Monthly Archives: August 2010

THE NATION’S STRANGEST RACE: DOES TANCREDO LOVE HICK?

And is he in it to stay?

It was hard to believe former Congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo could speak with a straight face when he would argue his entry in the Governor’s race as a third-party candidate under the banner of the American Constitution Party was not meant to hurt Republican nominee Dan Maes.  Rather, Tancredo said he was “in it to win it.”

The numbers were revealingly definitive.  With Tancredo in the race, polls showed Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper picked up over 40% of voters’ support, Maes came in at over 30%, and Tancredo lagged at under 20%, with only a tenth of the voters undecided.

With Tancredo out of the race, however, three-quarters of his supporters flocked to Maes and the balance went to Hickenlooper.  The result was a 45% to 45% tie between Hickenlooper and Maes with 10% undecided.  The numbers from a variety of polls clearly and consistently show Maes is competitive with Hickenlooper and, if he were able to run a competitive campaign, Maes could win the race.

Hickenlooper is viewed as Denver-centric and is seen as the heir apparent to incumbent Governor Bill Ritter.  In an anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic year, even Dan Maes looks good to many voters — and maybe an majority of them if he were in a two-way race.  But he isn’t.

The most surprising number was that 25% of Tancredo supporters would rather vote for Hickenlooper than Maes.  It is hard to believe that number would be more than 1% given Tancredo’s constant, multi-year battering of Hickenlooper on the issue of Illegal Immigration.  The 25% figure may be more a statement about Maes than Hickenlooper.

Many people assumed Tancredo would extract some concessions from Maes and drop out so the Republican nominee would have a chance of winning.  That is exactly what happened when Tancredo threatened to run a year ago and ended up not running after he forged a platform with the anointed Republican candidates, Scott McInnis, in November, 2009, which included positions near and dear to Tancredo.  This time is different.  There will be no joint position papers.

It will surprise many when they learn to not expect Tancredo to drop out even if the head-to-head polling numbers show Maes leading Hickenlooper.  Tancredo is in the race to stay.  The only way he will leave the race is if Maes leaves with him.  That is not going to happen unless some traumatic event occurs.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, Maes has a number of problems.  First, he can’t compete financially with Hickenlooper.  He is out of the Mayor’s league and, because Republican funding sources know this, they won’t do anything which they believe is a waste of their resources.  It’s a vicious cycle and probably a death spiral for Maes.  Maes can’t come close to matching Hickenlooper’s $1½ million television advertising buy which, today, likely would require $2½ million for Maes to match due to increased rates and lower availability of key spot times.

Second, Maes doesn’t have the organization behind him which Hickenlooper has.  Although Tea Party and Republican groups support Maes, they don’t yet match the muscle of the Democratic Party in Colorado when combined with President Obama’s 2008 campaign apparatus — now named Organizing for America.  OFA showed its muscle in the Michael Bennet versus Andrew Romanoff Primary Election contest.  This means the Get-Out-The-Vote and similar efforts on behalf of Hickenlooper likely will dwarf anything Maes is able to do on his own.

Third, Maes has been determined by The Denver Post to be unfit to serve or even run.   With The Post on the attack, Maes is unlikely to get fundraising or electoral traction.  A neutral Post would help him but that already is a lost cause.  The Post is Colorado’s top source of substantive political news and having made its declaration, Maes has nowhere to go.

Fourth, between The Post, the revelations about Maes paying the largest campaign violation fine in the State’s history, his nominal business success (after portraying himself as a turnaround expert), and other challenges, Maes is unlikely to be able to generate a quarter of the funds Hickenlooper will raise.  This will put him at a terrible disadvantage.

Fifth — and most importantly — Maes has an in-house nemesis who is determined to take enough votes away from him to guarantee his loss to Hickenlooper.  This is his biggest problem and its name is Tom Tancredo.

