Ryan Call is proving to be a polished, business-like leader of the Colorado GOP. With little fanfare, and no controversy, Call convinced the Central Committee of the GOP to move Colorado into the cross-hairs of the hotly contested GOP Presidential contest.
We first discussed Call's flirtation with moving the precinct caucuses back in July and this weekend made those flirtations real.
Colorado conservatives, you want in the action? Now, thanks to Call, his team and the Central Committee, you'll get all the action you could ever want.
Even though the results from the precinct caucus straw poll won't be binding on delegates, thus avoiding blowback from the RNC, it will occur at a pivotal moment in the primary, ensuring attention and resources will be devoted to taking top honors in Colorado's contest. With no clear front-runner likely to emerge early in the contest at this point, every campaign will be fighting for every win they can get.
As currently scheduled, Colorado will be second in line, immediately after the kick-off caucuses in Iowa, but that is likely to change as New Hampshire and South Carolina have made clear they intend on remaining the second and third contests of the cycle. Iowa has also made clear that it doesn't want any contests within the immediate aftermath of its caucuses, meaning it will likely move earlier as well.
Even though Colorado is likely to end up going after those three states, by having its precinct caucuses on February 7 it will be a major player in the nominating contest. Perhaps more importantly, Colorado is likely to be the most competitive general election state of any of the early primary contests. While Florida will be an early primary state as well it's not likely to be as important in the general. If the Republican nominee can't win Florida, the electoral college math becomes nearly impossible.
Colorado is about to be in the thick of the primary season battle for five reasons:
1. Narrative is King: Occurring early in the process, surrounded by states likely to be split among the contenders, every campaign will be looking for any opportunity to push the narrative that their candidate has the momentum. Winning Colorado's precinct caucuses will allow the winning campaign to say they have the Big Mo' heading into what could become a delegate slog through more expensive races with far larger target populations. It won't matter that the delegates are not bound by the results, because the delegates ultimately vote for who is the chosen nominee by the time the convention rolls around. Winning contests is all that matters at that point.
2. Colorado is Cheap: Campaigns can reach 80% of Colorado's voters through the moderately priced Denver media market. For grassroots challengers or campaigns running low on cash, Colorado's main media market offers an affordable way to reach potential supporters, in a cost effective manner not available to them in states like Florida or Michigan with multiple, expensive media markets. Being a precinct caucus, turnout is likely to be far lower than primaries, meaning a much smaller target universe, and thus a much smaller budget for direct mail and other forms of voter contact.
3. Romney Has Big Expectations: If any candidate other than Romney wins Colorado's precinct caucus straw poll it will be a blow to his campaign. By taking 60% of the vote in 2008, Romney has big expectations to fill. Even if Romney were to win, but another campaign was able to significantly reduce his total from 2008, they could successfully push the idea that GOP primary voters still hold large reserves of doubt about the former Governor. Based on the limited polling and straw polls that have taken place so far, Romney is far from a lock and that is undoubtedly enticing to the other camps.
4. Organize Early, Often: Colorado is all but certain to be what George W would call a "decider" in the general election. As Karl Rove put it: "As goes Colorado, so goes the nation." If campaigns intend on making it to the Big Dance and want to beat Obama they will need to organize early and often in the Centennial State. Obama's operation has already been up and running for months. Getting here earlier will be essential to any nominee's chances to beat Obama. A contested and essential early primary will test their operations and ultimately strengthen them in the long run. Consider it two birds with one stone — another win in the primary and a jump start for the general.
5. Perry’s Got Big CO Backers: Power players in the conservative movement in Colorado such as Alex Cranberg have made Perry their choice. While many establishment-oriented endorsers from former Governor Bill Owens to former Congressman Bob Beauprez have backed Romney, as the Colorado Statesman laid out in their eye-opening article on Perry’s Aspen fundraiser, the Texas Governor has the backing of big players in Colorado that will ensure the primary is not a one-sided battle.