Littwin: Darryl Glenn shows us how not to run a campaign (column)
October 14, 2016
Darryl Glenn has a Donald Trump problem. That's not news. I mean, which 2016 Republican candidate doesn't have a Donald Trump problem? And now that the Donald Trump problem has evolved into a full-blown Donald Trump crisis — with the GOP actively at war with itself — the stakes have grown even greater. But you knew that, too.
Glenn's problem is different, though, because it's not really about Trump. It's about Glenn and the master course he is conducting on how not to run a U.S. Senate campaign.
As you've probably noticed, Glenn has seemed, well, either conflicted about Trump or just plain confused. This is part of a long trend line. In Glenn's non-campaign campaign, he has not raised money, has not raised his profile and has not raised, or presumably identified, a single issue designed to move voters to his side.
And then there's the Trump-off. Or the Trump on-and-off-and-maybe-back-on-again.
Glenn, you'll recall, embraced Trump at the GOP National Convention when most candidates wisely stayed away — and even though Ted Cruz, Trump's favorite enemy before Paul Ryan took on the role, had campaigned for Glenn.
In a state that Trump is almost certainly going to lose, Glenn tied himself directly to Trump, saying he saw it as his "personal responsibility" to see that Trump carries Colorado.
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And then, after sticking with Trump through the long list of Trumpian controversies, Glenn surprised everyone by joining Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner in the multiple Trump dump on Saturday, the day after Trump's genital-grabbing "locker room talk" video showed up in the Washington Post.
Coffman, who had already disavowed Trump, had no choice but to dump him in his closely-contested 6th District race. Gardner, who had reluctantly endorsed Trump — and only after choosing to sacrifice principle to political calculation — was looking for a way out and grabbed it.
What was surprising about Glenn's move, though, was that Glenn's supporters probably have a 90-plus-percent overlap with Trump's supporters. Did he not realize this? Does he not have advisers? It looked very much like a panicked decision that was, politically at least, an unqualified disaster. When demanding that Trump should step aside, Glenn said we should not "tolerate" a candidate like Trump, who had "disqualified" himself from being commander-in-chief. Yes and yes. But, then what?
We saw what. Magically, Glenn found new levels of tolerance and, yes, managed to re-qualify Trump. Sort of. If you watched the U.S. Senate debate last night, you saw the sort-of part. Glenn praised Trump's contrition in the Sunday presidential debate, which had amounted to two things: One, Trump saying that bragging about assaulting women was locker room talk, and two, that whatever he had done or might ever do, it wouldn't be as bad as anything Bill Clinton had done. Glenn also praised Trump's willingness to take the debate to Clinton, in which Trump, um, vowed he'd put Clinton in jail.
Glenn, being the forgiving sort who says he believes in repentance, said he wanted to give Trump another chance and wanted a personal meeting to see what was in Trump's heart. Are you confused? Well, later in the debate, Glenn said he had "absolutely suspended" his endorsement, ensuring confusion all around.
This is not a flip-flop exactly. I don't know what the word is. Can you have a re-flip-flop? And it was hard not to laugh when Glenn later attacked Bennet for not criticizing Clinton for her "deplorable" baskets of Trump voters. Bennet noted that Clinton had apologized herself, to which Glenn, who can't make up his mind on Trump, replied: "Leadership is you don't need to take a poll. You don't need to wait. You do it when it happens."
OK, but let's look a little deeper. Is Glenn saying that undecided Colorado voters should all seek out personal meetings with Trump for a heart check? Is he saying that he'll do the leg work and report back? Is he saying that if Trump won't see him, Glenn won't un-suspend the endorsement? Or is he just hoping no one will ever ask him the question again?
Being a forgiving sort myself, I have some sympathy for Glenn's position. He's not alone. One senator said, before apologizing, that grabbing a women's privates wasn't sexual assault. And a congressman said he might still support Trump even if Trump were to advocate rape. Another apology was forthcoming. And there have been a few other embarrassing flip-flops, most notably that by South Dakota's John Thune, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate.
And, let's face it, it's not Glenn's fault that Colorado Republican Party voters nominated someone so peculiarly unqualified to be their Senate nominee. It's what they do. Forget Cory Gardner, who once hailed as the new-way GOP candidate.
In the last four top-of-the-ticket races, Republicans have nominated Gardner, crazy Dan Maes, who thought bike-sharing was a U.N. plot to take over Denver, retread Bob Beauprez, who had lost an earlier race to Bill Ritter by 16 points, and now Glenn, the Christian conservative constitutionalist El Paso County commissioner.
Former Gov. Bill Owens just came out strongly against Trump, writing on his Facebook page (it was too long for Twitter) that Trump was a "charlatan" and a "narcissist" who had "temporarily captured" the Republican party and "who will throw us aside after doing his best to destroy us, just as he has thrown aside so many of his properties and ventures."
It was a strong statement, and one that might have been more beneficial had he made it months ago. But it shows how desperate the situation is for Colorado Republicans. They had Trump forced on them. But they nominated Glenn all on their own.
Mike Littwin writes a column for the Colorado Independent.
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