Tancredo knows he will not win as a third party candidate on the American Constitution Party ticket.  Unless he has a secret set of benefactors willing to spend $10 million to smear Hickenlooper and another $10 million to promote Tancredo, Tancredo knows he will not place first in the race — and probably won’t even place second.  Tancredo raised +^ million in his presidential campaign so it seems highly unlikely he will raise more than a fraction of that in a 75-day state campaign.  He will be fortunate to raise $500,000 by the end of the campaign.

But, contrary to his public statements, Tancredo isn’t running to win.  He has come to an even more severe conclusion than The Post.  Tancredo sees Maes as a “crook” and believes everything possible should be done to prevent Maes from becoming Governor — even if it means Hickenlooper gets elected.  In essence, Tancredo is campaigning for the election of the man Tancredo repeatedly has accused of establishing Denver as a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants.

Tancredo knows two facts: (1) he is not going to win the race for Governor and (2) he always will have enough support to keep Maes from winning.

Republican Party leaders, such as Chairman Dick Wadhams, can’t be excited about Maes being the nominee (does Scott McInnis look good to Republican leaders now?) but nevertheless would prefer a Maes victory because so much more is at stake.  Control of the Capitol, the ability to shape or veto legislation, determining Redistricting, and participating in the Reapportionment process all loom large over the next decade.  Whichever party wins the Governor’s mansion this November will exercise tremendous influence and power.  These leaders look beyond Maes’ faults and, instead, appreciate the importance of winning the race, even if they were to believe Republican nominee is deeply flawed.

Tancredo, however, loathes Maes so much that, despite the support Tancredo received for decades from the Republican faithful, he is going to do all he can to make certain Maes fails in his quest.  All the big issues no longer matter to Tancredo.  He is a man on a mission and that mission is simple — make sure Dan Maes loses the gubernatorial contest.

There is not much Maes can do.  The possibility millions of dollars will flow into the race in an effort to attack Hickenlooper and boost Maes simply does not exist.  Those dollars already are being dedicated elsewhere.  The Republican Governors Association and various 527 committees, although well-funded, are not going to spend a dime helping Maes.  He is on his own.

And while there is tremendous sentiment against incumbents which could hurt Hickenlooper, it won’t be enough to cost him the election.  In fact, there may be so few ads run attacking Hickenlooper, that even the voters who watch television will be surprised at what a “clean” race the gubernatorial contest will be.  With no one attacking Hickenlooper and with Hickenlooper having an insurmountable lead, he, in turn, won’t even bother attacking Maes.

In fact, Hickenlooper’s strategy will be to endear himself to voters by focusing on his self-deprecating sense of humor while ignoring Maes as much as possible.  It’s a strategy with a very high probability of success.  What a luxury in an era of campaigns dominated by personal attacks and incessant fabrications.  In other terms, Hickenlooper has no one to run against.

With the defeat of Maes guaranteed by Tancredo, Hickenlooper will be able to use his campaign resources to help Democrats win statewide and local elections.  Attorney General candidate Stan Garnett, Secretary of State candidate Bernie Buescher, and Treasurer candidate Cary Kennedy all will benefit from GOTV efforts funded by the Hickenlooper campaign.  Voters likely will see one or more of these nominees on television ads with Hickenlooper as well.  And even key State Senate and State House of Representative candidates will get support from Hickenlooper — all thanks to the fact the gubernatorial race will be seen as being over.

And don’t expect Maes to drop out.  He won the Republican State Assembly nomination as well as the Party’s statewide primary fair and square.  He is the official nominee of the Party and dismisses the claims against him as either unfounded or frivolous (and many of them may be).

Because a new candidate, at this late date, is unlikely to be much more competitive than Maes, he will see no reason for dropping out of the contest.  In fact, except for his “Tancredo Problem,” he probably would poll competitively, if not better, than most last-minute replacement possibilities.

But there will be no replacement.  Dan Maes is the Republican Party’s nominee.  Tom Tancredo’s place on the ballot as a third party candidate — and ballots will be printed soon — is etched in stone.  Now all that is left to be done is count the votes and see how big a margin John Hickenlooper racks up in a year which seemed slated to see a Republican take over the Governor’s Mansion.

