Colorado Becomes a Blueprint for the Democrats

November 21 2004, 6:00 AM
Democrats are picking themselves up, dusting themselves off, and getting back in the game. But what should they do differently? There seems to be a national consensus among party leaders that Colorado has the answer. Why? Because Colorado is a "solidly red state that went almost completely blue this year."
Despite a large Republican advantage in registered voters and the popularity of President Bush, who carried the state easily for the second time, Colorado Democrats picked up a U.S. Senate seat and House seat that had been considered safe for the GOP. They reversed Republican majorities in the state House and Senate to take control of the legislature. And they backed expensive ballot measures that passed by large majorities despite opposition from the GOP. In the process, the Democrats tarnished the stature of Gov. Bill Owens, a popular but term-limited Republican who has made no secret of his ambition for national office. Candidates closely tied to Owens lost the Senate and House races. The governor campaigned in vain for Republican legislators and against a new transit tax that won broad voter approval.
What did Colorado Dems get right that the rest of the country missed? According to Chris Gates, chair of Colorado's Democratic Party, the Dems campaigned on "pragmatism:"
We set ourselves up as the problem solvers, while the Republicans were hung up on a bunch of fringe social issues like gay marriage and the Pledge of Allegiance. "The notion that moral issues won the 2004 election was disproven in Colorado," Gates continued. "We offered solutions, not ideology, and won almost everything."
Translation:
  • Ken Salazar avoided John Kerry -- saying he was too busy to campaign with him when he visited the state.
  • Democrats took a page from the Republican playbook by enlisting four multi-millionaires to fund and plan the taking back of the statehouse.
  • Dems were more successful at registering voters and getting them to the polls on election day.
It wasn't all Democratic genius though. Republicans only have themselves to blame for failing to fix the state's fiscal problems and being so internally divided they flip- flopped on their Senate nominee. Sounds like there's lessons to go around for everyone.