LARIMER COUNTY GOP: A Primary Force To Be Reckoned With

One of the major lessons of last night's primary was the enduring strength of the Larimer County GOP, or rather the enduring strength of Larimer conservatives to swing primary elections. Just as Ken Buck's massive Larimer margin of victory (63%-36%) helped power him past Jane Norton, Senator Kevin Lundberg racked up similar margins in Larimer (68%-31%) that helped him defeat Eric Weissmann.

For future candidates it offers a lesson worth learning — ignore Larimer conservatives at your peril.

Despite Weissmann winning everywhere in CD2 except Larimer, and Norton racking up large margins of victory in most major conservative counties like El Paso and Douglas, it was the home county of CSU that made all the difference. Larimer Republican primary voters aren't mild in their support of whom they deem to be the most conservative candidate — they throw their full collective weight behind them. 

Mitt Romney is also no stranger to the impact Larimer Republicans can have. He lost the state precinct caucuses in February to Rick Santorum by 3,602 votes – and lost Larimer County to Santorum by 3,499 votes

In a county the size of Larimer it's the raw vote margin that candidates rack up that can carry them to victory, virtually winning the race on their Larimer finish alone. 

Candidates take note, you can't win without Larimer conservatives. 


 

DUELING FOR DELEGATE SLOTS: The Real Race That Matters This Weekend Is Personal

With Colorado precinct caucus winner Rick Santorum no longer in the race for the White House, this weekend's Congressional district assemblies and State Convention is now less about the Presidential candidates and more about Colorado Republicans' chance to represent the GOP in Tampa.

Reports The Colorado Observer's Valerie Richardson:

DENVER — With Rick Santorum out of the race, the burning question for the GOP faithful attending this weekend’s Colorado Republican State Assembly and Convention is: Now what?  

Will Santorum’s legion of Colorado supporters switch to Romney, the all-but-certain nominee, in order to boost their chances of punching their ticket to the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Fla.?  

Will they bounce to Newt Gingrich, viewed by many as the second-best conservative candidate? Or will they form an alliance with the small but intense band of Ron Paul supporters as part of a Paul-for-President slate?  

Republican state Sen. Kent Lambert, a pledged Santorum delegate, gave what may be the only correct answer: Who knows?

Readers report that at last night's 7th Congressional district assembly most of the time at the microphone was spent by candidates for the Republican National Convention, rather than candidates for public office. There was an almost complete lack of mention of Presidential candidates by the delegate hopefuls.

Not that it much matters who each delegate supports for President, though it will be interesting to see how well Romney coalesces support and whether Ron Paul's supporters can get some of their own elected.

Ultimately, the race is all-but-over with Romney the last frontrunner standing. 

The lack of partisan fights seems like it will be a common theme throughout the weekend's festivities, as there is only one statewide race other than President — CU Regent — and there are very little contested primaries this year. Compared to 2010, this year's nominating assemblies seem likely to be more unity events than divisive fights. 

With internal party squabbles mostly set aside for the weekend, it's the rank and file of Colorado Republicans that gets to shine.


Reports The Colorado Observer's Tyler Sandberg:

DENVER — You’ve heard of the iMac, the iPod, and the iPad. Now meet the iGOP.  

A slate of young, tech savvy Republicans have bound together to run for Republican National Convention (RNC) delegate slots, calling themselves the iGOP.  

The four Republicans — Kelly Maher, Brett Moore, Alexander Hornaday and Jonathan Keyser — have a unique pitch to the voters at the 1st Congressional District Assembly and State Convention in Denver this weekend.  

They promise, if elected, to bring the RNC back to Colorado through real-time Facebook and Twitter coverage of the multi-day political extravaganza.

With an eye-popping 800+ candidates for only 12 RNC delegate slots at State Convention we won't even try to guess who is going to come out on top.

That staggering number of GOPers looking for a trip to Tampa is more than double the number that ran for a spot in 2008, demonstrating how fired up the conservative base is in Colorado. 

Good luck to all of our readers in the running. 

For some tips on how to succeed in nabbing one of the prized tickets to Tampa, check out Lynn Bartels's profile of 2008 delegates in the much-missed (but still archived online) Rocky Mountain News

 

BREAKING: Rick Santorum Dropping Out Of Presidential Race

ABC News is reporting that former US Senator Rick Santorum will announce he is suspending his Presidential campaign at a press conference in Pennsylvania today. In doing so, Santorum will be ensuring that Romney will reach 1,144 delegate mark to clinch the nomination well before the Republican National Convention.

