The bi-annual navel-gazing by the Colorado Republican Party began not long after election night ended. Talk about a post-Trump landscape and embracing a new message are misplaced. Neither is likely to happen, and the state GOP will consequently to continue its precipitous drop into irrelevance.
As an avowed Never-Trump conservative, I heard plenty of Republican leaders grouse about the president privately. Most were hesitant to speak out publicly because they wanted to remain in a position to help guide the party’s direction after the election.
While I understand the logic, I think it is based on a faulty premise. The Republican Party is now and, for the foreseeable future, will be the Trump Party.
Even as Trump refuses to concede his overwhelming loss to Joe Biden on Nov. 3, both in the popular vote and the Electoral College, he is already making plans to run again in 2024. At the same time, his son appears to be laying groundwork to takeover the Republican National Committee.
In the interim it is not hard to envision Trump firing up his own propaganda network. After his livid reaction to Fox News calling Arizona in favor of Biden before other major networks, the opportunity exists to both enrich himself and keep his name front and center. And all without the pesky business of nominally running the country.
It is the perfect post-election world for Trump.
It is also a combination that would be devastating not just to potential 2024 GOP candidates like Ambassador Nikki Haley or Sens. Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, but to every Republican swamped by Trump’s toxic tsunami over the past two election cycles.
Nowhere has that been more evident than Colorado.
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Sen. Cory Gardner never had a chance in his re-election. As Republican operative Tyler Sandberg memorably stated, “Jesus Christ himself couldn’t overperform Trump by double digits.”
Consequently, when Trump lost the state by nearly 14 points, it spelled doom for Gardner. Every Republican contemplating a 2022 run for statewide office has to look at that and shudder about the prospect of an unleashed Trump continuing as the de facto head of the party.
Even if Trump himself doesn’t run, he would likely step aside only for his Kendall Roy-esque son or Patrick Bateman-obsessed daughter. But don’t count on it.
Things do not get better for those hoping to plan a path forward for the Colorado GOP at the state level. While most have circled the wagon around U.S. Rep.-Elect Lauren Boebert, it is instructive to remember that her talk-radio persona did not help to flip a seat from red to blue.
To the contrary, she won a previously held seat by a lower margin and fewer votes than the Republican she usurped in June. During the 2016 presidential election, Scott Tipton won the 3rd Congressional District by more than 14 points and nearly 55,000; Boebert did the same with only a six-point margin and less than 25,000 votes.
Furthermore, Boebert’s charismatic, bombastic style will both dominate state headlines and thrill a broad segment of the GOP base less interested in governing than having someone “speak” and “fight” for them. That is something Boebert will do plenty given her preternatural proclivity for finding friendly microphones and television cameras.
Boebert is destined to become a far-right media – maybe even Trump TV? – darling, and Democrats in Colorado couldn’t be more excited. While she is unlikely to notch any legislative wins, she will make their job in competitive legislative seats that much easier.
Republicans can take some solace in recent primary victories and the caucus selection of Hugh McKean as state House minority leader. Those are positive steps in the right direction.
But they may be little more than footprints in the sand if the Trump tide rolls back over them.
As Colorado continues to turn a deeper and deeper shade of blue, the state GOP has structural problems that will make it the Mountain West version of California – an irrelevant afterthought in governance for the state of Colorado.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq
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