As the June 28th primary approaches, most eyes remain fixed on the Republican side of aisle in Colorado. After nearly a year of campaigning for some candidates, the real question is: can any win in November?
The answer is yes. A qualified yes.
Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, governor and Secretary of State remain locked in statewide tussles while the freshly minted 7th and 8th congressional districts have multiple challengers vying for the November ballot. Each presents sharp contrasts between Trumpian election deniers and more reasonable Republicans just hoping to get across the finish line without entirely compromising their Fall electability.
With just over two weeks left, it has turned into the political equivalent of Celebrity Deathmatch. What Colorado political junkie would not want to see a Claymation cage match between Secretary of State candidates Pam “I Can Do the Job Without Committing Felonies” Anderson, Tina “Kill Democracy” Peters, and Mike “I Don’t Even Know Who I Am” O’Donnell?
The winner of each race will crawl into the most receptive political environment for the GOP in recent memory. Midterms generally favor the party opposite the president, and rampant inflation, stock market crashes, COVID-fatigue and war in Europe all seem to add fuel to the fire.
It could be exactly what Republicans need to stop the decadelong descent they have ridden.
Well, first every Republican challenger has been swamped in fundraising by their Democratic rivals. What little they have raised will be gone by the end of June, crippling them from the beginning. It is unlikely any outside groups will come in with enough money to change that dynamic.
Second, if firebrands Ron Hanks (U.S. Senate), Greg Lopez (governor), Tina Peters (Secretary of State), Laurel Imer (7th Congressional District), or Lori Saine (8th Congressional District) win, they will negate the generic issue advantage Republicans should enjoy this year. Each has shown a propensity to get sucked into damning conversations over abortion, sexual orientation, gun rights and “stolen” elections.
Sure, they gloss over the right words about the economy and crime, but they only come alive when engaged in the most polarizing, far-right rhetoric. It might play well in a primary but becomes far less palatable to the centrists that decide Colorado general elections.
That is exactly why several Democratic organizations have begun airing television ads targeted at Republican primary voters.
Outside of a few legislative seats in safe general election districts, Democrats wrapped up their presumptive nominees long ago. They seem so bored — and so flush with cash — that they have decided to pick which candidates to oppose in November.
Of course the official line is that these ads are simply meant to point out that the highlighted candidates are “too conservative for Colorado.” I wonder if the Democratic spokespeople were given multiple takes to deliver that line or whether there is an SNL-style blooper reel floating out in the ether.
The timing, within weeks of the primary, belies the goal. Goading gullible Republican primary voters into choosing extreme candidates makes the path to November victory that much easier for Democrats. Given the current political climate, they obviously feel that the more rational, electable GOP candidates (e.g. Joe O’Dea, U.S. Senate; Heidi Ganahl for governor; Anderson in the Secretary of State race; and anyone but Imer or Saine in the congressional contests) pose a significantly greater threat in November.
While I personally do not believe it is a dirty trick — all is fair in love, war and politics (especially since Republicans did something similar, albeit poorly, a few years ago) — I disagree with the strategy.
Even if the incumbent Secretary of State Jena Griswold would beat Peters 999 times our of 1,000, that one-off chance would pose an existential threat to our republic. No reward is worth that risk.
Could GOP candidates win in November? Yes. But only if they do not screw it up first.
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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