes’ much-discussed “U.N. Bicycle Plot” is bad enough when he’s just one of several candidates running in a Primary, but now it’s the Republican candidate for Governor saying these things. That’s a lot different.

Whatever the decision, Republicans don’t have a lot of time to make it; the Secretary of State certifies the ballot on Sept. 3. A replacement candidate could still be programmed into the voting machines for early and Election Day voting, but the new name likely wouldn’t make it onto the early mail ballot if something wasn’t done before Sept. 3.

Dan Maes Solves Illegal Immigration Problem

Let’s get this out of the way first before the shills start accusing us of trying to “attack” or “undermine” the campaign of Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes: He can’t win. You know it. We know it. Everybody knows it. Maes cannot win the race for Governor, and he won’t.

Neither Maes nor Scott McInnis was going to beat Democrat John Hickenlooper in November, particularly with Tom Tancredo in the race on the American Constitution Party ticket. But we’re definitely glad to see Maes pull out the nomination over McInnis, because he’s…well…he’s hilarious. And not on purpose.

Maes was already spreading the knowledge in his victory speech last night, which included his brilliant plan to tackle illegal immigration. Just how will he solve this problem? Easy! Maes says that if he is elected Governor, he will “enroll the state in a program that deports illegal alien criminals.”

Enroll Colorado in a program to deport illegal alien criminals? Brilliant! Why didn’t anyone else ever think of that? You mean there is a program available to deport illegal immigrants, and Colorado just never bothered to “enroll”?

This should be a fun couple of months. Thank you, Republican voters.

Stupid Letter of the Week

These days, Colorado Republican Chairman Dick Wadhams is about as popular among Republicans as a gay illegal immigrant couple. Wadhams came to Colorado with a reputation as a clever political strategist, but as he has bungled one election after another (and is now facing angry Republicans who want him out), that strategic mind has been called into question.

Take, for example, this idiotic letter that Wadhams sent today to CSU Chancellor Joe Blake regarding Joe Garcia, the CSU-Pueblo President and new running mate for Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper:

Colorado taxpayers should not pay Joe Garcia’s state salary and benefits while he runs around the state pursuing his political ambitions at the expense of CSU-Pueblo. Joe Garcia has decided his political ambitions are more important than his responsibilities as president of CSU-Pueblo.

Joe Garcia should be honest with Colorado taxpayers and either withdraw his candidacy for lieutenant governor or he should resign as president of CSU-Pueblo…

…But Colorado taxpayers will be the ones who pay dearly for Joe Garcia’s political ambitions if they continue to foot the bill for his salary and benefits as president of CSU-Pueblo as he spends his time and energy seeking political office.

To say that you shouldn’t be paid by the state of Colorado while running for office is, of course, absurd, since this very thing has been happening in Colorado for…well, forever. Should Ken Buck resign his position as Weld County District Attorney in order to run for the U.S. Senate? After all, he’s taking a salary from Colorado taxpayers at the same time he is running for another office!

This is silly, and a waste of time, for Wadhams to try to rile up this issue of taking a taxpayer-funded salary while running for office. Because if it applies to Garcia, then it should apply to everyone else in a similar position.  

Hick Picks Joseph Garcia as Running Mate

Denver Major John Hickenlooper has reportedly chosen CSU-Pueblo President Joseph Garcia as his running mate in the race for Governor.

Garcia is not a name that is familiar with most Democrats, which is probably fitting given that Hickenlooper — though a Democrat by affiliation — is really more of an Independent candidate. Garcia was named President of CSU-Pueblo in June 2006 after serving as President of Pikes Peak Community College beginning in 2001. According to a bio from 2006:

He previously worked as the Rocky Mountain States representative for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies and as a partner in the Colorado Springs office of law firm Holme Roberts & Owen. He obtained his law degree from Harvard Law School and his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Colorado-Boulder…

…Garcia also serves on a number of boards and committees, including the Colorado Springs YMCA, the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp., the Downtown Depot Arts District, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and Goodwill Industries of Colorado Springs.

He joined the board of directors of the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority from 1994-1999 under then Gov. Roy Romer. Gov. Bill Owens appointed him again in 2001.

There are a lot of ways we could discuss the potential strategic reasoning behind choosing Garcia (he’s Hispanic, which is helpful for turnout and to deflect Tom Tancredo’s likely immigration-focused campaign, he could help bring out votes in Pueblo and Colorado Springs, etc.), but since there is basically no chance that Hickenlooper will lose the race for Governor, the most obvious reason is that Garcia doesn’t have a voting record to use in negative ads.

The other curious piece of this whole announcement is about the timing. Announcing your Lt. Governor running mate is one of a few guaranteed earned media hits that a campaign has. Usually a campaign would save this announcement for a lull in the press coverage, or in order to change the subject from an opponent’s attack. There’s really no strategic benefit that we can see in announcing Garcia as his running mate today, since the story will be buried alongside bigger (and frankly, more immediately relevant) stories about Tuesday’s Primary. Perhaps the announcement was made now because Garcia wants to be officially out of his current job before the new school year begins, but that’s the only reason we can come up with for why you would make this announcement now.