At the end of the day on November 2nd, John Hickenlooper will have been elected Colorado’s 42nd  Governor, Dan Maes will be his defeated opponent, the Republican Party will have blown an opportunity to reclaim the Governor’s Mansion, and Tom Tancredo will walk off into the sunset a happy man who accomplished his mission.

=========================================================================

Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays at 8:00 pm and at http://www.HarberTV.com.  He also hosts “Colorado Election 2010 TM” seen Sundays at 8:30 pm on Channel 3 and on Mondays at 8:00 pm on COMCAST Entertainment Television and is viewable 24/7 at http://www.Colorado2010.com.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2010 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber  All rights reserved.

=========================================================================

Advertisements

LESSONS LEARNED

The Colorado Primary Election brought several lessons to the fore.  Here are some of them.

OBAMA RULES.  The President fought hard for the election of Senator Michael Bennet and was a major factor in Bennet’s victory.  Bill Clinton aided Andrew Romanoff at a fraction of the level compared to Obama.  Going all-out, as Obama did, made a difference.

DON’T MESS WITH THE POST. Although The Denver Post pounded both Scott McInnis and Andrew Romanoff, McInnis took the toughest hits and they totally changed the race.  For Romanoff, the difference was more than enough to lose.  Remember, “Don’t fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

TWINS:  BENNET AND ROMANOFF.  Bennet’s argument that he and Romanoff were identical in their positions resonated with many voters.  They said, “Why get rid of our own incumbent Senator?” and Romanoff — who had stellar credentials as a candidate — was unable to communicate a convincing case.

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE.  Although not a natural glad-hander, those who got to know Bennet were consistently impressed.  Republican U.S. Senate nominee Ken Buck comes off as candid and got strategic support where he could.  And Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes proved he could overcome adversity and outwork any opponent.  And before he is dismissed by the Press and pundits for not having served in elective office, remember that John Hickenlooper had never run for office before becoming Mayor.

THE TEA PARTY ARRIVES.  The success of Ken Buck clearly was due, in part, to Tea Party activists.  They proved themselves to be a consistent force in his winning the State Party Convention and the Primary Election.  While their numbers may not be as meaningful in the General Election, if they actively campaign for Buck, they will be a plus.

IT’S OK TO CAMPAIGN FROM CALIFORNIA.  Walker Stapleton’s victory over J.J. Ament in the Republican Primary for State Treasurer came despite the fact business obligations forced Stapleton to miss many campaign events.  Evidently Republican voters can be forgiving (cf. Scott McInnis).  Stapleton proved television and radio advertising — especially when unopposed — work for a candidate in absentia.  He also demonstrated that it’s OK to invoke TABOR’s provisions to let voters decide if there should be tax increases.

BLACK HELICOPTERS AND BICYCLES.  Dan Maes snuck by Scott McInnis when Republican voters decided conspiracy theories trumped plagiarism.  We already can see a Hickenlooper ad with the Mayor on a red bicycle rather than his old scooter.  If Maes is smart, he’ll beat him to it and make fun of himself.

THE BIG WINNER.  The biggest winner next to John Hickenlooper — who didn’t even have a Primary Election opponent — probably was Tom Tancredo.  With the Republican Party split, Tancredo will argue he is the candidate Republicans should support.  Once Maes shows he is within 10 points of Hickenlooper, however, the calls for Tancredo to drop out will be deafening.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS.  The Primary Election results mean Democrats likely will keep the keys to the Governor’s Mansion.  An easy race will allow them to put resources in other contests.  They can’t be too cocky, however, because Maes will run a very appealing anti-establishment “Everyman” campaign.  Keep in mind Maes was the first and still possibly only gubernatorial candidate who offered specific solutions to the State’s budgetary problems.  He will do it again.  Stay tuned — the fun has just begun!

