Colorado political frustration
Is it just my jaded view or are we suffering from a serious lack of talent among those who manage Colorado political campaigns? I’m speaking in particular of the Republican side, since I don’t know the Democrats (and don’t really care to.)
What does it say about the ability of those who run Republican campaigns when probably the best campaign so far is Ken Buck’s, and most of the damage he has done to Jane Norton (whom I have endorsed) has been done by surrogates who the campaign claims have been acting totally independently?
I’m a big fan of Josh Penry’s but I fear that he’s hurting his political future in the state. Whether he likes it or not, the Buck people are successfully making the campaign to a substantial part about Josh (and to a lesser degree about Norton staffer Cinamon Watson). Yes, it’s because the direct arguments against Jane Norton are weak, but it seems to me that the Norton campaign has been doing more explaining than the Buck campaign. As one of my smartest political friends says, “if you’re explaining, you’re losing." Of course, it’s not unique to Josh Penry or any other high-profile campaign manager that people love a winner. So any damage to Josh’s reputation will be inversely proportional to Jane’s electoral succcess; Jane and Josh’s political fortunes are somewhat tied at the hip now. I hope they both succeed – I think they’re both excellent – but I’d be foolish not to be concerned right now.
On the other hand, many of Buck’s cheerleaders have been so shrill and over-the-top with bogus criticisms of Norton that I have to wonder if they will start to reflect badly on their man. (There is, to be sure, at least one particularly annoying and ineffective Norton supporter who uses an exclamation point after every sentence while spouting nonsense about secret information she has which is damaging to Ken Buck.)
Norton’s new anti-Buck radio ad, which you can hear below (if the player shows up on your web page), seems like it might be effective.
The case at issue is interesting. Ken Buck declined to prosecute a case against a pawn shop owner who seemed to be distributing guns to criminals. In the end, the US Attorney prosecuted anyway and only got a misdemeanor conviction, which would seem to vindicate Buck’s basic point. However, Buck’s other actions surrounding the case really do strike me as unethical and worthy of the official reprimands he received. From a Westword article on the case:
The Post focuses on a gun case involving a pawn shop owned by Gregory and Leonid Golyansky. Buck, who says he knew Gregory Golyansky from Republican Party events, didn’t push for charges against the brothers circa the late ’90s under U.S. Attorney Henry Solano. Moreover, when Tom Strickland, Solano’s successor, tried to revive the case, Buck reportedly recommended several attorneys who might be able to represent the Golyanskys to a third party, state senator Shawn Mitchell. He also told the one of the lawyers chosen, Stephen Peters, about a memo he’d written to a colleague, future controversy magnet Stephanie Villafuerte, suggesting that the evidence in the matter was weak.
It’s one thing for Buck to refuse to prosecute a case. It’s another thing entirely for him to try to torpedo the government’s case when his superiors decide to go ahead with prosecution. That’s a serious problem.
That said, it seems like Buck is routinely getting the better of the spin with the help of Walt Klein.
All in all, both campaigns strike me as relatively weak and it’s only because Senator Michael “Who?” Bennet is such a disaster that I still expect either one to be able to beat him (and I will work to help whichever of them is the nominee become the next senator from Colorado.)
Maybe I’m being a little too harsh. Maybe it’s extremely difficult to run a campaign against an opponent whose views on policy issues are almost the same as your own candidate’s views. But even allowing for that, it’s very hard for me to look at these campaigns and say we have a team that can and should be running one of the most important races in the nation.
And for Republicans, these two weak campaigns are the good news, at least in comparison to the GOP race between Scott McInnis and Dan Maes for the gubernatorial nomination.
McInnis, whom I’ve met with briefly, seems reasonably intelligent and personable, but also very much like a politician (in a not-too-complimentary sense of the word.) Much more so than either Norton or Buck, and I presume more so than Maes who has never held public office.
McInnis, while not an inspiring candidate, should nevertheless have knocked Maes out of the contest weeks or months ago. Yet somehow, the McInnis campaign allowed Maes to outmaneuver them and get a 1% victory at the assembly, giving Maes the top line on the primary ballot. It’s truly unbelievable that a candidate with almost no name recognition and no money was able to do that against a modestly well-funded former Congressman. It says a lot of bad things about the McInnis campaign and will end up hurting McInnis when he wins the nomination, which I still believe he will.
I’m rather surprised that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper continues to poll so poorly against McInnis given how weak McInnis’ campaign has been. It says a lot about how poisonous a year this is likely to be for tax-raising “Progressive” Democrats which people are coming to understand that Hickenlooper is, despite his moderate nice-guy facade.
So, like in the Senate race, I expect the Republican candidate to win the general election despite himself and his campaign.
But why is it that we have such an apparent dearth of talent here in Colorado. One would think that Dick Wadhams, a giant-killer himself, would be able to recruit some capable operatives for this critical battleground state.
Back to Penry. I think he’s an unbelievably smart and crafty guy, though actually running a campaign may be slightly outside his wheelhouse. I wish he were still running for governor. I’d work my heart out for the guy. The question is why the most important race in the state would need to hire Penry so late in the game to run the campaign. And why does the likely nominee for the second most important race (governor) lose the assembly to a no-name, no-money wannabe? It’s as if we’re playing in the big leagues using coaches from Double-A ball.
I hope that the people running campaigns for Ryan Frazier and Cory Gardner are better than the apparent Colorado average. It’s easily imaginable that Ed Perlmutter and Betsey Markey can be beaten; they should be beaten, Markey perhaps more easily than Perlmutter given the heavier weighting of Republican registration in the 4th CD than the 7th CD. These are races, however, where the opponents are going to be harder to beat than either Bennet or Hickenlooper, and therefore won’t be able to get by on the fumes of existing anti-Democrat sentiment without also running a good campaign.
To be clear, I don’t know if the talent on the Democrat side is any better. A ham sandwich could win in 2008 running as a Democrat, and the reverse may be true in 2010. (After all, Cary Kennedy is the political equivalent of a ham sandwich.) It may be that their campaign-running bench is as weak as the Republicans’, but I sure wouldn’t want to bet control of the Senate or of our state government on it.
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