Here are some trends and lessons from the Colorado elections, based on preliminary results available early Wednesday morning.
1. The majority of Colorado’s Congressional delegation is now Republican. Whereas the Democrats previously held five of the seven seats, now Republicans hold four. The Republicans had a realistic chance of picking up three seats, and they picked up two. In the Third District, Scott Tipton beat John Salazar (brother of former Senator and current Secretary of the Interior Ken). In the Fourth District, Cory Gardner trounced Betsy Markey in a traditionally Republican district. The only Republican loss in a competitive Congressional race was for Ryan Frazier, who went down to incumbent Ed Perlmutter.
Republicans Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn held on to their seats, as expected, as Democrats Diana DeGette and Jared Polis held on to theirs. However, Stephen Bailey performed relatively well against Polis in the Boulder-centric district, passing the 40 percent mark in early returns.
2. Coloradans rejected the anti-abortion measure by a wide margin. In 2008, Amendment 48 got 27 percent of the vote. I figured this year’s vote for Amendment 62, the follow-up measure, would be higher because of higher Republican turnout. Early returns indicate the percent in favor will be higher, but not by as much as I had imagined — perhaps 30 percent.
Maybe in 2012 the idiots behind the measure will run it again, so as to again drive Democrats to the polls, tempt self-destructive Republican candidates to endorse it and thereby alienate unaffiliated voters, and ensure the elections will be largely about social issues rather than economics.
3. Ken Buck struggled because of social issues. With 85 percent of precincts reporting, 9News reported that Buck held less than a 4,000 vote lead. He should have easily walked away with this election. Senator Michael Bennet is not a good communicator. He was hand-picked by an unpopular governor so that Ken Salazar could go to work for a (now) unpopular president. (One of the many ironies of the race is that the Democrats beat up Buck for questioning the direct election of Senators, when Bennet himself was appointed.)
It is true that Buck suffered many unjust and misleading attacks. It is also true that Buck said some unfortunate things about high heels and alcoholism that made him look clumsy at best. But two lines of attack struck their mark. Buck endorsed Amendment 62 before backing away from it, and he said he would outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest. It was these positions that made Buck’s “high heels” comment and his actions as a prosecutor regarding a rape case seem to add up to a very frightening picture especially for many women.
4. Coloradans reject Governor Crazy. The possible good news for Republicans is that Dan Maes may actually cross the ten percent mark, maintaining “major party” status for the state GOP. But John Hickenlooper still outperformed Maes and Tom Tancredo combined. (I reluctantly voted for Tancredo, but there are many reasons why I’m happy he lost, even if I’m not thrilled that Hickenlooper won.) As an aside, Sarah Palin endorsed Tancredo, which only adds to her loss record here.
But let’s not forget the real story of the Colorado governor’s race: after driving other candidates from the field, Scott McInnis saw his campaign train fall off the cliff of a plagiarism scandal. If McInnis hadn’t entered the race, the Republicans would have chosen a competent candidate, and that candidate probably would have won. But it’s probably a tossup whether Republicans should hate Maes or McInnis more.
5. Fiscal restraint is no excuse for badly written laws. Ballot measures 60, 61, and 101 went down by wide margins. They would have restrained taxes and spending. (I voted for only the last of the three.) The measures were poorly written. The campaign for them was ineffective, while the campaign against them was well-funded and very effective.
6. Health Care Choice got drowned out. The opponents of Amendment 63 ran a very effective campaign against it without having to trifle with debating its merits. They simply asked voters to vote no on the numbers, which was with this major exception a pretty good strategy. My wife and I also received a flyer claiming that, like the spending measures, Amendment 63 was simply too confusing, and voters should oppose things they don’t understand. (If the Democrats were actually serious about that criticism they’d repeal the greater portion of the Colorado Revised Statutes.) Nevertheless, even though Amendment 63 had to fight uphill against the other ballot measures, and even though its proponents lacked major funding, it came close to winning. So the vote on Amendment 63 hardly reflects an endorsement of ObamaCare in Colorado. Interestingly, Oklahoma voters approved a similar measure.
7. Gridlock wins. The federal government is now blessedly gridlocked. I personally could use a break from all the far-left “change.” At 11:55 p.m., Ben DeGrow wrote, “I’m feeling very confident that the GOP will win the state house.”
2012 cannot come too slowly.