GOP Tea Party Challenge in Colorado Helps Democrats in 2012

Whichever party captures Colorado's libertarian spirit best will do well with voters.

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LAKEWOOD, COLO.--Colorado isn’t a red state or a blue state--it’s a moderate state with a strong libertarian streak, and whichever party captures that spirit best will do well with voters. We are fiscally conservative but socially liberal and pro-privacy rights-government should mind its own business and stay out of ours.

This is why the prospect of a hardline social conservative, state Senator Ted Harvey from Highlands Ranch, challenging current Republican State Party Chair Dick Wadhams for his leadership post bodes well for Democrats in 2012. It could further split the Republican base and further alienate moderate voters, especially the independent/unaffiliated women in the Denver suburbs who are crucial to winning statewide.

For those of you inside the Beltway, Ted Harvey is the Rep. Chris Smith of the Colorado legislature. He opposes abortion in all cases, even for victims of rape or incest; he believes life begins at conception so he opposes many forms of birth control; and he strongly supported the two anti-abortion, anti-birth control “personhood” measures that failed 2-to-1 statewide in 2008 and 2010.

But the Republicans here have reason to be unhappy with Wadhams. Since taking over in 2007, Wadhams has produced the following results for his party:

  • Governor: 0-for-1
  • U.S. Senate: 0-for-2
  • Congressional Races: 6-for-14 (the 5th and 6th Congressional Districts twice, the 3d and 4th Districts once)
  • Treasurer, Attorney General, Secretary of State: 3-for-3
  • State Senate Control: 0-for-2
  • State House Control: 1-for-2 (by a one-vote margin)
  • Some of this is due to deep divisions in his own party between traditional Bill Owens-type Republicans and the hardline religious right (which pre-dates the Tea Party). Wadhams was smart enough to advise his candidates to remain neutral or silent on 2008’s “personhood” ballot measure, but couldn’t hold back the Tea Party tide on 2010’s Amendment 62. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]

    Even Wadhams admits that may have cost Republicans a Senate seat, telling the Colorado Statesman on Nov. 26:

    ...the Bennet campaign embarked on a very smart strategy the last three weeks…zooming in on a very specific message to attack [GOP Senate nominee Ken] Buck on his Personhood support, his abortion stand, which did not include exceptions for rape and incest… By doing that, what they did, they made Ken unacceptable to that narrow slice of the electorate that was still up for grabs.

    The Colorado Republican activist base wants to keep pushing divisive social issues even as it yields diminishing returns statewide, forcing a leadership battle. This only helps Colorado Democrats as we head towards the 2012 presidential election year.

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