The Colorado Republican Party finally succumbed to a two-decade long terminal illness last Tuesday. The GOP in Colorado is officially dead.
There need not be a post-mortem nor any plan to proceed.
Sure, activists, operatives and elected officials will toss about ideas and theories, but it is little more than an intellectual exercise at this point. The party flatlined when the polls closed last week, and it is never coming back.
There is a fallacy that politics is a pendulum and swings back and forth between the two major parties. That theory is reductive and false. To the contrary, state parties often get caught in downward spirals that seem gradual at first but accelerate as they spin downward through steeper, narrower circles around the drain.
Just ask Republicans in California or Democrats in Florida.
In Colorado, Republicans began their descent in the mid-2000s and were bound by its centripetal force nearly a decade ago. It just took 10 years to finally flush the last vestiges of the party.
For the second straight midterm cycle, Democrats swept statewide offices in Colorado. That leaves the GOP without a single official elected by a statewide electorate.
Not only did Democrats win, they thumped their Republican opponents. In a midterm election cycle that featured a president upside down in approval ratings and an economy stagnating due to rampant inflation and labor shortages, Republicans were poised to make massive gains across the country.
They did not. In most states, the “red wave” never made it to shore. In Colorado, it was overcome by a blue tide.
Republicans are now outnumbered nearly two to one in both chambers of the legislature. They were so decimated that the line of leadership succession depended more on who was left than who was best qualified.
Such impotence at the state Capitol will have a compounding effect. Lack of power will lead to less campaign cash, which will lead to fewer electoral victories, which will lead to less power, which will … you get the point.
Just take a look at the fundraising difference in the four statewide races. Gov. Jared Polis outraised Heidi Ganahl by more than $10 million, or more than five times her haul ($12.7 million to $2.3 million). Both Attorney General Phil Weiser and Secretary of State Jena Griswold took in $4.7 million and $4.3 million, respectively. Neither of their opponents raised more than $350,000. The treasurer’s race presented the closest contest — Dave Young only tripled up Lang Sias.
That meant Democrats had more commercials, more staff, more expertise, more of everything. The same scenario played out in state legislative races.
It is difficult to imagine any serious donor giving significant money to Republican candidates in the future. I mean, who would want to look as foolish as Steve Wells, the Weld County farmer and rancher who poured more than $11 million into a gubernatorial race and then watched his preferred candidate get trounced by a 17-point spread?
It is even more difficult to see serious candidates taking up the yoke for the GOP. What sane person wants to spend a year or more on the campaign trail taking regular pummelings?
The Colorado Republican Party never caught up to the longterm, outside investment Democrats put into the state. That is despite a detailed how-they-did-it manual written up 12 years ago by Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer.
They followed that up with policy choices that alienated large swaths of the electorate and unprecedented intraparty infighting. Mix in disdain for changing demographics and the combination became fatal.
It is the political equivalent of chasing a daily diet of McDonald’s supersize meals with a fifth of whiskey, a carton of Lucky Strikes and an exercise routine based on steps between the couch and the kitchen.
Death becomes a question of how soon, not how it can be avoided.
For the Colorado Republican Party it came on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. That is the day the GOP was pronounced dead in this state.
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