Who Would Replace McInnis as the GOP Candidate for Governor?

As the Scott McInnis campaign completes its total destruction, politicos from both sides of the aisle are buzzing that the GOP’s only hope at winning the Governor’s race is if they can find a replacement candidate after the primary.

This assumes that McInnis can still defeat Dan Maes on August 10, since Maes most certainly would not withdraw from the race if he wins the nomination, but the scenario being discussed is that McInnis would limp to a primary win, and then withdraw from the race so that Republicans could appoint someone else as their candidate (of course, this also assumes that McInnis would pull out of the race). But if this all happens, who would the Republicans put forward as their candidate?

One of the obvious names thrown out is that of Josh Penry, the former Senate Minority Leader and now the Campaign Manager for Jane Norton’s Senate bid. But if Norton loses the Senate nomination to Ken Buck, which appears likely, would Buck — and the GOP base — really embrace Penry as their top-ticket candidate? We doubt it.

So who would you put forward to replace McInnis on the GOP ballot, should this scenario take place? It would need to be someone with decent name ID already, since there wouldn’t be much time to raise their profile before mail ballots drop in early October. It would also need to be someone who would be willing to jump into a race as a clear underdog.

Remember, it’s not necessarily important that the Republican candidate actually be able to beat Democrat John Hickenlooper in November; at this point, the main concern would be finding someone who could at least put up a good fight so that the effect of a potential Hickenlooper landslide doesn’t cripple every GOP candidate down the ballot.  

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.

Note To Aspiring Officeholders: DO NOT Plagiarize The Washington Post

UPDATE #2: “Dead man walking,” writes the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake for The Fix:

Former Rep. Scott McInnis’s (R-Colo.) gubernatorial campaign is in a fight for its life as charges of plagiarism have led to questions of whether he can stay in the race.

Republicans in Colorado say he’s a dead man walking, and they are exploring the ins and outs of what they can do to get another nominee…

Sources in Colorado Republican circles say it’s likely a matter of when, not if, McInnis will exit the race.

“Almost without exception, they think he is done,” said one senior Colorado Republican granted anonymity to speak candidly. [Pols emphasis]

“He may be the last one to know it, but he’s dead in the water,” said another. “It’s likely he will resist heavily, but at some point he’s got to realize this is a fact of life.”

UPDATE: Think we’re kidding? Feast your eyes, Washington.

That sound you hear is McInnis’ card, from every Rolodex inside the Beltway, being shredded. Combine this with a major Denver newspaper calling on McInnis to drop out of the race, and we’d say that you can go ahead and pull out that fork now. Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican nominee for Governor, some guy named Dan Maes!


The folks minding the Twitters at the Washington Post took notice of new allegations of plagiarism–unrelated to the ‘researcher’ the campaign is blaming already-reported incidents on–by GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, as reported today in our state’s newspaper of record:

Which points to their wire story. To briefly summarize, McInnis published an op-ed in the Rocky Mountain News in December of 1994 that directly lifted the words of a Washington Post opinion piece about a month and a half prior. The following January, McInnis gave a speech on the floor of Congress that again lifted this text without attribution. This new incident can’t be pinned on the ‘researcher’ McInnis is blaming the incidents of plagiarism from his “Musings on Water” articles for the Hasan Foundation–a shifting of blame that doesn’t help McInnis anyway, since the Hasans insist that the essays were always represented as McInnis’ sole work.

Not to mention that the Glenwood Springs paper caught up with the researcher in question, Rolly Fischer, who is apparently not interested in being Scott McInnis’ scapegoat, and doesn’t sound very ‘remorseful’–as McInnis has been representing him–while denying any responsibility for the plagiarism. We viewed his unwillingness to be scapegoated as the most damaging thing for McInnis that has happened since the story broke–up until these new incidents of plagiarism were revealed that have nothing to do with Rolly Fischer.

