Colorado Republicans, Cory Gardner face electoral challenges

Earlier than the election, Colorado Republicans managed the state Senate, occupied three of the state’s 5 statewide workplaces and held 5 of the state’s seven congressional seats.

Then almost 900,000 unaffiliated voters forged their ballots and handed decisive victories to Democrats.

“The barn has been completely cleaned out,” stated David Flaherty, a Colorado Republican pollster. “We’re trying to learn what motivated them. But you’re kidding yourself if you say President Trump didn’t have something to do with it.”

Lengthy earlier than the outcomes from the 2018 election have been recognized, Republicans — particularly these operating for statewide workplace — confronted daunting electoral challenges. Colorado is getting youthful; the social gathering has registered fewer than 50,000 new voters since 2014; and the nationwide temper favored Democrats.

Now, in line with Flaherty and different political insiders interviewed by The Denver Submit this week, the state of affairs is extra dire for Colorado’s GOP. Of most speedy concern: U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s re-election prospects are grim until the celebration can develop a brand new message that appeals to each the Trump loyalists and the unbiased voters who dislike the president.

Step one, state social gathering chairman Jeff Hays stated, is to take heed to voters, get together leaders and candidates.

“To the best of our ability,” he stated after the election, “we’ll try to figure out what happened.”

In this Oct. 27, 2018, photo, ...

Jeff Roberson, The Related Press

On this Oct. 27, 2018, photograph, President Donald Trump speaks throughout a rally at Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro, Sick.

A celebration divided — and underwhelmed

In contrast to in additional conservative states, Colorado’s Republican Social gathering is cut up over Trump. The bottom, particularly in additional rural elements of Colorado, adores him. And whereas extra of the get together’s leaders have come to embrace the president’s brashness, energy brokers who orbit the social gathering are nonetheless repulsed by Trump’s worst tendencies.

Entrance Vary Republican strategists know Colorado’s swing voters are extra receptive to Republican messages concerning the financial system and judges than Trump tweets a few caravan of immigrants tons of of miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Not a lot on the extra conservative Western Slope and Japanese Plains.

“There was definitely a lot of people who wanted to see President Trump in Mesa County stumping,” stated Rose Pugliese, a Republican Mesa County commissioner. “It didn’t happen. Would it have helped turnout? Maybe … but we clearly saw the urban areas take over in this election.”

For a number of days main as much as the election, GOP voters trailed their final midterm election turnout numbers — at one level by 50,000 ballots. And whereas extra Republicans finally voted in 2018 than in 2014, they didn’t improve their numbers by almost as a lot as Democrats and unaffiliated voters did. They usually misplaced floor in important swing counties.

For Republicans to claw again any energy, they have to be turning out extra voters in swing counties similar to Jefferson and Arapahoe, the latter of which makes up nearly all of the aggressive sixth Congressional District that Republican Rep. Mike Coffman simply misplaced. Jefferson County, in the meantime, is house to 3 sometimes aggressive state Senate races that Democrats simply swept.

Whether or not Trump might have helped end up extra Republican voters is an open query.

Trump definitely believes he might have. In a post-election information convention, he referred to as out Coffman in addition to different congressional Republicans who distanced themselves from the president and misplaced their elections.

Whether or not Republican candidates ought to have requested Trump for assist “is a discussion worth having,” stated Justin Prendergast, a Republican strategist. “However, I think not having Trump here gives us a clear analysis on where the base is.”

Walker Stapleton delivered his concession speech together with his household early within the night on the Denver Marriott South throughout a gathering of the GOP hopefuls Nov. 6, 2018 in Lone Tree. (Joe Amon, The Denver Publish)

Redefining the message — and the messenger

As outcomes got here in Tuesday night time and it turned clear that Republicans have been dropping large floor throughout the state, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck stated it was time for the social gathering to rethink its objectives and message.

“Republicans have lost our brand,” Buck stated. For instance, the get together claims to be fiscally conservative, however it has racked up a trillion-dollar deficit, he stated.

“The Republican brand in Colorado is hurting right now,” he stated. “We need to sit down and have a serious conversation about who should lead.”

Jeff Hunt, president of the Centennial Institute, a conservative assume tank at Colorado Christian College, stated conservatives have to do a greater job of translating Trump to the state’s unaffiliated citizens.

“The state is very (different) from the coalition that got Trump elected,” he stated. The query is, “How do Republicans make Trump policies relevant to voters?”