Santorum had a nearly impossible task ahead of him, needing to win 75% of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination. 

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is still in the race, although no neutral observer expects him to have any chance at winning. Gingrich has vowed to stay in the race "all the way to Tampa" where the convention is being held this year. 

Santorum was recently sidelined from the campaign trail after his three year-old daughter Bella was hospitalized. Romney took his negative ads off the air when Santorum left to tend to his family. 

While conservative commentators are snarking on Twitter that Santorum dropping out could make way for yet another Newt resurgence, that is obviously not going to happen.

In dropping out now, Santorum is preserving his reputation among the conservative grassroots and social conservative leaders. Recently, Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, suggested it was time to drop out.

Santorum's exit is about a month later than former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee exited in 2008. Like Huckabee, Santorum used a surprise showing in Iowa, combined with strong social conservative support, to challenge the establishment-backed frontrunner.

With Santorum out, let's be honest. This race is over. Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee for President in 2012. 


 

IS IT OVER TODAY? Romney Could Unofficially End Primary With Three State Sweep

With the possibility that Mitt Romney could sweep the GOP primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and DC today, it is looking increasingly likely that today could mark the unofficial end to the race.

With a three race win, Romney will put the nomination fully out of Rick Santorum's reach, as Santorum would have to win 75% of all remaining delegates, a virtually impossible task. 

As you may have noticed, we haven't been covering the GOP primary with the same fervor we did a few months ago. Activists rarely even talk about the race anymore. We've all tired of it. 

In fact, nothing seems to have changed since Colorado. Santorum's victory at the precinct caucuses here seems, in retrospect, to have been more of a speed bump on Romney's ride to the nomination, than an actual game changing moment. 

In addition to the recent endorsements of Romney by conservative heartthrobs Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, the delegate math after today just doesn't add up for anyone other than Romney. 

Heck, even the timid Republican National Committee, whose been careful to not alienate any part of the party's base during the primary, is calling an unofficial end to the primary. Starting soon, the RNC will begin raising general election cash with the Romney campaign.

The other campaigns have been offered the chance to co-fundraise with the RNC, but only the Romney camp has taken the offer. 

That's because everyone, including the other candidates, knows this race is over. It may go on for a few more weeks or months, but after today there just doesn't seem to be any path for anyone but Romney to the nomination. 

If Romney does take all three contests tonight it would be a fitting unofficial end. The last time a candidate swept three races in a night it was Rick Santorum elongating the race with wins in MO, CO and MN. 

Tonight, Romney could cut this race short with wins in MD, WI and DC.

(Photo Credit: The Colorado Observer)


 

THE ROAD TO 1144: Romney’s New Inevitability Play

There was a time when Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign played the inevitability card with great effect. Money, organization, and a perception that Romney was the guy who would win was the best booster for El Mitt and the Los Romneys.  

Then came Iowa-Colorado-Missouri. And that inevitability card went bye bye.  

But now the inevitability argument from Romney is back, this time in the form of the argument that Romney's competition doesn't have a formula to getting to 1,144 delegates.

1,144 is the magic number. It constitutes a majority, thus ending the nomination. 

From a Romney campaign email this weekend:

"Mitt won more delegates than any of the other candidates and continued on his path to getting the delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination. In what was hyped as a big opportunity for Rick Santorum, he again fell short of making a dent in our campaign's already large delegate lead. He won less than 50% of the available delegates on Saturday, well short of the 65% of remaining delegates needed to secure the nomination."

The argument from Santorum's camp seems to be an acknowledgment that Santorum can't easily get to 1,144 by the convention, but neither can Romney, essentially setting up the possibility of a brokered convention. Counters Santorum's campaign in a memo:

“Time is on Rick Santorum's side. He will gain delegates as this process plays out and conservatives are elected as National Convention Delegates. Despite the Romney campaign’s smokescreen, they cannot change the fact that he can’t inspire the base of the party, has a delegate problem, and has a very difficult time getting to a majority.  

The delegate race is currently much closer than some would like people to believe. It will get even closer as actual national convention delegates are elected at county, district, and state conventions across the country."

Both campaigns are making fair arguments about delegates, but one is stronger than the other. Santorum doesn't seem to have much of a chance at crossing the 1,144 threshold. 

Yes, a brokered convention could happen, but it's not likely with someone like Santorum. Such a scenario would require a movement conservative beloved by the base, and Santorum simply isn't that.

The base may view Romney as a Gerald Ford, but they don't see Santorum as a Ronald Reagan. 

