October 31, 2006

GOP Looks In The Mirror, Sees The Enemy

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is going to take the fall? Apparently there is enough blame to go around for all:
On this, many Republicans agree: Democrats in Colorado are poised to clean their clock on Election Day.

But they disagree on what brought their party to this point.

Some Colorado Republicans blame the conservative Christian wing of their party for nominating candidates whose strong social agendas turn off moderates in the general election.

Others point to an unpopular president and an unpopular war and say the pendulum will swing back in Republicans' favor at some point.

And still others say lame-duck Gov. Bill Owens shares some responsibility.
ToTheRight and Joshua Sharf point to the guv.

Joel Hefley blames the PACs.

--Just kidding.

So who or what is to blame?

Let's start with the GOP. Political infighting. Inability to reconcile after particularly harsh primaries (Coors vs. Schaffer in '04, Beauprez vs. Holtzman and 5th Congressional District in '06). Weak candidates. Punting key election issues like illegal immigration.

Some national "insiders" claim that Sen. George Allen, R-VA, has run the most inept campaign in the country. At this point, it is clear that Bob Beauprez and Rick O'Donnell should be in the running for the "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" trophy for campaign bungling.

Fickle electorate. Colorado has given the GOP years of control in the state house and senate, and when combined with two Republican senators, a Republican governor, and 5-2 edge (until 2004), it appears that Colorado's unaffiliated/independent voters have shifted more to the middle and appear willing to elect what they view as "moderate" Democrats like the Salazar brothers, and again this year with Bill Ritter. Add this changing proclivity to relatively weak GOP candidates and the recipe for Democratic takeovers seems complete.

A gloomy national sentiment regarding Congress and the President adds to the political current Republicans find themselves struggling to overcome. Big-spending liberal donors like Tim Gill can help fund referenda, and catalyze voter interest by mobilizing liberal and Democratic-leaning independents to vote for Dems while also voting specific issues. This contribution to overall voter motivation might explain the swelling of support for Democratic candidates from their base, while the GOP leaks base voters to Democratic candidates or abstentions.

What is certain will be the backlash felt inside the GOP as the party searches for a target to blame for election shortcomings. Some will blame the governor, or the more conservative members. Beauprez supporters might point to Holtzman's campaign. Others will look to frustrated realists within the party--like this blog--and fault them for perceived lack of support. The list will go on and on.

Hopefully the party will recover its cohesion and political will, and SEEK OUT NEW POLITICAL TALENT to run for office and helm the campaigns. '08 looms large, with Sen. Wayne Allard a wildcard (his decision to run or bow out will have a great impact on the state GOP's chances), another presidential election, a potentially Democratic Congressional delegation (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 7th?), and continued Democratic majorities in the state house and senate.

What the state party lacks at this point is a leader. On many levels, Owens failed to accomplish this, and Beauprez most likely won't have the chance. Allard and Tancredo, representing the silent and the loud, appear unlikely to assume the mantle of state-wide GOP appeal.

Who will the next Colorado GOP leader turn out to be? Stay tuned--as the election dust settles, the answer may begin to take shape.

If you haven't already voted, take a look at Ben's ballot--complete with analysis, endorsements, and prognostications.



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