And finally…this may be a bad picture of Garcia that we found online, but it sure looks like he was once rocking a mullet.  

McInnis, Norton Leading Respective Primaries?

Today “The Fix” provides its list of the 10 most interesting primary fights in the country, and Colorado’s Republicans made it into two of the top three!

Most interesting, however, is that “The Fix” notes that Scott McInnis leads Dan Maes by 15 points in the race for the Gubernatorial nomination, while Jane Norton may now be leading Ken Buck 45-40 in the Senate Primary:

3. Colorado governor (R, Aug. 10): What happens if you hold a primary and the party regulars don’t want either candidate to win? That’s what’s happening in Colorado at the moment with scandal-plagued Scott McInnis (plagiarism) and Dan Maes (campaign finance violations) battling it out. A survey shown to the Fix and conducted by a Republican pollster in the last few days put McInnis ahead by 15. If he manages to win the nomination, there will be a major push by establishment Republicans to push him out. But will McInnis go? (Previous ranking: N/A)…

1. Colorado Senate (R, Aug. 10): Just when Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck looked like he was going to pull off an upset against former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, he made a series of impolitic comments — the most potentially damaging of which was calling elements of the Tea Party “dumbasses”. A poll conducted by a major Republican firm looking in at the governor’s race in the last few days showed Norton ahead 45 percent to 40 percent, which suggests that Buck has incurred considerable political damage. (Previous ranking: 3)

GOP Governor Disaster Could Topple Ticket

We’ve talked before about the negative effects that could affect the entire Republican ticket given their meltdown in the Governor’s race. Today MSNBC takes a look at the carnage and offers a sobering historical lesson for Republicans:

There’s at least one previous case of GOP intra-party turmoil in one race spilling over into down-ballot races.

“The clearest recent example of a gubernatorial downdraft is Ohio 2006,” said Claremont McKenna College political scientist John Pitney. “The incumbent GOP governor (Bob Taft) had been ensnared in scandal and his party’s candidate to replace him (Ken Blackwell) was unpopular. Together with bad national trends, trouble at the top of the ticket helped bring down incumbent senator Mike DeWine and cost the GOP a couple of House seats.”

Now, obviously those national trends that benefited Democrats in 2006 are not there in 2010. But a race like CD-4 could come down to the wire, and the Republican troubles at the top of the ticket could mean the difference for Rep. Betsy Markey.

UPDATE: To wit, Politico’s Kasie Hunt, who we’re pretty sure had never once written about–or even heard of–the American Constitution Party before Tom Tancredo made it famous:

Former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo’s rogue bid for governor, already imperiling the GOP’s shot at the state’s top office, could also dim Republican prospects for knocking off first-term Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey in the 4th Congressional District.

That’s because Tancredo’s running on the ticket of the conservative American Constitution Party- a minor third-party ballot line that happens to include a candidate, Doug Aden, running in Markey’s district. A statewide campaign that draws attention to Aden’s party might give him the kind of lift that would make him a spoiler for Republican state Rep. Cory Gardner’s campaign…

This is turning into a pretty big deal for this formerly-insignificant minor party–Tancredo’s high profile and strong support on the hard right are certain to give the ACP the broadest exposure in its history. And given that “Tea Party” and related groups are already nonplussed by GOP nominee Gardner after his run-in with Steve King a few weeks ago, the danger of Aden peeling off votes from Gardner is bigger than first impressions might suggest.

BREAKING: RGA Pulling Out of Colorado, GOP Discussing Options

UPDATE #2: Well of course they deny it, as Fox 31’s Stokols updates:

Sources tell FOX31 News that the Republican Governor’s Association is essentially abandoning McInnis, and pulling funds out of the Colorado governor’s race – a claim the RGA firmly denies.

“We remain as committed today as we were a week ago, a month ago or two months ago,” said Tim Murtaugh, director of political communications for the RGA, noting that McInnis has yet to secure the Republican Party’s nomination…

Seriously, what do you expect the RGA to say on the record? When the national campaign apparatus pulls the plug, as we saw when the Republican Senate committee pulled out of Bob Schaffer’s race in 2008 (also first reported by Colorado Pols), it’s a very sensitive thing, and subject to a great deal of spin on the way down. We stand by our sources and our story, but you can read the full statement from the RGA after the jump.

UPDATE: Fox 31’s Eli Stokols confirming:

FOX31 News has learned that the Republican Governor’s Association has withdrawn its money from the McInnis campaign and is already cancelling fundraisers that were previously scheduled for him.

Sources close to the campaign say McInnis has been receiving more pressure from Republicans to drop out after his Facebook posting appeared. Sean Duffy, McInnis’ spokesman, told FOX31 News Thursday morning that the campaign was proceeding with scheduled events for the day. However, the candidate did not appear–as scheduled–at a forum in Weld County.

