September 29, 2006

Rocky Mountain News Endorses Bill Ritter

The Rocky Mountain News endorsed Bob Beauprez in each of his congressional races, but chooses Bill Ritter for governor of Colorado, for some pretty unsurprising reasons:
Our choice was not an easy one, since we also admire Ritter's Republican opponent, Bob Beauprez. Indeed, we have to believe the 7th District congressman - whom we've endorsed both times he's run - would certainly make a better governor than he has let on during this campaign. For that matter, the most powerful argument for electing Beauprez may be to preserve a divided government in a state where the legislature is likely to remain dominated by Democrats.

This is a legislature that in the past two years, despite real accomplishments, has churned out a remarkable array of cockamamie measures that would have curtailed economic freedom and enhanced the power of such Democratic stalwarts as trial lawyers and unions. (One especially ignorant bill that passed allowed the state to "opt out" of international trade agreements.) Owens vetoed most of those bills and Beauprez undoubtedly would veto similar ones in the future. Fortunately, Ritter insists he'd spike the bulk of such legislation, too.

For us, the tipping point between the two men has to do with their campaigns. To be blunt, Beauprez's performance during the past 15 months has not been reassuring. It began with his taking an unconvincing stand against Referendum C, one seemed designed to secure his right flank rather than satisfy personal conviction. It continued with his mysterious embrace and then repudiation of Amendment 38, and a couple of verbal gaffes. And for a long time it wasn't clear why Beauprez even wanted to be governor. Only recently - too late in our view - have his positions begun to gel into a focused, coherent message.

This newspaper has watched Ritter under fire and seen him take on new challenges. In everything he does there's a certain steadiness that we believe Coloradans will find reassuring.

Eighteen months ago Ritter was an improbable candidate whom few gave a chance of grabbing the Democratic Party's nomination, given his anti-abortion views. Now he's poised to defy the odds and become the next governor. Fortunately for Coloradans, he's shown he deserves it.
In other words, Beauprez snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The RMN endorsement basically restates many of the points this blog highlighted two weeks ago: Beauprez doing too little, too late.

Campaigning is not just about wonky policy points, negative attack ads, shaking hands and fundraising. The campaign itself creates perceptions that resonate beyond the candidates themselves. In 2002 Tom Strickland's often angry and defensive demeanor helped Wayne Allard's low-key approach. Allard's campaign made the voters think about Strickland-the-candidate and less about reelection. Strickland proved he could not escape the "lawyer-lobbyist" appellation.

Beauprez has proved unable to assert his own presence in the campaign, let alone do anything substantive to overcome the "Both Ways Bob" moniker that his then-primary opponent Marc Holtzman dubbed him. Ritter's campaign and supporters merely folded this catchy phrase into their own campaign framework. Ritter has made the campaign about Beauprez, and reduced the focus on himself. Beauprez's campaign has faltered repeatedly, failing to even get out of the gate. With the polls that have come out the past few weeks seeming to confirm Beauprez's deficit, it appears that the Republican candidate--barring any last minute revelation or miracle push--will be DOA on November 7.


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