Outgoing state senate President John Andrews has a column in this week’s edition of the conservative Weekly Standard and concludes that last month’s election results have Colorado Republicans listening to a radio station he calls “WTHH: What The Hell Happened in this 2004 election?”
Why did a state so reliably red for so long–a state that’s gone Republican in seven of eight presidential races since I came here from the Nixon White House in 1974 — vote deep blue all down the ticket below Bush-Cheney?
Andrews lists — and then dismisses — the answers most often given by the state’s Republicans in the weeks since Nov. 2, when Democrats won back both houses of the state legislature for the first time since 1960, passed a variety of ballot initiatives, and elected Ken Salazar to the U.S. Senate.
It’s been suggested that the big Republican voter-registration edge hides a quiet leftward shift in Coloradoans’ political preferences, driven by the heavy migration from California and other West Coast states we’ve seen since 1990. But if that were so, Bush wouldn’t have won here by several points while Senate candidate Pete Coors, a shade less conservative, was losing by a similar margin.
“They don’t like us any more” is too easy an out; it doesn’t fit the facts. Neither does the other comforting excuse: “They buried us in dollars.” It’s true that Salazar significantly outspent the wealthy Coors, and Democrats did pour almost $7 million into legislative races, twice what Republicans spent.
Instead, Andrews gives Democrats credit for winning on what he calls “the 3 M’s–money, message, and motivation.”
It was motivation, above all, that powered this Democrat victory. Democrats were driven and hungry from decades in the political wilderness. Republicans were complacent and soft from too long in power. Their motive for winning was to get in there and do things. Ours, it often seemed, was merely to stay in there. These attitudes translated into discipline and unity for Democrats, indulgence and disunity for Republicans. GOP factionalism was endemic and fatal.
The message gap was a consequence of this motivation gap. Democrats talked about making Colorado a better state, about not letting Republicans cut cherished programs, and about the GOP’s supposed obsession with “gays, guns, and God.” Republicans talked about . . . what? Other than denying their charges and hurling some back, we pretty much punted. Republican candidates picked their own issues locally. Churchill would have called it a pudding with no theme.
There’s more to Andrew’s column, and it’s worth reading. It’s not often that we see this kind of forthright analysis from politicians on either side of the aisle.