Here’s the latest news on the Scott McInnis scandal and the continuing fallout:

As first reported by Colorado Pols, The Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) has made the decision to pull out of Colorado, according to anonymous sources. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the Chair of the RGA, is still attending an RGA meeting in Aspen this weekend, but fundraisers with Barbour have been cancelled. Fundraising events with Barbour scheduled yesterday and today in both Denver and Aspen were called off, and the decision has been made that the Colorado governor’s race is essentially a lost cause.This is a major development, because there were rumors of as much as $9 million being spent by the RGA in Colorado — money that would have helped every Republican down the ticket.

Meanwhile, we hear that McInnis donors have already started asking for their contributions to be returned, and fundraising events for the former GOP frontrunner have also been called off.

National Republican leaders have been trying to get in touch with McInnis, who has been largely ignoring calls and bunkering down. The consensus among many top GOP leaders in Colorado is that McInnis will have to drop out of the race at some point (late next week, at the earliest), but for now he is trying to weather the storm and in denial about the fact that his campaign is over. There is a belief among many Republicans that McInnis will not exit the race until he sees polling numbers that he can no longer salvage his campaign, hence the belief that he won’t pull out until at least late next week.

Republicans are furiously working on a fallback plan, with the idea that a candidate needs to be found to help prop up the entire ticket in whatever manner is still possible — but with no illusions that they could ultimately defeat Democrat John Hickenlooper in November. Some Republicans believe that there are interpretations of state law that would allow them to submit their nominee for Governor should McInnis withdraw (how they would deal with the public relations disaster of bypassing state convention winner Dan Maes is another question).

UPDATE: Secretary of State Bernie Buescher says his office won’t issue an opinion on “a hypothetical question.”

Here’s the full statement from the Republican Governor’s Association’s Tim Murtaugh:

Republican Governors Association spokesman Tim Murtaugh today issued the following statement in response to erroneous press reports involving the Colorado governor’s race:

“We are as committed today to our efforts in Colorado as we were a week, a month or two months ago.

“Our goal has been, and remains today, to ensure that Coloradans do not have to suffer through four more years of Bill Ritter’s failed policies of raising taxes and killing jobs – and that means defeating John Hickenlooper.  We will not waver from that goal.

“It is unfortunate, however, that the news media has chosen to whip itself into a frenzy and run with unsubstantiated rumors that are patently false.”

Big Line Updated

We’ve updated The Big Line as the continued implosion of the Scott McInnis campaign for Governor plays out.

The ramifications of McInnis’ destruction will play out all the way down the ballot. The Republican Governor’s Association, which has been raising a ton of coin, will now likely take Colorado off of its target list, which means millions of dollars will not be spent turning out Republican voters in the general election. The impact of that loss of support could very well mean the difference between winning and losing for Republicans such as Attorney General John Suthers and the eventual party nominee for State Treasurer.

Which Colorado Politician Would You Draft #1?

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.

    The Colorado Governor’s Race, In a Picture

    At the risk of oversimplifying the Colorado Governor’s race in 2010, this, in a nutshell, is why Republicans are in trouble.

    This picture is from last night’s Nugget’s game, in which Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper rode a bicycle onto the court to deliver the game ball before tip-off. As we saw this picture, we were reminded of a quote from State Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams in early February:

    “If this election has to be about whether voters like John Hickenlooper, we will lose. This guy is dangerous. If we allow him to run as the quirky mayor of Denver, he is dangerous.”

    As much as we all like to pretend that elections are about issues, they really aren’t that way anymore (if they ever were). In today’s media climate, elections are popularity contests, first and foremost, and Republicans like Scott McInnis and Dan Maes are just never going to be more likable than Hickenlooper.

    There are few politicians in Colorado who could pull of this bicycle basketball maneuver and make it look genuine, rather than the folksy publicity stunt that it is. Think about it — who else could do this and not come across as completely fake? When all is said and done in November, it is this difference that McInnis and Maes just cannot overcome.

    As an aside, this is also a strong counter-argument to the old (and we believe, long disproved) adage that a Denver politician would have a hard time winning statewide; you think the Mayor of Longmont would be able to arrange this kind of free press in the Denver market?

    McInnis Opposes “Dr. Evil” Initiatives (101, 60 and 61)

    Interesting news from former Rocky Mountain News reporter Kevin Flynn’s Inside Lane blog:

    But McInnis’ missed opportunity came when, after criticizing fee increases and the growing technology that would enable mileage-based road fees to replace the gas tax, he was asked what his ideas were for fixing the funding crisis.

    He said he had no specifics, because “I’m not a transportation expert,” and instead asked the questioner what proposals he would have…

    …The two candidates were on the same page on one issue, however – three ballot measures this November that would slash government and school revenues and limit the ability to borrow for projects should be defeated.

    Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61 “don’t add up,” McInnis said. He understands voter frustration with the cost of government, he said, “but as a leader I gotta say do the math. It doesn’t add up on these amendments. These are not good amendments.”

    Hickenlooper also said he opposes the trio of measures.

    “All three of those ultimately will result in us being unable to build anything,” Hickenlooper said. “From your point of view, it would be impossible for government to build anything. You’re condemning us to be a second tier country.”

