That’s the story in today’s Wall Street Journal profile of the Colorado GOP’s attempt in recent weeks to unify its party behind a single gubernatorial candidate and craft some sort of “offering” palatable to Colorado’s Tea Party movement.
To say that initial reactions have been underwhelming . . . well let’s hear from them:
To retake Colorado, the Republican Party wants voters like Michael Schneider.
A proud member of the diffuse ‘tea-party movement’ that gained steam during this summer’s town-hall meetings on health care, Dr. Schneider is on the hunt for candidates who promise to buck the political establishment, defy the party elite and hew tightly to conservative principles.
. . .
But the consensus candidate, a veteran legislator and congressmen, isn’t the kind of rebel Dr. Schneider was hoping for.
“We don’t want the same-old, same-old,” he said, though he conceded he might vote for the candidate.
“Might” is not that encouraging, though it is still early.
Former Rep. Scott McInnis has his work cut out for him–not appearing to be a hand-selected candidate by party bigwigs and top donors, convince not only Republicans but also that great 1/3 of the Colorado electorate–the “unaffliateds”–that he represents a better choice to them than Gov. Bill Ritter, and prove that the “Platform for Prosperity” is more than just a collection of platitudinous pabulum.
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, himself the subject of much heated whisperings about entering the race following State Sen. Josh Penry’s abrupt departure, offered this out to those who don’t particularly care for McInnis:
Republicans, however, said the platform would prompt voters to focus on the party’s message, rather than their feelings about individual candidates. “People can vote for the agenda” . . .
Well if that is true, why does the candidate have to be McInnis? If the platform/agenda/contract (whatever it is going by at the moment) trumps the candidate, why the need to “unify”?
Radio talk show host Mike Rosen consistently argues that “party trumps person.” Well, when the party hasn’t been all that responsive to grassroots’, electorally successful in the last 3 election cycles, or persuasive in arguing for its platforms on a state or local level, one can say the party hasn’t been very effective, to say the least. I would argue that my own aphorism–”Supporting party above principle does a disservice to both”–is clearly appropriate in this case. The principles in question include the need for transparent and competitive primaries to determine a party’s candidate in the general election, not a hastily assembled arrangement of the party’s big candidates from a decade ago who claim “unity” on the basis of a press conference.
On this point, R Block Party activist Nikki Mata (full disclosure–a great friend) sums up the feelings of many in the party, and not just those pesky Tea Partiers:
But Nikki Mata, a conservative activist in suburban Denver, said that such a strategy misses the point of the tea-party movement. Endorsements and platforms matter less to her and her fellow activists, she said, than their gut feelings about whether a candidate would shake things up — or would cave in to the establishment.
Voting for the lesser of two evils–essentially, “we suck less than Gov. Ritter and the Democrats, so vote for us”–is not a long-term winning strategy (and would fail as a business proposition). Ritter is unpopular just enough that this may work in 2010, but it does nothing to set the stage for competitive races down-ticket, or revive any sense of confidence in the party going into the next decade.
The article closes with this observation:
Despite such flashes of populist anger, political analysts in Colorado said the GOP move would likely strengthen the party by scaring off challengers from the right.
“At the end of the day, the tea partiers don’t have anywhere else to go,” said Eric Sondermann, an independent political consultant in Denver. “If they show up at the polls next year, it won’t be to pull the Democratic lever.”
Key words: “If they show up.” The Tea Partiers, rank-and-file GOPers, conservatives of all stripes, libertarians (small and big-L), independents, unaffliateds, and even Michigan ex-pats (sorry Ben) have to be convinced that McInnis (pending Dan Maes primary challenge) is the right guy for governor of the state of Colorado.
In other words, they probably won’t pull the lever for Ritter . . . but then again, they might not even show up.
And we know how that worked out in 2006.
And you can ask former Gov. Bill Owens how important those small slices of voters are in a competitive general election (see close elections, Colorado, 1998).
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