Littwin: It’s a new election cycle, but with Stapleton’s blunder, it looks like the same old GOP (column)
April 13, 2018
As Jimmy Breslin wrote of the stumbling 1962 Mets, I write of the blundering 2018 Colorado Republican Party: Can't anyone here play this game?
Walker Stapleton, the so-called frontrunner in the GOP primary race for governor, is the latest to answer the question with a resounding not-a-chance.
As you must have heard, Stapleton was forced to toss away the thousands of signatures that he (or, rather, the people he was paying) had collected to petition his way onto the ballot because, well, the signatures were tainted, by which I mean fraudulently collected. I would hope the papers would be recycled, but then I wonder who would actually dare touch them.
Don't take my word for the fraud. Take Stapleton's, who says he may sue Kennedy Enterprises, which he alleges to have been a little too enterprising in signature collection — a charge that Doug Robinson, who's also running for governor, had made more than a week ago. At that point, Stapleton was denying any problem. At this point, it looks like the state treasurer jettisoned a couple of hundred thousand campaign bucks.
Of course, Stapleton tried to frame his decision to dump the ballots this way — that once he discovered the problem, his conscience wouldn't allow him to use tainted petitions. There's the counter-argument — that eventually those tainted signatures would get tossed anyway and he would be bumped from the ballot, so if integrity is the issue, it may not be one that Stapleton wants to embrace.
Kennedy also collected for Rep. Doug Lamborn, whose signature gathering is being challenged in court, which might have been a clue for Stapleton. And the Colorado GOP, which had its embarrassing signature-gathering moments in 2016, is now deep into GOP signature-gathering redux, except this year looks even worse.
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And the strange thing is, Stapleton/Kennedy collected barely enough signatures to make the ballot even if they had been legal, which they apparently weren't. It is calamity piled upon calamity.
Now Stapleton has to swiftly change course and go the assembly route this weekend if he wants to make the ballot. He needs the backing of 30 percent of the delegates in order to qualify. It's a showdown between Cynthia Coffman, whose rocky campaign to date has been routinely mocked by pundits, and Stapleton, who is now being openly mocked by everyone with a Twitter account.
There will be four other candidates competing, and given Darryl Glenn's overwhelming victory two years ago, we'd be foolish to count any of them out. So, do the math. It's not clear that Stapleton and Coffman can both make the ballot. If either Coffman or Stapleton gets 50 percent and the four others combine for, say, 25 to 30 percent, then either Coffman or Stapleton is toast.
Presumably, Coffman has been furiously working the delegates, who may be worried that she's too liberal (which, in Republican talk, means pro-choice, a label which she rejects because, she says, she rejects labels). And presumably, since Stapleton wasn't planning to go to the assembly, he hasn't been working the delegates at all.
In a statement, Coffman went hard after Stapleton, which may be a preview of the assembly: "Walker chose to hire a group of shady petition gatherers with a notorious and sordid past. Now in the 11th hour, he once again shows no respect for the rules, the party or Republican delegates. Now it will (be) up to the delegates to decide who they trust to represent their interests in the primary elections."
In other words, it's another year, another election cycle, another GOP flirtation (or should we say full-on embrace?) with disaster.
This is nothing new. Perhaps you'd enjoy a brief trip down memory lane of the GOP's top-of-the-ballot candidates the last dozen years or so.
There were the incompetents. We'll start with Dan Maes, because he was so embarrassing that Tom Tancredo had to run on the Constitution Party ticket to save the Republican Party. There was Darryl Glenn, who had no campaign apparatus worth mentioning and no idea what he was doing.
There were the mediocrities. We'll give Bob Beauprez a double here, since after entering the race as a clear favorite, he managed to lose to Bill Ritter by 15 points. He later ran against John Hickenlooper and lost in a national Republican wave year. There was Pete Coors, accompanied by the Coors Lite twins. There was Bob Schaffer.
Did I mention Tom Tancredo, the symbol of all that is wrong with the Colorado GOP? When he dropped out of the governor's race this year, he was leading in the polls. I can only guess that desperate Republicans begged him to drop out, knowing that he'd have no chance to win in November.
The only top-of-the-ballot Republican candidate to have won since 2004 is Cory Gardner, whose Senate victory in 2014 over Mark Udall was proclaimed as the model for Republicans to win in purplish states — not that it has worked out that way.
So who benefits most from Stapleton's epic fail? Maybe Coffman, if Stapleton doesn't get his 30 percent at the assembly. It could be Barry Farah and his 11th-hour candidacy. Or maybe two candidates who won't be at the assembly, having taken the signature-collection route: Doug Robinson, who was the first to point the finger at Stapleton, or Victor Mitchell, who was the first candidate to document his appeal to dogs.
But if history is any guide, the most likely beneficiary of the damage to the GOP frontrunner is whichever candidate emerges as the Democratic nominee.
Mike Littwin writes a regular column for the Colorado Independent. Email him at email@example.com