    Kudos to McInnis for opposing the three ballot measures that would virtually destroy Colorado’s budget, and our ability to really do anything at all. McInnis’ statement won’t go over well with Tea Party folks, but perhaps he finally realized that it wouldn’t be much fun to be Governor in a state that was dead broke should these measures pass.

    Colorado Governor’s Race Dropping Off Watch Lists

    The regular nationwide “Governor’s Line” from Washington Post blog “The Fix” is out today, and the big news is no news: Colorado is no longer listed as one of the 15 states where the Governor’s mansion is most likely to switch parties.

    Why the change? Well, as we have written before, there are a couple of reasons:

    1. Democrat John Hickenlooper is really popular. For whatever reason (we could name many reasons, but this isn’t the space for that), voters across Colorado really like the Denver Mayor. Elections are often popularity contests, because most voters do not educate themselves enough to know much of a difference between the candidates. It’s more important for voters to like you than to agree with you on policy. Look at the 2004 Presidential election: A lot of voters knew that George W. Bush had not done a very good job in his first term, but they just didn’t like Democrat John Kerry (and who could blame them?)

    2. Republican Scott McInnis lost his best narrative for winning when Gov. Bill Ritter announced he would not run for re-election. Incumbents are not polling well nationwide, and it’s a lot easier to compare yourself to the guy in office now. McInnis’ entire strategy rested on trying to convince voters that Ritter had wrecked the economy, and so they should give McInnis a shot instead. That’s why GOP State Chair Dick Wadhams is trying so hard to get the silly “Hickenritter” nickname to stick on Hickenlooper — they desperately need those voters who aren’t happy with Ritter.

    3. Hickenlooper is naturally better suited to the image that McInnis wants (and needs) to carve out for himself. McInnis wants to portray himself as the “business friendly/job creation” candidate. Unfortunately, Hickenlooper is already better at that. McInnis can talk about building business and growing jobs, but Hickenlooper has actually done it in the private sector. Repeatedly.


    4. An incredible 37 Governors are up for re-election in 2010, including 22 that are open seats. Hick is going to raise as much (and likely more) money than McInnis, and given all the points above, it’s hard to see how McInnis is going to convince big national GOP interests that his race is worthy of top-tier consideration. You really can’t look at the other 21 open seats and say that McInnis has a better shot than most of them. And that opinion is starting to take hold even in his own backyard.

    McInnis may still win the race for Governor, but it’s hard for any objective observer to envision a likely scenario where that would happen.

    Sorry, But You Don’t Really Matter in a Statewide Election

    Sorry to our Western Slope pals, but we had to comment on this bit of nonsense from something called The Snowmass Sun, titled “Can Hick Win the Western Slope?”

    When Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak came to Glenwood Springs last week, she came bearing a message from John Hickenlooper: “Tell everyone in Glenwood Springs hi and sorry I can’t be there.”

    That’s nice, but it’s not enough. If Hickenlooper is going to win Colorado, he has to win places like this, and that means he’s going to have to show up.

    Waak knows that. Hickenlooper does, too. He may be wildly popular in Denver, and pretty darn popular outside of Denver, too, but to win as governor of Colorado he has to win the whole state, and that means winning the Western Slope.

    His likely Republican foe, Scott McInnis, is an old hat on the Western Slope, and he mastered the art of winning it. As a congressman, he was an unbeatable force. Democrats rarely pitted anyone against him, and when they did, they lost.

    McInnis has often argued that winning any state election comes down to winning the Western Slope, and there’s some logic to that. Figure liberal Boulder and conservative Denver counter each other out. The conservative ‘burbs counter liberal Denver. That mostly leaves the Western Slope to battle it out for the winner.

    That’s why this part of the state has become a big battleground, especially in recent elections. [Pols emphasis]

    The Western Slope is a “big battleground?”

    Um, yeah.

    We’ve said it again and again here on Colorado Pols: Population shifts over the last 10 years have completely changed the electorate in Colorado. When Colorado had fewer residents, the electorate was more spread out across the state. But today, well more than 80% of Colorado voters live along the Front Range between Ft. Collins and Pueblo. We have no doubt that both John Hickenlooper and Scott McInnis know this, even if the Snowmass whatever does not.

    Both candidates will come to the Western Slope and will campaign there, but the numbers just don’t lie. The first major example of the population shift in Colorado and its effect on elections came in the 2004 Senate race, when Democrat Ken Salazar beat Republican Pete Coors because of Denver voters. In Denver alone, Salazar outpolled Coors by more than 100,000 votes (169,580 to 60,387). That same year, a total of 62,341 people cast a ballot in all of Mesa County, which includes Grand Junction, the largest city on the Western Slope. In other words, Salazar got more than twice as many votes in Denver as there are voters in all of Mesa County, the most populous county on the Western Slope.

    Those numbers have only increased in the years since. In 2008, Barack Obama beat John McCain in Denver by a 204,882 to 62,567 margin (a difference of 142,315 votes). In Mesa County, Obama lost to McCain 44,578 to 24,008 (a 20,570 vote margin). McCain would have needed to win Mesa County six more times just to erase the advantage Obama gained in Denver alone.

