As a longtime (really, really longtime) political pundit, I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea who is going to win the Republican primary for governor.
On the other hand, I’m pretty sure no one else does either.
It isn’t just that there is no obvious favorite among the four candidates, there’s no un-obvious favorite either.
The gun issue, which was supposed to be John Hickenlooper’s big vulnerability, flopped in the legislature and got Greg Brophy, who tried running an anti-gun-grabber campaign, absolutely no traction. He didn’t even make the ballot.
Meanwhile, Mike Kopp, the candidate who would seem to have the most momentum entering the Republican primary race, has little money and almost no name recognition.
Bob Beauprez, who made the big splash with a last-minute announcement, is a failed candidate who ran the worst campaign of all the bad campaigns in the long Republican Colorado slump.
Tom Tancredo, the guy with the most name recognition, is the one whose baggage-ridden ID guarantees he’ll never win a statewide race in Colorado and who, when running against Hickenlooper four years ago in the Dan Maes three-way, managed to draw all of 36 percent.
Scott Gessler, the one candidate who has won a statewide race, is coming off an epic fail at the Republican assembly, where it is assumed that any number of his fellow Republican candidates were thrilled to watch him fail.
You see a favorite? Me, neither. And so, we’ll take the candidates one by one and see if things look any clearer on the other end.
Mike Kopp — The Democrats think he’d be dangerous if he could get through the primary. He’s got a great personal story. People like him. He’s extremely conservative in his politics, but extremely moderate in his demeanor. He’s the only Republican who could challenge Hickenlooper in likeability.
Kopp’s problem is he has no money with which to tell his story. He has virtually no name recognition. He has a large charisma deficit. His best (only?) chance is if the Rovians or the Chamber or some other outside group agreed with the Democrats and decided to throw some third-party money at Kopp. That’s a longer long shot than Kopp, though. The money is probably going to sit out this race, with (see: above) no obvious favorite and no real likelihood that any of the four would beat Hickenlooper. My guess is that the money will all be going toward Cory Gardner in his bid to upend Mark Udall in the U.S. Senate race.
Tom Tancredo — The two big questions: Does Tancredo really want to be governor? If not, does he want to run for governor anyway?
I’m pretty sure he has no interest in being governor. And it’s looking more and more like he isn’t interested in running, either. He did gather enough petitions to get on the ballot, which would mean, for most candidates, that it’s too late to back out. But Tancredo isn’t like most candidates. In fact, he isn’t like any candidate — except those who want to align themselves with Ted Nugent.
But you may have noticed how little press Tancredo has gotten. How he has avoided the debates. The rumors in the political world are all about Tancredo looking for an exit, if he can find one with perks. But then there’s this: Given Tancredo’s loyal Tancredistas, he’s perfectly positioned in a four-way race to possibly actually win the nomination. That’s how he got into the House, winning a five-way 6th CD primary with 26 percent of the vote. Of course, if Tancredo did win, he’d have to run against Hickenlooper again, and we saw how that turned out last time.
Bob Beauprez — His 17-point loss to Bill Ritter (good guy, bad politician) goes down as maybe the worst campaign in modern Colorado history. Beauprez is the symbol of defeat for the 10-year run of Republican top-line losses in Colorado. Some would say that people have forgotten Beauprez’ loss. I’d guess that few have forgotten the ad with him standing on the wrong side of the horse.
And he has spent his years out of office doing nothing to suggest he’d run a better campaign. Instead he has been guesting on right-wing radio and going all Ken Buck on us. On Colorado Pols recently, they had a hilarious offering of Beauprez calling for repeal of the 17th Amendment, in which it wasn’t altogether clear he even knew what it was. In the run-up to his announcement for governor, Beauprez was telling Eli Stokols from Fox 31 in Denver that he was considering both the Senate and governor’s race. If nothing else, at least now we know why he chose governor.
Scott Gessler — People don’t seem to like Scott Gessler. At least those who know him. It’s not a partisan thing, even though Gessler is hyperpartisan himself. He has ethics baggage. He can be a little sideways with the rhetoric. (Exactly how many illegal voters has he found?) With Tancredo and Beauprez petitioning their way onto the ballot, Gessler was supposed to win big at the Assembly. Instead, he finished second and, with 33 percent of the vote, barely made it past the 30 percent cutoff. He missed out on the top line, and he also missed out on a chance to gain any momentum.
And yet, I think Gessler might be the slightest of slight favorites in this race. Unless Tancredo stays in. Or Kopp finds some money. Or Beauprez rides in on a different horse.