Romney’s crawl to 1,144 isn’t the power surge that the Romney campaign had hoped for last year, but as they say…a win is a win is a win. For Romney, winning at this point means clawing his way to 1,144.

As with all things in this wild roller coaster of a nomination fight, we the people will just have to wait and see.

 

CAMPAIGN LESSON: If You ‘Splainin’, You Losin’

Before there was Karl Rove, there was another political operative whose name became synonymous with the President he helped get elected: James Carville. The Ragin' Cajun has had many a phrase adopted into the political world's lexicon, most famously the now much over-used cliche "it's the economy, stupid." But there is another one more apropos for the latest (and hopefully last) GOP Presidential primary debate: "if you 'splainin', you losin.'"

Rick Santorum: take note. During the mostly painful and often awkward debate, the former US Senator did something that simply doesn't work in political debates — trying to explain away a bad vote. 

Remember John Kerry's infamous remark about voting for the $87 billion before voting against it? Of course you do, as it came to define his failed candidacy. 

The only thing worse than trying to explain a bad vote in politics is trying to explain a bad vote using legi-speak. Legi-speak, like legalese, is about as effective in debates as Klingon is in trying to pick up chicks at a college bar. 

Future candidates take note: don't do it. 

In trying to explain that his vote for No Child Left Behind was against his principles, but he did it anyway because he's a "team player," Santorum painted himself in the most unflattering light for a GOP primary candidate. If the 2010 election taught us anything, it's that the GOP primary electorate does not like "go along to get along" candidates, as Ron Paul viciously slammed Santorum. 

In running for President, you are running to lead the team, not just be a part of it.

Later on, Santorum continued to engage in explanation politics, claiming his support of Republican turncoat Arlen Specter was actually a helpful move to help get President Bush's Supreme Court nominees through the Senate. 

Again, not a smart move. 

Don't ever defend your support of a traitor — especially to the very audience he turned against.

What Santorum should have done, and his staff should have prepped him to do, is attack Romney for supporting a less-than-rock-ribbed-conservative candidate. With the amount of endorsements Romney has made over the years, there must be a handful he wouldn't be so proud to be associated with anymore.

In that regard, he should take another lesson from the Ragin' Cajun.

The other guy can't attack you if he's got your fist in his face. 

(Photo Credit: AP/CBS News)

 

JARED POLIS: Fulfilling His Reputation For Immaturity

On election night in Colorado, Boulder Congressman Jared Polis degraded his office and embarrassed himself and his constituents in Colorado's 2nd Congressional district. The Loveland Reporter Herald reported that Congressman Polis took a "profane stab at Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum via Twitter."

From the Reporter-Herald:

In a tweet sent to his more than 14,000 followers from his @jaredpolis account, the Boulder Democrat wrote as results were still coming in for the Colorado Republican caucuses: "CO results so far: S*#!ntorum in 1st, Gingrich in 2nd, Romney in 3rd."

Santorum went on to win the Colorado caucuses, beating the favored Mitt Romney 40 percent to 35 percent.  

Asked whether the self-censored tweet was intended to denigrate Santorum's last name, Polis spokesman Chris Fitzgerald said, "You'd have to ask (Polis)."

Unsurprisingly, the press has yet to ask Jared Polis about his tweet.

Now, we know Polis's liberal lackeys will be quick to point out we at the Peak are no strangers to immaturity.

That is undeniably true.

The difference: we're an anonymous blog and Polis is a Congressman.

He represents 1/7th of Colorado's citizens in the country's Capitol. We can and should hold him to a higher standard of public discourse.

If Congressman Mike Coffman or Congressman Doug Lamborn had tweeted something like this about President Obama, you can be sure it would be news.

Can anyone remember the manufactured outrage spun up by the liberal machine and aided by their allies in the press when Doug Lamborn used the term "tar baby" when talking about avoiding President Obama?

Hello, press corps, are you out there? A Colorado Congressman publicly insulted the winner of the Colorado GOP caucuses. There might be some news value in that.

To be fair, Santorum has had his fair share of stupid statements and he has rightfully been raked over the coals for them.

So, why, when Congressman Polis makes a stupid statement, isn't he raked over the coals?

It's a question worth asking, and one that Doug Lamborn probably is asking too.


 

FARGO VS FINLAND: Santorum & Gingrich Rip Obama’s Energy Policy In Golden

While the GOP caucus contenders canvassed Colorado for votes over the last week, mostly at rallies and campaign speeches, two candidates spent some time addressing a critical policy issue for Colorado — energy. At the Consumer Energy Alliance 2012 Colorado Energy Summit, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich laid out their plans to reduce energy costs and fully utilize the natural resources this country is blessed with.