    So will Hickenlooper or McInnis win the Western Slope? It doesn’t matter, because if they don’t win along the Front Range, and in the Denver Metro area specifically, then what they do on the Western Slope is irrelevant.

    Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run…

    Andrew Romanoff held a press conference today to announce that he is still running for the U.S. Senate and will not seek any other office or accept any other job offer in the meantime.

    So there’s that.

    On one hand, this is the first good bit of strategy (okay, really the only strategic move) that we’ve seen from Romanoff as a U.S. Senate candidate. Romanoff got a lot of free media attention by holding a press conference to announce basically nothing, while at the same time trying to beef up the impression that he is still a sought-after politician due to all of the people who encouraged him to run for Governor. Romanoff also needed to publicly affirm that he was staying in the race for Senate because of so much speculation to the contrary. In that regard, today’s press conference was a good move.

    On the other hand, it’s hard to really understand this decision in general. Romanoff is a talented policy wonk who is widely liked and respected by both Democrats and Republicans, but his campaign for Senate has been downright awful…and it’s destroying his political future in the process. Romanoff has tried meekly to distinguish himself from incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet on the basis of not accepting PAC money or special interest contributions, but policy-wise and issues-wise, there’s really not much difference between the two. The lack of a strong, clear message for why Romanoff is running for Senate has been startling, and his campaign in general has been a mess. Witness this weird item today from Westword:  

    The morning after Bill Ritter announced that he wasn’t going to run for governor this year, I reached out to Romanoff spokesman John Schroyer for a comment about whether or not his guy would consider switching his focus from the senate to Ritter’s gig.

    Schroyer pointed me to a comment Romanoff had made at a public event the evening before about still being a candidate for the Senate — but when I asked followup questions about how his challenge to Michael Bennet was going, Schroyer said someone else from the organization would have to provide answers. I suggested new campaign manager Bill Romjue. Schoryer said he wasn’t sure if he could get in touch with Romjue, but he would have someone contact me shortly.

    That didn’t happen — and after Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar endorsed Denver mayor John Hickenlooper amid his own announcement that he wasn’t going to step in for Ritter, it was clear that Romanoff’s window of opportunity had closed.

    Nonetheless, I received e-mails from Schroyer later that day, and for several days thereafter, asking if I’d gotten what I needed in terms of an interview. Each time I replied that I had not — that neither Romjue nor anyone else from the Romanoff campaign had contacted me. But these notes never prompted any action. No call ever came.

    The Westword story pretty well sums up Romanoff’s campaign in general. He waited way too long to begin his campaign, he went months without a campaign manager, and he still hasn’t really articulated what he would do as a Senator that Bennet isn’t already doing. Romanoff had to announce soon that he was either running for Senate or switching to Governor, but ironically, it is the disarray of his Senate campaign that precluded a real run for Governor. We heard from more than one politico in the last two weeks who would have supported a Romanoff bid for Governor six months ago but had lost confidence in his ability to run a strong statewide campaign. Had Romanoff stayed on the sidelines and waited for his next opportunity, there likely would have been a strong sentiment that he should be the Democratic nominee for Governor.

    But because he has spent the last six months running a head-scratcher of a campaign while simultaneously alienating a good number of Democrats with his messageless Bennet challenge, Romanoff was never going to be able to elbow someone like John Hickenlooper out of the race.

    The reason we’re having such a hard time understanding today’s announcement is because there’s really no good ending in sight for Romanoff. His fundraising numbers for Q4 haven’t been released yet, but there’s no way he’s going to be able to keep up with Bennet. Romanoff doesn’t need to outraise Bennet in order to beat him in August, but he does need to raise a considerable amount of money just to keep his campaign running. You cannot run a truly effective statewide campaign when many of your staffers are volunteers, as they are for Romanoff. But if Romanoff spends the money he needs in order to staff up appropriately, then there’s no way he’ll have enough money for the kind of TV ad buy that will overcome Bennet. Remember, Romanoff may be popular and well-known with activist Democrats, but 85% of primary voters are uninformed, generally uninterested voters. Most primary voters don’t know Romanoff or Bennet, because most primary voters aren’t all that different than most general election voters. By and large, those voters will select the person they are most familiar with come August, and Bennet will be able to go up on TV with an ad buy that will all but assure that he has strong ID among Democratic voters.  

    In order to be a success in politics, you need either to be feared or loved (or, ideally, both). In less than a year, Romanoff has gone from being universally loved and respected (if not-quite feared as a candidate for higher office), to only somewhat loved and not-at-all feared. As long as he remains in the Senate race, nobody who has seen Romanoff’s campaign to this point will ever again fear what he might do as an opponent. As long as he stays in this race, Romanoff will never again enjoy the kind of popularity among Democrats that he once had. The only positive outcome for Romanoff at this point is an all-or-nothing gamble that seems like more of a long shot than anything. . He’s risking his entire political career on a bet that he’s going to get dealt two or three amazing cards between now and August – cards that will somehow propel him to an improbable victory.