=========================================================================
Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays at 8:00 pm and at http://www.HarberTV.com.  He also hosts “Colorado Election 2010 TM” seen Sundays at 8:30 pm on Channel 3 and on Mondays at 8:00 pm on COMCAST Entertainment Television and is viewable 24/7 at http://www.Colorado2010.com.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2010 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber  All rights reserved.
=========================================================================

THE COLORADO LABORATORY: THE YEAR OF POLITICAL TESTS

Wild 2010 Presents The Opportunity To Test Many Theories

The 2010 election year in Colorado presents the opportunity to test many political theories which will have national implications.  The challenge will be in sorting out which factors and variables are responsible for the results which already are guaranteed to be surprising if not shocking.  And there is no question that 2010 already has been one of the craziest political years Coloradans have seen in decades.  Here is a sampling.

The Big Trends

Are All Politics National? Can the national trend against anyone with a “D” after his or her name overwhelm local events?  If there is a tidal wave in favor of Republicans on November 2nd, will it be massive enough to carry Republican gubernatorial candidates Dan Maes or Scott McInnis over the top despite the hefty anchors securely strapped by themselves to their own bodies?  And will the U.S.  Senate race in Colorado be tipped to Republicans by the anti-Democratic wave or will Democrats somehow have convinced voters they have done a good job in Washington?  And, even if they did such a good job, will voters worried about the poor state of the Economy believe them?

The Democratic U.S.  Senate Primary

Can Service Beat Money? Former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff’s primary election challenge of incumbent but never-elected U.S. Senator Michael Bennet offers a number of tests.  The first is whether or not Democrats will turn out a sitting Senator of their own party with whom they agree on almost all issues.  The second is the chance to assess the political value of being Speaker.  Historically, legislative leadership positions haven’t translated impressively in statewide races.

More Tests? The third is whether Democrats remain upset with Governor Bill Ritter’s selection of Bennet over Romanoff, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and a host of others who were known and liked better than Bennet.  (Coincidentally, by not selecting Hickenlooper, Ritter did Democrats a favor because the Mayor would not have been a candidate for Governor if he were a U.S.  Senator.) The fourth is whether or not Bennet’s huge financial advantage, anchored by his prodigious fundraising, can overwhelm the initially better-known Romanoff.

Will “Don’t Change Horses In Mid-Stream” Prevail? Michael Bennet’s key argument is there are no major policy differences between himself and Andrew Romanoff.  Therefore, if he is the incumbent Senator, why should Democrats make a switch?  On the surface, this is a convincing argument and puts Romanoff in a defensive position to argue why fellow Democrats should dump Bennet.  The strategy could backfire as Democrats fill out their ballots.  Voting “with their minds”, many know it makes sense to support Bennet.  Voting “with their hearts, some Democrats are likely to select Romanoff.

Power Of The Presidency: Act 1? President Barack Obama elected to intervene in the U.S.  Senate race as soon as Bennet had a competitor.  Will Obama be a positive or negative influence?  With a slew of campaign-ending television advertisements featuring Obama touting Bennet as his candidate (which won’t help Bennet in the General Election), both Obama and the Bennet campaign have made it clear they want Democrats to demonstrate their support of the President by casting their ballots for Bennet.  Romanoff has been careful to avoid all criticism of the President and to call for unity no matter who the victor is but Obama’s involvement — seen by some as “Washington telling Coloradans what to do” — may have reinforced the displeasure many Democrats had when Governor Bill Ritter originally selected Bennet over such Democratic stalwarts as Romanoff and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

Power Of The Presidency: Act 2? Another fascinating test in the Democratic Primary Election of the measure of the power of the presidency not just the sheer number of appearances, letters, and Cabinet member visits arranged by the White House.  Rather it is the President’s decision to give Bennet his campaign organization — Organizing for America and its thousands of members in Colorado who crafted Obama’s 2008 victory in Colorado (the first Democrat to win a majority of the state’s votes in decades).  Obama even did a Town Hall forum via phone with the Senator and tens of thousands of Coloradans just days before the primary election.  If Romanoff somehow overcomes this extraordinary advantage for Bennet, it will be one of the most stunning upsets in Colorado political history.  It also will be a similarly extraordinary statement about the President’s power and influence within his own party.

