Want a Preview of the GOP’s 2016 Train Wreck? Check Out Colorado

The Centennial State is a microcosm of the Republican Party’s problems.

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In this photo taken on Thursday, June 27, 2013, Richard Taylor manager of at Firing-Line gun store in Aurora, Colo., shows some of the pistols that he won't be able to sell after June 30 because their magazines hold more than 15 rounds. Limits on ammunition magazines and universal background checks, signature pieces of Colorado Democrats’ gun-control legislation in response to mass shootings, take effect July 1, even as county sheriffs fight to overturn the new laws.

DENVER - Chances are, unless you're a Colorado political insider, you've never heard of Dudley Brown, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners or the National Association for Gun Rights. But Dudley, as he's universally known in Colorado, is one of the reasons Democrats have turned Colorado blue, and his scorched-earth tactics on gun rights could very well play in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Dudley's National Association for Gun Rights spent more money opposing gun legislation than the NRA, a group he considers soft, and has become closely affiliated with Senator Rand Paul.

Dudley is the subject of " Dudley Brown's War" an extensive profile by reporter Eli Stokols in this month's 5280 Magazine. It leads with this telling and appalling anecdote:

True to form, last July, two days after James Holmes shot 70 moviegoers in Aurora, killing 12, I asked him about proposals to limit ammunition purchases. When I mentioned Holmes had 6,000 rounds with him that night, Brown said, "I call 6,000 rounds running low."

[ See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

Dudley has a long history of attacking Colorado Republicans he considers too-compromising on gun rights, ensuring a weak, extremist candidate in the general election. Stokols continues:

Brown's hostage-holding of any center- or left-tilting Colorado Republican has crippled the GOP's ability to regain a political foothold, making Colorado a swing-state microcosm of the national GOP's biggest problem: breaking free of its base and becoming more "inclusive," an imperative Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus outlined in March.

Dudley is an equal-opportunity misogynist: the object of some of his worst vitriol has been Republican women. He was responsible for an ugly anti-gay mailer in a Republican state Sen. primary that pitted incumbent Jean White, who voted for civil unions, against challenger Randy Baumgardner (who's now running for Senate). The gay couple featured in the hate mailer is now suing for unauthorized use of their photo. White lost. And even if he beats 2010 GOP nominee Ken Buck, who just filed papers for the race, Baumgardner can't beat Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

Dudley also went after Republican State Rep. B.J. Nikkel for supporting civil unions. As B.J. told me on Twitter, "He can't stand any woman he can't control."

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

So the cannibalistic exercise that will be the Republican 2016p primary is hardly unfamiliar to Colorado voters. It's gained volume with the Rand Paul-Chris Christie spat, and shows no signs of abating with Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz visiting Iowa and urging a government shutdown. Meanwhile Paul, a senator from Kentucky, and the National Association for Gun Rights have already started attacking other Republicans for being too soft on gun rights.

According to Politico, back in April during the height of the gun safety bill debate in Congress, "The group has blitzed the districts of Virginia Republicans Cantor and Rep. Scott Rigell with $50,000 worth of TV and radio ads accusing them of helping President Barack Obama pass gun control legislation."

[ See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

Sound familiar? Rigell had an A- from the NRA. But that wasn't good enough for Rand Paul and Dudley Brown.

If Paul makes a serious run at the nomination, he'll have Dudley Brown to thank. And if he loses the election, Democrats will have Dudley Brown to thank.