    Maybe Romanoff will surprise us and go on to win both the primary and the general election, but no serious observer can watch this race at this point and really, truly believe that Romanoff has a significantly better chance than Bennet. If Romanoff exits the race soon, he can chalk his crappy campaign up to wrong place, wrong time and write it off as an aberration. If Romanoff gets out now, he can start to rebuild the relationships he has broken while continuing to serve as a leader to those who support him now. Romanoff is talented and young, and he can live to fight another day. But if he loses the primary to Bennet while running a bad campaign, then he’s done. Or even worse, if he loses the primary and then Bennet loses the general election, Romanoff will be blamed (fairly or not, he’ll be blamed) for damaging the chances of Democrats to hold this seat.

    Perceived political power is as important, if not more important, than actual legislative or executive power. If Romanoff loses to Bennet, then he also loses his place in line for future races. No other Democrat is going to defer to Romanoff if he has already proved that he can’t even win a primary, but if Romanoff exits the race now, he can do so while preserving some chits in his pocket to use for a future run.

    Look, we didn’t think that Bennet was the right choice when Gov. Bill Ritter appointed him to replace Ken Salazar last year; we thought that it should have been Romanoff, Hickenlooper or Rep. Ed Perlmutter, and we said as much. We were skeptical of Bennet when he fumbled around early, and we wrote that Romanoff and Perlmutter might have been better. There was an opportunity for someone like Romanoff to challenge Bennet and even emerge as the frontrunner while doing it. But that time passed in late spring while Romanoff waited, and waited, and waited. When he finally made a decision in August, it was too late; Bennet had raised a lot of money and was picking up more and more support. Similarly, there was a time, back in 2005, when virtually every Democrat in Colorado would have moved over to allow Romanoff to be the Democratic candidate for Governor. But Romanoff passed, and the political world moved on without him.

    Did Romanoff get screwed over by not being appointed to the Senate or as Secretary of State by Ritter? Probably, but you can’t ignore the fact that Romanoff also passed up opportunities of his own. Either way, perhaps Romanoff does deserve better than this; but as Clint Eastwood once said, “Deserve ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.”  

    It looks like Romanoff is going to continue ahead with a Senate campaign that he most likely cannot win, and that’s a shame. Politics is as much art as science, and you’ve got to know (to use another poker analogy) when to hold ’em, and when to fold ’em. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s just not there for Romanoff in 2010.

    Romanoff Considers Suicide Switch?

    UPDATE: Treasurer Cary Kennedy (mentioned in the story below) very smartly extricated herself from this discussion and endorsed John Hickenlooper a few minutes ago.

    We can’t verify what KMGH-TV reported yesterday as a sidebar to coverage of John Hickenlooper’s gubernatorial campaign announcement, and then amended, but we think it deserves a brief mention:

    Hickenlooper decided to run for governor on Sunday, and met with Romanoff Monday night, sources told 7NEWS. During the meeting Romanoff pressed for a Romanoff-Cary Kennedy ticket for governor and lieutenant governor. Kennedy is the state treasurer.

    They met again Tuesday morning.

    “He never tried to dissuade me from running,” Hickenlooper said. However, he refused to discuss the details of their conversation, saying they have been friends for a long time.

    Hickenlooper decided to make the announcement Tuesday to pre-empt any announcement by Romanoff that he would enter the race for Colorado governor, sources said.

    Apparently redacted from the original report (but not before being posted in a comment here):

    Romanoff asked Hickenlooper not to run, but Hickenlooper adamantly stated he was running, according to sources.

    We’ve heard more rumors today that Romanoff is considering leaving the Senate race and challenging Hickenlooper in a gubernatorial primary. Certainly he could make that hard-to-imagine midflight switch from a federal to a state race, but we have grave questions about how that would be received by voters, not to mention the practical problems of such a move–Romanoff was having trouble raising money for a Senate race with contribution limits significantly higher than those for Governor, and none of the money he has raised for Senate would be usable in a race for Governor. How many of those people who donated to his campaign for Senate would be interested in donating again to a campaign for Governor after seeing how poorly his campaign for Senate has been?

    There’s the possibility Romanoff could get the Lt. Gov. nod, thus alleviating tensions, but that seems less likely with another male from Denver headlining the ticket.

    Short of joining the ticket, to “step down” to the governor’s race from the Senate primary would be a frank admission that he couldn’t win where he was–and if he can’t beat Michael Bennet, arguably in a more vulnerable spot than Hickenlooper, how could he possibly expect to beat a sitting mayor of Denver with 80% approval ratings?

    But beyond that, the optics of Romanoff making such a switch now would be absolutely horrible: it would reek of desperation, signaling that personal power–and career insecurity–really were the driving force behind all his agitation these last few months. Unfortunately the damage may be done at this point, any speculation about Romanoff switching races cannot help but weaken him in the race he’s nominally running in now.

