'Colorado Model' Got Democrats in the Door, But Their Stay Might Be Brief

Effort that turned red state blue faces a rebound as the bloom goes off the columbine.


By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

As the liberals are finding everywhere they turn, governing is hard.

Case in point, the Rocky Mountains, where a group of multimillionaires backed a top-to-bottom effort called the "Colorado model," a well-funded effort to turn a red state blue. This included the funding of candidates for governor, for statewide office, and the legislature, but also the creation of think tanks, political advocacy efforts, and other astroturf operations with one goal in mind: sweep as many Republicans as possible out of office and replace them with Democrats.

The donors, people like Tim Gill, Rutt Bridges, Jared Polis, and Pat Stryker, must have been thrilled with the results. Because of their support, Colorado now has a Democratic governor, the Democrats are the majority party in both chambers in the state legislature, the Democratic Party has picked up one U.S. Senate seat and two U.S. House seats from the GOP, and the state went for Barack Obama over John McCain by 9 points in 2008.

The Colorado model has fascinated conservatives every since they learned of it. They have studied it, debated it, and tried to replicate it on the right—so far without any proven success. But, as Michael Barone writes in the D.C. Examiner, all the concerns on the right may be for naught. The Democrats' hegemony in Colorado is starting to erode.

"Colorado seems to be going in the other direction. Gov. Bill Ritter, elected by 17 points in 2006 and seeking another term next year, is trailing former Republican Rep. Scott McInnis in the polls and runs only even against a little-known Republican state legislator. Michael Bennet, appointed by Ritter to fill Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's Senate seat, has a negative job rating and runs well under 50 percent against Republican opponents. Barack Obama's job rating in the state has been conspicuously below his national average—closer to those of still rock-ribbed Republican Rocky Mountain states than the hip states of the Pacific Coast," Barone says.

"Campaigning, it turns out, is easier than governing," Barone writes. And, he might have added, because elected officials are responsible to the voters, not just to their donor base. As Republicans are finding, it's easy to demonstrate how the party in power is out of step with the electorate.

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