This story is moving very rapidly at this point. Every media outlet in the state, and now national press as well, is trying to get the next big scoop; with a particularly heated rivalry emerging between the Denver newspaper and local television stations over who will report the latest game-changing angle. There’s a consensus that these incidents of clear and deliberate plagiarism are being found much too easily, and many more are in all likelihood out there waiting to be found. It has a life of its own now, and the calls for McInnis to withdraw from the race will only continue to get louder as new information is uncovered.

The end will come when Scott McInnis chooses to end it.

State Convention Roundup

The Democratic and Republican state conventions have come to a close, clarifying some ballot positions but complicating others…


The story of the day, without a doubt, is Republican Dan Maes’ upset victory over Scott McInnis for topline on the GOP ballot for Governor. Maes almost certainly cannot go on to win this Primary, but make no mistake — this is a devastating blow to McInnis. Maes is spending most of what he raises on himself, but despite no money, no name recognition, and a last-minute campaign to discredit him, he still somehow edged McInnis on Saturday.

Maes’ victory is more about McInnis’ failings than anything else, and it will force McInnis to spend considerable time and money making sure he wins a Primary that he really can’t afford (literally and figuratively) to worry about. More problematic for McInnis is that he now must spend the next few months going even further to the right with his rhetoric in order to try to win back a base that abandoned him for a guy in Maes who really has no business being this close to becoming Governor. The further that McInnis goes to the right, of course, the harder it will be for him to win back moderate voters in a General Election. This is absolutely the worst-case scenario for Republicans hoping to win back the Governor’s Mansion.

Democrat John Hickenlooper has not run an impressive campaign for Governor to this point, and his lack of a ground game has many Democrats concerned, but Saturday’s results at the GOP Assembly has laid this race out on a silver platter for him. As long as Hickenlooper runs even a somewhat decent campaign, it’s hard to see how he won’t end up as Colorado’s next Governor now.


Republican Ken Buck easily won his Party’s nomination, with both Jane Norton and Tom Wiens going the petition route, so there’s not much to say here.

As for the Democrats, Andrew Romanoff won topline with a 60-40 margin over Sen. Michael Bennet, which means…absolutely nothing. That’s no knock on Romanoff, but just the reality given today’s margin is about the same that he held over Bennet after the caucuses; the only thing that would have made any difference in this race would have been holding Bennet under the 30% threshold required to make the ballot, but that was always unlikely. There’s really nothing different today that wasn’t already true yesterday.

This is still a good day for Romanoff, but unfortunately for him, tomorrow’s headlines will be all about Maes and his surprise win in the GOP race for Governor. After the 2004 Democratic convention, the headlines were all about Mike Miles beating Ken Salazar, but Romanoff won’t be the top story tomorrow. That’s a tough break for a campaign that really needs to try to generate some sort of fundraising momentum out of today; Maes’ win was the worst-case scenario for McInnis, but it was also the worst thing that could have happened to the Romanoff campaign (since he was never likely to lose to Bennet).

At the end of the day, however, nothing has really changed in the Senate race on either side of the aisle. The big questions — can Buck and Romanoff raise the money to have a significant television presence — won’t be resolved by anything that happened today.


This was the only other significant race to play out today, and only on the GOP side. Ali Hasan failed to make threshold for ballot access, giving a big victory to J.J. Ament, who now waits to see if Walker Stapleton will have enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot (which he should). This is a significant win for Ament, since Hasan’s family has strong ties in the Republican Party and Ali had already spent a lot of money on ads. Ament’s overwhelming victory is a show of organizational efficiency that, in our eyes, now makes him the frontrunner to win the Republican Primary.

We still don’t think Ament or Stapleton can defeat incumbent Democrat Cary Kennedy in November, but today’s results are not ideal for the Dems. Kennedy certainly would have preferred to see a three-way primary, with Hasan spending a lot of his own money to beat up both Ament and Stapleton.


The Campaign to Discredit…Dan Maes?

There’s been a lot of buzz among Republicans this week about efforts to discredit GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes in advance of the Republican state convention.

