The surge of young unaffiliated voters and Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s national leader has raised the question: Will Republicans continue as a viable party and alternative to Democrats? It should be first pointed out that neither the Democrats nor Republicans are in a strong position in Colorado. During the last decade, while Republicans lost 6 percentage points in registration, Democrats gained zero. The big advance was among unaffiliated voters who mostly disdain the two parties.
In a long featured article, Spencer Campbell in 5280 (November) asks how Republicans plan to retake Colorado in 2020. His opining sentence summed up the challenge.
“A younger electorate—and a backlash against Donald Trump’s presidency—pushed our purple state firmly into the blue in 2018. With one year to go until the 2020 election, here’s how the GOP plans to resurrect Colorado’s moribund Republican Party.”
Analyses came from Republican pollster David Flaherty; party vice chair Kristi Burton Brown; Michael Fields, director of Colorado Raising Action; and ever quoted, Dick Wadhams, former chairman.
My contribution came in a couple of areas. I suggested Trump was a heavy burden today.
“Donald Trump,” says Floyd Ciruli, a Denver pollster and political analyst. “He wasn’t particularly popular here in 2016. He was even less popular in 2018.” Even though the president didn’t top the ticket in the 2018 midterms, his brand of politics sent previously uninspired sectors—independents and young people—to the polls. “To be honest,” Flaherty says, “we think the challenges are nearly insurmountable for the Republican Party at this time.”
Flaherty and I disagreed on Proposition CC. I thought it was a winner for Republicans, and indeed, they helped push it to defeat.
According to Magellan Strategies, 54 percent of likely voters plan to vote yes on Prop CC. Still, Floyd Ciruli, an independent Denver pollster and political analyst, views the referendum as a blunder by Democrats because it provides Republicans an opportunity to rally around issues (low taxes and small government) that brought the party success in the 1990s.
Finally, I argued that one of Gardner’s strengths, which helped him win 2014, was his ability to bring home the projects and help for Colorado as a member of the Senate majority.
Gardner plans to circumvent the Trump balance beam by selling himself as Colorado’s pork-barrel legislator. “He’s trying very hard to establish one of the basic predicates of why a lot of influential people went for him in 2014,” says Floyd Ciruli, a Denver pollster and political analyst. That premise was that it made sense to have a Colorado representative in the ruling party. Now, after almost five years there, Gardner says, “I get to talk about what we’ve accomplished for the state as a whole.”