LAKEWOOD, COLO.--The political prospects for Democrats in swing-state Colorado this fall keep improving thanks to Republicans' ability to keep inflicting wounds upon themselves. On Wednesday, the Denver Post editorial board called for Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott McInnis to step down after it was revealed that, as a congressman, he repeatedly plagiarized others' work for oped columns and even a congressional floor speech.
If Richard Blumenthal survived misrepresenting his Vietnam War record in Connecticut, Scott McInnis may very well survive misrepresenting his knowledge of water rights and foreign policy. But Colorado Republicans' penchant for shooting themselves in the boot speaks to two larger, systemic problems: They have no bench and they are wholly captive to their right wing base. Furthermore, the Republican gubernatorial implosion could affect the shape of Colorado politics--and hand an advantage to Democrats for the next decade--thanks to redistricting. Republicans tried to pull a Texas-style midnight gerrymander last time that was struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court by a single vote.
The 2010 Senate race seems to be following the same pattern of the last several cycles--Republicans can't get a moderate to win in the primary and they can't get a conservative to win in the general. And they still can't distance themselves from Tom Tancredo, which doesn't do them any favors in a state where 20 percent of the electorate is Latino. Furthermore, voter registration here is evenly split--one-third Democrat, one-third Republican, and one-third unaffiliated--although Democrats do hold a registration advantage of a few thousand. Playing to the hard-right base may win a primary, but it does not bode well for the general election.
In the governor’s race, McInnis got off to a rocky start fending off a challenge from State Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry. He's from the western slope, the least vote-rich part of the state--more than 80 percent of Colorado's voting population lives along the j-shaped I-25 corridor on the Front Range that runs from Fort Collins to Pueblo, the vast majority in Denver/suburban Denver. McInnis was always viewed as a political retread, and now with the plagiarism problems it appears he's a literary one as well.
In contrast, Democrats suffer from a wealth of talent and a history of nominating centrists. Colorado State Treasurer Cary Kennedy is widely seen as a rising star, Democrats hold a 5-2 congressional delegation advantage, including Rep. John Salazar on the western slope (McInnis's former seat), and Rep. Betsy Markey on the eastern plains, plus Democrats hold solid majorities in the Colorado state House and Senate. I live in a swing county (Jefferson) in which Republicans outnumber Democrats, but my state house representative, my state senator, and my congressman ( Ed Perlmutter) are all moderate Democrats. [See who gave the most to Perlmutter.]
Until the Republicans can untether themselves from the hard-right base, which would allow them to cultivate some moderates to run statewide, the problems they've had in the last several cycles will continue in 2010. And Democrats' chances in the fall continue to look better and better.