Unsurprisingly, they had some harsh words for President Obama's war on domestic energy — at least the type of energy that doesn't directly lead to campaign donations a la Solyndra. 

Gingrich, in typical fashion, espoused the harshest criticisms of Obama, calling his administration "the most anti-American energy administration that we've ever had. And the consequence is you have the highest cost of gasoline in American history."

He even mentioned something we touched on two weeks ago, specifically the fact that the growth in domestic energy production has been occurring on non-federal lands, much to the chagrin of Obama's anti-energy enviro allies.

Just as we did, Gingrich pointed to North Dakota as a prime example of the disconnect between the amazing technological breakthroughs occurring in the private sector and the lack of energy development on federal government land.

In North Dakota, thanks in part to fracking and horizontal drilling, from 2008-2010 oil production doubled on private land, but fell on federal lands.

The growth in production on private land has led to North Dakota having the lowest unemployment rate in the country, at a striking 3.3%.

Rather than seek to lower unemployment through increased production on federal lands across the country, Obama's administration has spent its time propping up bad green energy companies like Solyndra and Fisker, a car company who received a $529 million Department of Energy loan to build their cars in Finland.

In smacking the Department of Energy loan program that has been pilloried for wasting American taxpayer dollars to fund companies of political allies, Gingrich made it clear where investment decisions should be made.

"I don't want to have some bureaucrat deciding between company A and company B. I mean, if they were good venture capitalists they wouldn't be getting a GS15 salary."

Zing! 

You can see highlights of Gingrich's speech, as well as Santorum's, after the jump.


Gingrich’s speech highlights:

Santorum’s speech highlights:

 

SANTORUM SHOCKER: 7 Takeaways From Last Night’s Three-State Sweep

Last night's three state Santorum sweep was a shocker to say the least. While his wins in Minnesota and Missouri were somewhat expected based on prior published polling, Santorum's out-of-nowhere victory in Colorado stunned pundits and politicos across the board.

We had been predicting for a few days that Santorum would have a strong finish at the caucuses, stronger than many in the chattering class had accounted for in their analysis. Yet even we didn't see the win coming.

He worked the state harder than anyone, positioned himself as the true Romney alternative and rode a last minute wave of momentum into a momentous victory. 

Here are 7 takeaways we took from last night's Santorum shocker.

1. Colorado conservatives' independence: Just as Colorado conservatives sent a clear message to John McCain in 2008 that they weren't willing to sign on to his inevitable candidacy, overwhelmingly voting for Romney, in 2012 they reminded the country of their rugged Western independence, giving the race to 2012's version of 2008 Romney, Rick Santorum. Romney did not work the state hard enough giving voters a reason to support him, but rather was trying to ride the wave of inevitability. That doesn't fly here.

2. Endorsements matter, just not from politicians: While Romney had all of the statewide elected officials, 16 state legislators and the full stable of former elected officials like Hank Brown and Bill Owens, Santorum had the folks that conservatives really care about. In 2012, Michelle Malkin's endorsement matters far more to conservatives than Mark Waller's or Larry Liston's. Malkin, who has twice as many Twitter followers as Santorum's Presidential campaign, and has been ranked the most influential blogger in politics, was an enormously powerful force in branding Santorum as the leading anti-Romney. In the future, we suggest candidates spend less time seeking John Suthers' endorsement and more trying to convince those that the grassroots listens to.

3. Newt Gingrich is dead in the water: Just as we predicted the day of the caucus, perhaps the most significant long-term impact of last night's results is that Gingrich has lost the mantle of the conservative alternative to Romney. He wasn't on the ballot in Missouri, finished a distant fourth in Minnesota and was a complete non-factor in Colorado's race. With $600,000 in debt, his campaign will watch in agony as Santorum sucks up millions in grassroots fundraising over the next couple of weeks that they direly need to run ads in the expensive media markets of Super Tuesday. Santorum now has the Mo', the money and the mantle. And Gingrich won't even have a debate to shine in for another two weeks. 

4. PPP sucks at polling Colorado: Democrat polling firm, Public Policy Polling (PPP), has an atrocious track record in Colorado. Last fall they polled the state but oversampled Democrats by 8-points, rendering their results meaningless. The night before Colorado Republicans went to their precinct cacucus, PPP released a Colorado poll with Romney at 37, Santorum 27, Gingrich 21, and Paul at 13. The real results? Santorum 40, Romney 35, Gingrich 13, Paul 12. PPP got it embarrassingly wrong. Note this for when they show polls with Obama leading in Colorado in the next couple of months. 

