The only thing we can assert with certainty about 2016 is that it’s a bad year to be making political predictions. From the presidential race on down, conventional wisdom has flown out the proverbial window, to the point that not even Nostradamus could divine who might be next in line to run this grand democratic experiment come January.
This chaos-cum-lunacy has trickled down to Colorado, where a gaggle of state GOP power brokers and upstarts are vying for the opportunity (or helping their handpicked protégées vie for the opportunity) to take down Democratic Senator Michael Bennet’s re-election bid.
The latest chapter in this saga involves signatures both phantom and legitimate. After the state Republican convention in April approved only El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn for the June 28 primary, would-be candidates Robert Blaha, Ryan Frazier, and Jon Keyser were forced to gather enough voter signatures to qualify themselves for the primary. (Jack Graham decided before the primary to go the petition route and qualified for the ballot without controversy.)
Blaha, Frazier, and Keyser initially failed to gather enough verifiable John Hancocks to make the ballot, but they all squeaked in after a convoluted appeals process.
But this week, the signature issue blew up again after stories emerged that some of Keyser’s petition signatures are forgeries. This culminated with a debate during which Keyser went full Rubio in dodging repeated questions about the forgery issue. This, of course, resulted in gleeful eruptions of schadenfreude from Democrats here and nationwide, as the GOP establishment’s favored candidate did what most GOP establishment favored candidates have done in this upside-down year: implode in particularly excruciating fashion.
The upshot: Until the party of Lincoln reclaims a considerable amount of its squandered dignity, it will be difficult for it to reclaim the Colorado Senate seat. Senator Bennet currently has a campaign war chest that’s probably bigger than what the entire GOP roster has altogether, and he and his fellow Democrats smell blood, not only here, but nationwide. (The electoral havoc has many wondering if national control of the House and Senate might even be in play.) The Donald Trump phenomenon has so thoroughly steamrolled our time-honored assumptions about how all this is supposed to go that, for Dems, in many cases the best strategy might be to just sit back and watch, amusedly, while the Republicans try to sort out the questions that go to the very soul of their party’s near- and long-term mission.
That’s not to say the Dems won’t find their own potholes to step in between now and November. For the moment, the donkeys are feeling a lot more confident than the elephants, but in the bizarro 2016 we might see this script flipped several more times before Election Day.
Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.