    For as critical as we have been of Romanoff’s quixotic nonstarter of a Senate campaign, we would be pained to see this get any worse for him than it already is in terms of future political viability–and that means he needs to stop the appearance of erratic “shopping” for his next office right now. There was a time back in the day, in 2005, before Bill Ritter (or even Hickenlooper, for that matter), when Romanoff could have had the same deference in a gubernatorial campaign from other contenders that Hickenlooper enjoys today. And Romanoff is still a pretty young guy–if he doesn’t flush his reputation reaching for things that lie just beyond his grasp this election cycle, which involves some swallowing of pride and realism, he could be back to triumph another day.

    Or, maybe Romanoff will become a punchline: this decision could be the crucible.

    Republicans Fret Over Hickenlooper Run

    UPDATE: Denver Post reports that the last of the big three candidates besides Hickenlooper–Rep. Ed Perlmutter–will not enter the gubernatorial race. Perlmutter may be pulling his name out of the mix in advance of a Hickenlooper announcement, as many politicians do so as not to look like a second choice. If for some reason Hickenlooper does not run, the most discussed (and strongest) candidates for Democrats are Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Rep. Betsy Markey and former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. We’d be surprised, however, if Hickenlooper is not the Democratic candidate at this point.

    While no public decision has been made as of yet regarding the race for Governor, Colorado Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams seems to think that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will be the Democratic candidate. We’ve written before that we think Hickenlooper will eventually enter the race, and the state GOP is already trying to get out in front of any potential announcement.

    In a press release sent out today, Wadhams calls Hickenlooper “Hickenritter” and speculates that Hick would be identical to Gov. Bill Ritter in several ways. Republicans are obviously concerned about a potential Hickenlooper candidacy, because when he was passed over for Michael Bennet when the latter was appointed to the U.S. Senate last year, they openly stated that Hick would have been tough to defeat in 2010.

    From former Rep. Bob Beauprez in The Colorado Statesman last February:

    I’m guessing John Hickenlooper has name ID that rivals the governor’s, maybe exceeds the governor’s. I’m guessing that John Hickenlooper has 4:1 favorable/unfavorables statewide. There isn’t enough money in the world to peel that down to 1:1 – to where you could maybe beat him.

    John Hickenlooper could claim – he won’t do it because he’s got enough humility to not do it – but he could claim that the DNC was successful in large part because of his efforts to raise the money. He not only has a Rolodex with names in it, they are successful names.

    John could raise more money and be more easily elected. His appointment would have taken that seat almost completely off the table. I don’t know what John could have done to make it truly competitive. [Pols emphasis]

    Here’s what Wadhams had to say about Hickenlooper in December 2008, when Hick was being considered as a replacement in the U.S. Senate for Ken Salazar:

    Dick Wadhams, the state GOP chairman, conceded that Hickenlooper “is immensely popular as the mayor of Denver” but said “he’ll look a lot different after two years of votes in the U.S. Senate.”

    These two quotes highlight exactly why many observers, including Colorado Pols, see Hickenlooper as such a strong potential candidate. As we wrote in The Big Line, Hickenlooper has great name ID and is a prolific fundraiser, which are probably the two most important qualities you could have as a candidate for statewide office. That doesn’t make him a shoo-in for Governor, but at the very least he would enter the race with an advantage over Republican Scott McInnis on both fronts.

    Thursday Open Thread on Gov. Race: It Looks Like Hickenlooper

    UPDATE #5:No confirmation yet that Hickenlooper is going to run, but last night sources said that the Mayor really wanted to do it but was waiting for Salazar’s decision. Given the fact that Salazar publicly endorsed Hick if he runs, it’s not a stretch to assume that he did so with knowledge of what the answer would be.

    If Hickenlooper does not run, the next name to watch is Rep. Ed Perlmutter. We wrote earlier that is was highly unlikely that Salazar, Hickenlooper and Perlmutter all pass on running for Governor, but if that does happen for some reason, the next names on the list are Treasurer Cary Kennedy (the only potential candidate who could actually transfer some of her current warchest to a race for Governor), Andrew Romanoff and Rep. Betsy Markey.

    UPDATE #4: Denver Post reports Salazar will endorse John Hickenlooper for Governor.

    “I know John and Helen will seriously consider this historic opportunity that will define the future of State of Colorado and her people. This is a personal decision they must make and I will fully respect that decision,” Salazar said.

    “As for me, I have a job to do as Secretary of the Interior to implement President Obama’s vision for a clean energy economy and to better protect America’s great outdoors.”

    UPDATE #3: Multiple sources now confirming, Ken Salazar will NOT run. In that case, we’d put the odds that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will run at 95%. Developing.

    UPDATE #2: Ken Salazar out? Just relaying this from The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder until we get additional word, which we are seeking now:

    This just in…. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has decided NOT to run for governor in Colorado. Incumbent Democrat Bill Ritter is retiring. The likely candidate for the Dems, then, is Denver mayor John Hickenlooper.

    UPDATE #1:: It seems that The Denver Post isn’t buying the Republican spin that Ritter is retiring because he didn’t think he could win:

    we don’t believe that Ritter dropped out of the race because he was down in recent polls and feared losing the gubernatorial election to Republican Scott McInnis. [Pols emphasis] The margin was only single digits, and voters haven’t unseated an incumbent governor since 1962…

    …It may not have been noticeable to Coloradans, but this job has worn on the governor. We couldn’t help but notice the lightness in Ritter’s demeanor at his press conference, joking at times with journalists. It seemed as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.

