My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Post-Mortem: Colorado

[I'm splitting my post-mortem into two sections: national and state. The reason for that will be clear in a minute, but I do see the two events separately.]

I blame John McCain.

Now, before you write that off as glib, or as yet another simple reflection of my dislike of the man, stick with me and let me elaborate.

First of all, I do recognize that the national mood against the GOP played a role here. But. . .

----I believe that, once Governor Owens became "cheerleader-in-chief" for Referendum C last fall, this campaign was a near inevitability.

In my short experience watching Colorado politics, it seems that the one issue which really drives Republican victories in this state is that of low-tax, small-government governance. Holding the Conervative line on spending and taxes and--yes, returning the excess to the taxpayers--has always been a winner in this state.

So when the Governor signed on to lead the charge to have the state keep our money, I think he severely weakened the ideological position of Republicans all around the state. And you could see how much it boxed in Bob Beauprez in the campaign--he was too weak in support of it, but he never made a case against it, and he got hammered in the primary from the right and hammere in the general from the left.

But the worst thing C did was to blur the distinction between the GOP and the Democrats.

So, why did Owens jump on this ship?

----Because he was working with a hostile legislature that had a good enough majority to do even worse things to TABOR. Politically, Ref C was a compromise position which allowed TABOR to stay in place, but let the state make up ground on the recession in a hurry. Turns out that the revenues to the state have been so good once things turned around that that was likely to happen all by itself pretty quickly, but at the time it looked like the smart political thing to do.

So, why did Owens have a hostile legislature?

----Because the Democrats--led by Tim Gill and Pat Strycker--overwhelmed the state with enough money two years ago to, basically, buy the legislature. The state parties didn't have the kind of money to keep up, and the GOP had no similar operation to counter. Come to think of it, the GOP still has no similar operation now, two years later.

Why did the Dems have such an advantage?

--Because they were the first to take advantage of a little recognized section of the tax code which creates a loophole through which giant trucks filled with campaign money can drive--the 527 committee.

And here is where this gets back to John McCain. Nice campaign reform there, Senator. Seems to have worked to keep money out of politics.

At least, it kept out Republican money.

No BCRA, no 527s; no 527s, no Democratic legislature; no Dem leg, no Owens leading C; no Owens on C, then we still have that most important issue in Colorado on which Republicans can run and win.

If you can't make the case that your side is different from their side, you can't convince them to ignore the propoganda.

Yes, I realize that chain of logic requires a bit of a buy-in.

But, clearly, this state hasn't completely lost its mind. We accepted the Marriage Amendment by a comfortable margin, we defeated Partnerships by a safe margin, we rejected legalizing pot by a lot, and the minimum wage hike was a photo finish.

So, what does it say that all the issues continue to break towards the conservatives, but the conservative candidates can't get across the finish line?

It means that the contrasts are not sharp enough to justify ignoring the national mood. And you cannot draw those contrasts if you cannot get on the airwaves enough.

Colorado Republicans, anxious for some leadership in two years, need to remember their mood on this day when John McCain comes around asking for their support. Hugh has already blamed him for a big role in the national defeat; I'm gonna join Hugh (there's a risky position) in laying Colorado's next four years in his lap.

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