Power Of The Press: Part 1? There also is no question the state’s most influential media entity, The Denver Post , not only has endorsed Bennet but has been hammering Romanoff unmercifully.  When The Post slammed Romanoff for appearing to waiver on his commitment to not take Political Action Committee money due to a statement by his campaign manager and then hit Romanoff even harder for his inappropriate use of the word “looting” when describing some of Bennet’s business transactions, it had to hurt Romanoff.  Simultaneously, it almost totally ignored Bennet’s totally unfounded claims and television advertising attacks on Romanoff for allegedly supporting the privatization of Social Security (when, in fact, he actually opposed it).  If Romanoff loses, it will demonstrate, in part, the power of The Post.  If he wins, it will be one more success for Romanoff against a dominant establishment entity.

When Is It Too Late? The last-minute front page story in The New York Times just a few days before the Primary Election could have been a killer for the Bennet campaign because it details what now appear to be terribly poor and risky financial decisions — thanks to hindsight — by Bennet when he was Superintendent of Denver Public Schools.  The story was a potential boon to Romanoff but, coming so late in the campaign (probably after over 80% of the public already had voted by mail), it almost was if The Times did Bennet a favor by waiting a few weeks to publish the story.  The real story — which almost everyone missed — was the School District’s decision to borrow money to invest in the first place.  Now that was really dumb under any circumstances.

The Republican U.S.  Senate Primary

Is The Tea Party A Real Force? Republican Ken Buck’s U.S.  Senate campaign and Dan Maes’ gubernatorial campaign initially were seen as good tests of the power of those disenchanted electors who consider themselves aligned with the principles of the various Tea Party groups.  They offered a measure of the strength of these generally well-educated, above average income citizens concerned primarily about out-of-control federal spending.  Buck’s recent description of some Tea Party members promoting the controversy about President Obama’s citizenship status as “dumbasses” and Maes’ egregious campaign finance violations, however, may have alienated some of those aligned with the Tea Party movement.  It still will be interesting to see what their influence is, especially at the Primary Election level.

How Much Will Buck’s Mistakes Hurt? Will Ken Buck’s now infamous “Vote for me because I don’t wear high heels” or “Tea Party members who keep asking about Obama’s birth are dumbasses given the fact we face a $13 trillion National Debt” comments (paraphrased here) cost him enough votes to lose the Primary to former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton or will Republican voters discount the accusations of sexism and vulgarity against Buck’s Tea Party base and still embrace him?  Few are likely to watch his entire speeches and take him only as seriously as he was taking himself but many will see the short segments Norton is using in television ads which make Buck look very bad.  And will Norton’s campaign have recovered from its initial doldrums in time to win the contest?  And which one of these candidates actually did cut the budgets of his or her own departments while in office?  Republican voters have two good candidates from which to choose so will the budget-related facts alone make it close or be altogether irrelevant?

=============================================================================================================================================================================================

The Republican Gubernatorial Primary

Is Tancredo An Afterthought? Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo should not be underestimated by anyone but the real question is “Will he stay in the race?”  After switching parties just days before the primary election to become the nominee of the almost unheard of American Constitution Party as a way to get on the ballot, It is obvious he is highly unlikely to win election.  Nevertheless, Tancredo easily will could draw nine votes away from the Republican nominee for every single vote he captures from the Democratic nominee.

Are Only Republicans Concerned About Illegal Immigration? While some Democrats are concerned about illegal immigration — Tancredo’s primary issues — and will support a Tancredo bid, they will be dwarfed by his Republican and unaffiliated voter support.  Because Tancredo knows he is destroying his relationship with the Republican Party and helping Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper to victory (and knows victory as the American Constitution Party candidate will never be within reach), will Tancredo exit the stage he loves so much in time for a Republican to compete with Hickenlooper?

Part 2: Is The Pen Mightier Than The TV AD? What effect will the impact be of The Denver Post stories and editorials about gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis?  How powerful is The Post?   While its article content was highly accurate, there is no question The Post went after McInnis with an all-out effort.  The volume of its coverage dwarfed that of every other newspaper in the State.  Its headlines often were brutal (e.g., “McInnis Lying” — without the quotation marks was, perhaps, the most excessive).  Its front-page placements were exceptional.  It was accused of burying partially exculpatory evidence which mitigated some of the claims against McInnis.  And its editorial calling for McInnis to resign from the race was extraordinary.  There is no argument The Post was unjustified in the decisions it made.  What was impressive was the sheer force of its effort.  The question now is “What effect will this journalistic fusillade have?”