    He had the appearance of a man who was very comfortable with his very difficult decision, and we’re happy for him. The moment he finished his speech in the Capitol foyer, he turned and hugged his teenage son. Sometimes stepping away from a job to spend time with one’s family means just that.

    There are 244 comments and counting on Tuesday’s post, 300 and counting on Wednesday’s post and quickly growing comments on this post.

    Colorado Pols also broke a record yesterday with our highest number of Page Views in one day, with 60,629 (but not a record for Unique Visitors in one day, curiously enough).

    So we thought you might want another open thread on the topic.

    Questions, Answers (And Theories) From Ritter Announcement

    (Bumped into Thursday for self-evident reasons – promoted by Colorado Pols)

    After a wild 24 hours that saw more than 500 comments from Polsters in two separate posts, its time to take a look at the questions and answers from one of the more surprising political announcements in recent Colorado history.

    Here’s what we know, what we’ve heard, and all of the questions both answered and unanswered surrounding Gov. Bill Ritter’s announcement today that he will not run for re-election in 2010.


    Whenever a business executive, a sports figure or a politician says that they are stepping away from their job “in order to spend more time with their family,” people always question the real reason behind the decision. And in many cases, there is another reason aside from the standard rationale.

    But in Ritter’s case, everything we’ve heard makes it sound like he really is retiring in order to devote more time to his family; there really may not be anything more to it. Remember, Ritter is not a lifelong politician — his 2006 campaign for Governor was his first real race for any office (we’re not counting his one re-election bid for Denver DA against Craig Silverman). Neither he nor his family were accustomed to the type of life they have led in the past three years, and it seems to have taken a toll on his family.


    Republicans are strategically correct in trying to push the story that Ritter retired because he felt he would lose to Republican Scott McInnis, but it’s simply not true. While Ritter’s polling numbers may not have been great, it’s way too early for any politician to take polling results that seriously. Ritter’s fundraising was going well and he was working hard on the campaign trail.

    To suggest that Ritter was afraid of McInnis — a flawed candidate in his own right — is silly. In fact, no Democrats are overly worried about McInnis in 2010; the three strongest Dems in Colorado are ready to run for Governor right now (more on that in a moment). If McInnis was such a concern, most Democrats would be hemming and hawing about a run like they were in 2005 — when then-Rep. Bob Beauprez was thought to be a very tough opponent. Democrats are not afraid of McInnis in the least, and neither was Ritter.


    Republicans are sticking to their message that Ritter is retiring because he couldn’t win in 2010, and again, that’s the right public spin to put on this. But privately, Republican strategists are very concerned.

    McInnis’ entire campaign strategy was based on telling voters that Ritter had screwed up the state and thus Colorado needed a new leader; that strategy is now worthless. Polling nationwide has shown that voters are displeased with incumbents in either Party, which was the biggest advantage McInnis had; that advantage is now gone. And compared with other potential Democratic candidates, Ritter was definitely the preferred opponent for Republicans. Not only was Ritter weakened by being an incumbent faced with implementing unpopular budget and service cuts, but he’s never been the most charismatic of Dems nor a top fundraiser, and the Democratic base had been less than pleased with him lately.

    All in all, this was not a good day for Republicans in Colorado, and it’s about to get worse because…


    Here’s how the potential field for Governor breaks down:

    1. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

    2. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper

    3. CD-7 Rep. Ed Perlmutter

    From everything we’ve heard, there will only be one Democrat, and it will be decided in this order. If Salazar says yes, and by all indications he will, then he’s the guy. If not, then Hickenlooper has the next right of first refusal. If for some reason both Salazar and Hick decide against a run — a highly unlikely scenario — then Perlmutter will almost certainly run for Governor.

    Any of these three candidates are stronger than McInnis. All three are proven fundraisers with good name ID in the Denver Metro area — where most of Colorado’s voters reside. And none of them have any connections to Colorado’s budget crisis, which makes them nearly impossible to attack over what they did or didn’t do to harm the state financially.

    But the Democratic nominee will most likely be Salazar, who presents a whole set of problems for McInnis and the GOP in Colorado in general. Not only does Salazar have fantastic name ID and fundraising contacts, but he’s one of just a few Democrats in Colorado who could really turn out Hispanic voters in large numbers. If Democratic voter turnout is depressed in 2010, which many pundits have predicted, a large turnout by Hispanic voters to vote for the state’s first Hispanic Governor could more than make up the difference. And that increased turnout will trickle down to help Democrats across the state, which is not something that Ritter could have provided.

    When all is said and done, Ritter’s surprise retirement will likely turn out to be a significant benefit for Democrats in Colorado. Democrats don’t have to run an incumbent at the top of the ticket in a year where voters are mad at incumbents, and his replacement could turn out huge numbers of voters by himself. Republicans actually had a better chance of taking back the Governor’s mansion on Monday than they do today.