The Magazine

Rocky Road

Plenty of obstacles for Colorado's Republicans.

Oct 27, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 07 • By DAVID HARSANYI
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Udall has displayed few qualms about customizing his positions to appeal to any audience that happens to be listening. He has taken U-turns on offshore drilling (literally inserting it into an existing commercial on energy) and nuclear power. He flipped and voted for a FISA bill that included retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies. He voted against the financial bailout (twice) and has newfound appreciation for the Second Amendment. While Salazar perfected the bolo-tied cowboy populist charmer shtick, Udall, a prodigy from a well-known political family, brings the newer template: the mountain-climbing, granola-crunching, wind-worn man of the West.

Schaffer has struggled to match this appeal. Meeting recently with the Denver Post editorial board (which endorsed Udall and of which I am a member), he contrasted himself with his opponent saying, "You always know where I stand on an issue." And, well, that's the problem. Voters' knowing where you stand doesn't get you elected.

Though it might be too late for Schaffer to mount a comeback against these forces, McCain needs a Colorado miracle to compete. The Centennial State has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 16 years, and then only with the help of Ross Perot. Colorado is a microcosm of the troubles Republicans face. The party has been unable to find top-notch candidates, generate grassroots enthusiasm, raise money, and deal with Colorado's changing demographics.
A recent New Yorker article entitled "The Code of the West--What Barack Obama can learn from Bill Ritter" stated that party insiders "have decided growth for Democrats is more likely to occur in the conservative but idiosyncratic West than in the solidly Republican South."

How Republicans regain their footing and repel this strategy is still a mystery. They certainly haven't begun to do the job yet.

David Harsanyi of the Denver Post is a nationally syndicated columnist.