How Much Does The Electorate Care? While many Coloradans understandably are upset with McInnis’s uncontested plagiarism violations (for which he was paid an also ludicrous $300,000 by a foundation), how many know about them?  How many who do know, don’t care?  And how many citizens are not even paying attention to the Republican primary anyway?  If citizens are well-informed about the events to date, are they are likely to slaughter McInnis at the polls?  Polling to date shows the charges already have cost McInnis fully half his support but not enough to count him out of the primary election.  And, if he wins the Primary, could he make a comeback?  Will voters in November forget what happened this summer?

Mortally Wallet-Wounded? Did the revelations of plagiarism fatally wound McInnis, especially as far as his fundraising is concerned?  That is, if financial supporters see McInnis as “damaged goods,” they are likely to (a) not donate to his campaign or severely reduce their contributions (i.e., a $1,000 donation becomes $100) or not give money to the 501, 504 and 527 organizations supporting his candidacy.  The McInnis campaign already reported a cliff-like drop in campaign contributions.  Will that experience continue or will he make a financial comeback if he wins the Primary?  With Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper already proving to be a prodigious fundraiser, McInnis could find himself in a huge hole even if he wins the primary election.  Will the Republicans hunger for the Governor’s Mansion be so extraordinary it will overcome their disappointment in their nominee?

Demotivating? If McInnis wins the Primary Election, will he be able to rally the Republican faithful?  Will Republican activists give 100% or is 25% more likely to be the average if the troops are demotivated?  How will that affect other Republican candidates further down the ticket?  Will a demotivated Republican Party mean less money for other candidates?  Will it allow Hickenlooper to allocate precious resources to help Democratic candidates in key legislative races so as to help Democrats maintain control of the State House and Senate?

Do Two Wrongs Make A Right? With Republican gubernatorial and top-line candidate Dan Maes paying a historically high campaign reporting fine of $17,500, will his mistakes cancel out those made by McInnis as far as Republican primary Eeection voters are concerned?  Faced with the choice of two flawed candidates, how will Republicans sort out their choices?  To date, it appears Maes lost far less support than McInnis did but their race remains close.

How Much Does Experience Count? Revelations that Dan Maes is an Average Joe financially were used to discredit his claims of business expertise but few Republicans seem to have deserted him despite the fact he did not have any stunning business successes to back up the impression he gave many that he was a successful businessperson.  Will voters in either the Primary or General Election care when his limited business experience and success are contrasted with the business, civic, charitable, and government successes of John Hickenlooper?  The fact Maes has survived at all in this terrible Economy may be all he needs to make his case.

U.N.  Takeover. Will Maes’ comments about the United Nations taking over Colorado through the City of Denver’s bicycle share-a-bike program cost him votes or will black-helicopter conspiracists rally to his side and help him win the vote?  I can’t wait for the anti-Maes General Election television ads on this one! “Do you want to elect a Governor who thinks bicycles are part of a United Nations’ plot to take over America, one small step — or pedal — at a time?”

Will McInnis Be The Ultimate “Comeback Kid?” There is no question that, if McInnis wins the Primary and General Elections, he will have overcome incredible odds and mounted the greatest comeback and total point swing in contemporary Colorado political history.  No one in the pundit class is predicting his election so a McInnis victory on November 2nd would be seen as a tremendous upset.

These questions and more may be answered in the August 10th and November 2nd elections but it is likely there are even more complications in store.

=========================================================================

Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays at 8:00 pm and at http://www.HarberTV.com.  He also hosts “Colorado Election 2010 TM” seen Sundays at 8:30 pm on Channel 3 and on Mondays at 8:00 pm on COMCAST Entertainment Television and is viewable 24/7 at http://www.Colorado2010.com.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2010 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber  All rights reserved.

=========================================================================