Denver Bar Association
December 2010
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Election 2010—The Post-Game Show *From a Conservative Perspective

by Doug McQuiston

So, the Red GOP Tide didn’t exactly reach Colorado, did it?  With a tsunami surging the GOP into a 65-seat gain in the U.S. House, sweeping Republicans into governors’ mansions all across the country, and washing away big Congressional names, the GOP in Colorado mostly sat on the beach. As Vince Carroll put it in a Denver Post editorial after the election, “The conservative surf was up, and the Colorado GOP couldn’t get its big boards off the beach.” So, what does it mean? It’s too easy just to shrug your shoulders and say Colorado’s “gone blue.” The truth is a little more complex. 

Once again, Colorado proved itself to be one of the most mercurial states in the Union. We’re neither red nor blue—or maybe we’re both, depending on the office up for election. None of the polls were close to right here. Voters surprised pundits with their ticket-splitting picks. They elected liberals like John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennet, and Ed Perlmutter, along with true conservatives like Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner, and Scott Tipton.

Voters proved their good sense again by voting all of the amendments down. Our Supreme Court justices survived handily, with Clear the Bench Colorado losing a key court battle about fundraising and never being able to mount a campaign. These are good things. We again disproved H.L. Mencken’s cynical comment that “no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American voter.”

Colorado also lived up to its long and storied history of bucking trends. The GOP picked up Governors’ mansions in Wyoming, New Mexico, and Kansas, and held one in Utah; yet in January, a Democrat is going to move to our Governor’s mansion. Pundits likely will deconstruct the GOP’s run-up to the general campaign, the selection of Scott McInnis to run, pressuring Josh Penry out of the primaries, the whole Maes–Tancredo kabuki theater. I won’t. The long and short of it all is that we’ll have Gov. Hickenlooper, a lone Democrat crashing the party of conservative mountain state governors. Maybe we’ll get Free Beer Fridays at the Wynkoop.

On the Senate side, Ken Buck gave it all he had, but he straight-talked himself out of a general election win, losing in a photo finish. In the end, we have Sen. Bennet, whose lukewarm endorsement by The Denver Post should be printed and left on his desk back at D.C. He’ll do well to remember that the voters in Colorado value senators, from both parties, who keep their own counsel, remember where they came from, and don’t necessarily toe the party line. Time will tell if Bennet will rise to that standard. I wish him luck and courage.

So, is Colorado now a “blue” state? Nope. The GOP picked up two U.S. House seats: Gardner won handily over Betsy Markey in District 4. Tipton beat John Salazar in District 3. The state House changed sides to a tight GOP majority, while the state Senate stayed Democratic, mirroring the split Congress in D.C. Voters here have proven that they think for themselves, with party structure mattering far less than in most other states. 

Regardless of party or politics, though, we should all keep one thing in mind: the future is brighter here in the Colorado sunshine than for most of the rest of the country, on many levels. Our governor-elect promises to get government out of the way of small businesses, to allow them to do what they do best: generate jobs and revenue. He promises to spend the first 100 days of his term balancing the state budget by working with both sides of the aisle to cut the size of state government. If only the feds could watch and take notes.

At the national level, it is hard to overstate the significance of the Republican Party gains. Not since 1938 has there been such a sudden and dramatic swing in control of the House. Although it is common for the party in power in the White House to lose a few seats in the midterm elections, a swing of this magnitude is a stunning change in the direction of the country in just two years. Although the Senate didn’t change hands, it has become all but evenly split. 

The large GOP House majority is set to wreak havoc on President Obama’s next (last?) two years. For political junkies like me, these next couple of years are going to be a lot of fun to watch. Pundits everywhere are asking: will Obama move to the center, à la Bill Clinton, or hold to his progressivism, like Jimmy Carter? I will venture a prediction: expect some feints to the right, but nothing serious. Obama is an ideologue. 

Say what you will about that, but I respect someone who sticks to his core beliefs. Politics aside, one thing has been clear from the day he took the oath: Obama came to Washington to do something, not to be somebody. He is ideologically incapable of moving to the right in any measurable way. In my view, this is a compliment to the President. Let the battle of ideas begin, and may the best ideas win.

Obama is not the only one inside the Beltway facing a decision point. The GOP Congress has to decide whether it wants to try to get something done (like preserving tax cuts and reducing the size of government), or simply obstruct in a single-minded effort to make Obama a one-term president. If they attempt the former, we could see real improvement in the nation’s political and fiscal future. If the latter, President Obama may not be the only politician looking for a new job in 2012. The Tea Party isn’t the only group of voters who expect action. Like the signs said, “We can see 2012 from our house.”

Meanwhile, Campaign 2012 begins now. Get in, sit down, buckle up, and hold tight—it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!


Keep the conversation going. Send your take on the elections to scrocker@cobar.org.


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