Joe Gschwendtner, who announced his campaign for Governor just a few weeks ago, is being discussed as nothing more than a “straw man” candidate entered into the race in order to discredit Maes, whose surprising returns in the caucuses have Scott McInnis worried that he’ll make the 30% threshold for ballot access in the Primary.

In the last week, many Republicans have reported receiving robo-calls from Joe Gschwendtner “Joe G” that were done entirely to rip into Maes and discredit him. One of the calls promotes the website Dan Maes Can’t Win, which has led to the “straw man” argument about Gschwendtner; after all, why would “Joe G” work so hard to discredit Maes, when his obvious competition is really McInnis?

The McInnis campaign is absolutely worried about Maes making the Primary ballot, and for good reason; while Maes almost certainly cannot win the Primary, he would definitely force McInnis to spend time and money in a race that he doesn’t want to deal with.

Maes: I Love Arizona’s Immigration Law More!

Grand Junction Sentinel, from yesterday’s GOP gubernatorial debate in Grand Junction:

The two Republican candidates for Colorado governor gave virtually the same answers on such things as protecting the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, balancing the state’s budget and appointing conservative judges to the bench, but they differed on the details for each.

McInnis said if a similar bill to Arizona’s controversial new law requiring police to check the legal status of immigrants landed on the governor’s desk, he would sign it.

Maes said he wouldn’t wait. He would require police in Colorado to enforce laws already on the books, such as verifying the legal status of anyone getting a job or asking for state aid, and make sure police turn illegal immigrants arrested for other crimes over to the federal government…

[McInnis] took the opportunity to attack his GOP opponent as once favoring amnesty for illegal immigrants, something Maes denied, prompting an attack of his own.

“Did you hear an answer? Did you hear a strategy?” Maes said of McInnis’ response to the Arizona law. “If an Arizona law came across his desk, if it came across his desk, he would sign it. I’m not saying, ‘If someone were to put something in front of me,’ I’m saying if I were your governor, I’d be doing that right now.”

Unfortunately for Dan Maes, there is this Denver Post story from last month titled “GOP gubernatorial candidate Maes’ immigration stance ‘evolving.'” Maes claims in that story it was a conversation with Tom Tancredo that started to ‘change his mind,’ but it’s pretty hard to go from there to denying you ever supported “amnesty;” he clearly did support what Tancredo calls “amnesty” at one point.

We continue to believe that Republicans’ glomming all over Arizona’s new law is a demographic land mine they could sorely regret stepping on by November, but in this GOP primary–as you can see–it’s a race to out-embrace it.

The other piece of this story that we find particularly interesting is the fact that McInnis is openly attacking Maes. Obviously McInnis is more than a little concerned about losing votes and supporters to Maes — you don’t go on the attack against your Primary opponent if you aren’t overly worried about him.

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?

Big Line Updated

We’ll get into more of the details tomorrow, but three new names to discuss:

  • Dan Maes (R) for Governor.

    The GOP obviously thinks the “Tea Party” movement is a serious electoral problem/opportunity in 2010. Maes is their only outlet against Scott McInnis, and he’ll only go as far as the tea bags take him. His success will show whether the “Tea Party” is a real movement or just a handful of loud, angry people.
  • Dean Madere (R) in CD-4.

    In any other year, in any other climate, Madere is probably a complete non-starter. But he has the most “Tea Party” support, and in a four-way primary, that could get him to the general election. Remember the chaos of the 2006 CD-5 primary? It won’t take that many votes to win a four-way race.
  • Lang Sias (R) in CD-7.