The state GOP can be clever to select 4 points and develop conservative options to pitch to voters, stated Flaherty, the pollster.

“We didn’t have any messages this cycle,” he stated.

Michael Fields, government director of Colorado Rising Motion, a conservative political group that helped defeat a proposed tax improve for faculties this fall, stated that message must be constructive.

“We have to talk about what we are for more than what we are against,” he stated. “Conservatism can win in Colorado, but we need an inspirational message focused on how Colorado can be even better 20 years from now.”

The message shouldn’t be the one factor that modifications, stated Pugliese, the Mesa County Republican. So ought to the messenger.

“I really, truly, think you’re going to see in 2020 and 2022 a larger amount of women candidates running for higher office,” she stated. “It’s coming. It’s coming.”

Democratic victories in Colorado and throughout the nation have been fueled largely by a historic variety of feminine, black and Latino candidates. Pugliese and others took discover.

“The women I’m interacting with across the state have all talked about how we need to message our party, how we need to be more inclusive, to show people that we are truly inclusive and more diverse,” she stated. “I think the only way to really do that is to prove it. And I know there are definitely people ready.”

The gang claps for Walker Stapleton as he provides his concession speech on the The Denver Marriott South throughout a gathering of Colorado GOP candidates and supporters on Nov. 6, 2018 in Lone Tree. (Joe Amon, The Denver Submit)

Ready for overreach

Not all is misplaced, Republicans say. Celebration insiders are taking consolation in the truth that Colorado voters decisively rejected two huge tax will increase on the poll.

“These elections haven’t been a repudiation of fundamental conservative policy positions,” Fields stated. “When the Democrats overreach, which they inevitably will, Republicans have to be ready to communicate a vision for the state that appeals to unaffiliated voters.”

As Republican state lawmakers met to pick their new leaders on the legislature, they pledged to be a verify on the Democrats.

“Our role will be to continue to bring great ideas,” stated state Rep. Paul Lundeen, who simply gained a seat within the Senate to characterize Monument. “The second role is to tap the brakes, to ring the alarm bell so that the voters of Colorado know if the majority party — now that they have the trifecta — is getting out of control.”

The query of overreach has been recent on many political observers’ minds. The final time Democrats held each chambers — in 2013 — it led to two state senators being recalled. And it didn’t take lengthy for Republicans to reminisce about that second.

“If the pendulum swings too far to the left, the people of Colorado will react,” Buck stated on election night time. “You will see recall elections again.”

Drew Angerer, Getty Pictures

Sen. Cory Gardner listens throughout a Fee On Safety And Cooperation listening to to debate the legacy of and justice for slain Russian political opposition chief Boris Nemtsov, on Capitol Hill, Feb. 28, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer, Getty Pictures)

Gardner’s re-election struggle

Democrats haven’t been shy about their subsequent goal: U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. The Yuma Republican now can be one in every of solely two statewide GOP officeholders, and his political destiny is tied to how he and Republicans reply these existential questions.

Kelly Maher, government director of the conservative group Compass Colorado, stated there’s no higher individual to steer the celebration via the subsequent two years.

“All eyes are now on Cory Gardner, who is going to set the vision and tone for the next election,” she stated. “He’s an A-plus expert at selling Republican ideals in a really positive way. He’s the guy that’s going to set the tone.”

In an interview with The Denver Publish on Thursday, Gardner didn’t draw back from Trump — in truth, he invited Trump and your complete Colorado congressional delegation to Colorado for a statewide tour.

“I’d be honored to have the president come to Colorado with the bipartisan delegation and show him the good work that we do in this state,” he stated. “… I feel confident the people of Colorado are going to continue to want balance; they are going to want bipartisanship.”

Whereas Gardner is championing bipartisanship now, his re-election bid might be the costliest — and ugliest — race within the nation. He can rely on robust monetary help from the GOP after spending the final yr as chairman of the Senate Nationwide Republican Senatorial Committee, serving to Republicans maintain and broaden their slender margin within the Senate.

However cash can’t clear up every little thing. Gardner goes to be tied to Trump at each flip, particularly with each of them on the 2020 poll.

“The unaffiliated voters are going to make the decision of where this ends up,” stated Flaherty, the pollster. “Clearly there is a lot of work to do as Cory begins campaigning and starts the conversation with Coloradans.”

— Employees author Anna Staver contributed to this report.

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