5. Ron Paul's supporters aren't voting Republicans. As AP reporter Kristen Wyatt noted on Twitter, Ron Paul's rallies had more people than he got votes last night. As we've seen in other states that have elections closed to only registered Republicans, Ron Paul vastly underperformed expectations. That seems to be because his support comes from a young demographic that doesn't tend to be registered as Republican. While he surpassed his showing of 8.4% in 2008, he still came in a distant fourth place. As voters had to be registered as Republicans since December, they had to prepare months in advance, something not conducive to the younger demographic. In Iowa, voters could change their registration the day of the caucus, which likely boosted Paul's finish there significantly. In Colorado, he had no such luck. 

6. Romney can't mail it in anywhere. With no TV ads, little direct mail, and only a modest ground effort, Romney thought he could win with a light Colorado foot print and he was so very wrong. Some pundits have said that he can only win with negative TV blitzes, forgetting that Presidential elections are almost entirely defined by negative ads on TV. Even the supposed positive campaign of Obama ran more negative ads than any Presidential campaign in history. Santorum is certainly going to see his fair share of attack ads in the coming weeks, but Romney will need to not forget the lesson he keeps learning, which is that he can't take anything for granted. 

7. This race still has some juice left in it. While Romney was hoping February would be a coronation, it instead is shaping up to be a hard fought slog. Romney is still the nearly prohibitive favorite to be the nominee, but last night put a serious chink in his armor of inevitability. He has not closed the deal with the base by a long shot. Conservatives have not been convinced that he can champion their cause in his campaign. After his gaffe on the 'very poor,' even establishment Republicans began to doubt his image as the more professional disciplined candidate to take on Barack Obama. Between needing to prove his conservative bona fides and demonstrate his superiority as a candidate through message discipline and campaign organization, Romney has some serious challenges ahead of him before he can claim the nomination. 


 

AN ALTERNATIVE ALTERNATIVE: Could Colorado Force Gingrich Out & Bring Santorum In?

With Rick Santorum surging in the latest Colorado poll, and leading in polls in the other two states voting today — Minnesota and Missouri — will the results from today's races unofficially end Newt Gingrich's campaign? Could Colorado force Gingrich out and bring Santorum in?

The former House Speaker's campaign in Colorado seems like a microcosm of his broader national effort, going from the graveyard to the top of the field, and back down again.

In August, Gingrich was in 5th place at 11% in the state, 2 points behind undecided/someone else at 13%.

By early December, Gingrich charged into the lead, spanking Romney by 19 points in Colorado. In the latest poll, released last night (here), Gingrich has fallen to third at 21%, with Santorum moving firmly into second at 27% and Romney leading with 37% support. 

Should Santorum outpace Gingrich in all three states today it will would mean more bad headlines for a campaign that hasn't been able to reignite the fire it had burning beneath it as recently as the South Carolina primary, when Gingrich trounced his competition. 

It would also give credence to Santorum's argument that it is he, and not Gingrich, who has claimed the mantle of the leading Romney alternative. 

With no meaningful contests until Super Tuesday, Gingrich is going to have one helluva difficult time making his case that he is the conservative choice over Santorum.  

To make his case, Gingrich needs wins, money and debates. Unless it's close in Colorado and Minnesota, Gingrich won't get even get credit for placing well. To make matters worse, he's not even on the ballot in Missouri today.

Without that credit and momentum he'll have a hard time raising money. His campaign is currently $600,000 in debt and will need millions more to pay for TV advertising in the expensive media markets that dominate Super Tuesday states like Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Most foreboding for Gingrich's uphill battle post-Colorado is the fact that there isn't another debate until February 22nd. As one of the most effective GOP primary debaters in modern history, Gingrich has reignited his campaign multiple times already this cycle on the strength of his debate performances.

Without another debate for two weeks, Gingrich will have little to latch onto for life support. 

While Gingrich is most certainly not going to drop out after today, Colorado could go a long way in unofficially ending his candidacy.

So much for The Denver Post which was eager to say the Colorado caucus wouldn't matter.

We should end with a caveat, and a large one at that. Never, ever underestimate the ability for Newt Gingrich to come back from seemingly impossible odds. He's risen from the political graveyard more often than a Chicago voter. 

But if things don't change dramatically, Newt's Hail Mary comebacks may well be over with.

 
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