    He readily admits that he doesn’t even live in the district, but neither did Bob Beauprez when he was first elected here in 2002. Being endorsed by John McCain isn’t that big of a deal; the fact that he is connected enough to make that happen says a lot.
  • BREAKING: Penry To Exit Governor Race

    UPDATE #2: No Penry run for Rep. John Salazar’s CD-3 seat or Lt. Gov., says MSNBC (pretty much what we said at the bottom of the post a little earlier):

    A campaign source says that up-and-comer Josh Penry decided against a CO-GOV primary challenge against Scott McInnis, his former boss when McInnis was in Congress, because he was scared off, in part, by a 527 that was ramping up for McInnis that was set to go after Penry. [Pols emphasis] He is sitting out the 2010 cycle and is NOT running for CO-3 despite the rumors…

    The source added that Penry’s Name ID, they were seeing, was only about 15% to 20% statewide, and Penry felt that a 527 and a nasty political fight could have ruined or significantly damaged his reputation and hurt his political capital with Republicans. This path helps Penry, who’s only 33, build up political capital, the source said.

    UPDATE: Denver Post puts uncertainty to bed, though Penry himself has yet to make a statement:

    Two sources who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on Penry’s behalf confirmed for The Denver Post that Penry intends to leave the race.

    One source said an announcement was imminent and that Penry met with McInnis Monday morning to inform him of the decision. Penry explained he was leaving the race for “personal reasons,” the source said.

    Penry has not returned phone calls seeking comment…

    Washington Post’s The Fix blog, holy [expletive]:

    Colorado state Sen. Josh Penry (R) plans to end his gubernatorial campaign and endorse former Rep. Scott McInnis (R), according to two sources familiar with his thinking.

    Penry’s decision to opt out of the race is a stunner as many national Republicans had touted him as a potential rising star (and we had featured him in our “Rising” series that looks at up and coming politicians).

    Chatter in the immediate aftermath of Penry’s decision suggested he may well be considering a run against 3rd district Rep. John Salazar (D) who won the Western Slope seat when McInnis retired in 2004. Salazar’s seat is one of 49 held by Democrats that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried in 2008. (McCain won it 50 percent to 48 percent for President Barack Obama.)

    McInnis, who spent six terms in Congress, now has a clear shot at Gov. Bill Ritter (D) next fall. Democrats have expressed serious concern about Ritter’s electoral prospects and his poll numbers have lagged badly since he was elected in a landslide in 2006.

    Obviously this would be a major move, but it would make a lot of sense. For all the “rising star” accolades, Penry is clearly not yet ready for a race like this, and badly losing a primary is a quick way to end both the “rising” and the “star.” A Penry loss also knocks him out of the State Senate and his Minority Leader status, leaving him in a tough spot to make a jump to higher office at a later date.

    If this is true, it makes much more sense for Penry to run for re-election to the Senate and then re-assess his future later. Leaving this race to take on Rep. John Salazar and his million-dollar warchest would be silly and completely counterproductive. You don’t leave a tough race that you might lose in order to run in another tough race that you might lose (especially when there is no way to transfer the money you raised for Governor to a Federal campaign).

    As for McInnis, internal polling numbers and fundraising reports obviously show that he is in a great position. This is what we said when McInnis announced he wouldn’t debate Penry — clearly McInnis knew he was in the catbird’s seat.

    The timing of Penry’s announcement does put McInnis in an interesting predicament where Gov. Bill Ritter is concerned. McInnis was in a great position where he was — raising money and not having to stake out positions on tough issues — but now he can’t avoid the spotlight as the presumptive GOP nominee (sorry, Dan Maes). Whether McInnis is really ready for that is another question.

    And finally, this is the worst-case scenario for Ritter. Both polling and common sense (McInnis is much more moderate than Penry) showed that Penry was the better general election opponent for Ritter; but even if McInnis had won the primary outright, at least he would have had to spend the next nine months in a slugfest. Now McInnis can save all of his powder for the general election.

    Pols Poll 2: Governor (Republicans)

    As always, please vote based on what you think will happen, not on who you would vote for or which candidate you support personally. Think of it this way: If you had to bet the deed to your house, who would you pick?

    The point of these monthly polls is to attempt to see how the perceptions of each campaign are changing. Once the voting is done, we’ll show you how this month’s results compare with last month.

    Who Will Be the Republican Nominee for Governor?

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