Echoes of Colorado’s recent elections sounded in last Tuesday’s San Diego mayoralty run-off election where the Republican won handily. Some lessons emerge.
1. Republicans can win despite Democratic registration advantages. San Diego is 26% Republican to 40% Democrat. Pueblo’s Sen. George Rivera proved the same point last September, winning the recall in a district that was 47% Democrat to 23% Republican.
2. Used here in Colorado, the “Obama election model – flood the zone with negative attack ads and excite the base of the Democratic party – flopped” in San Diego. Just 6% of Obama’s TV ads in 2012 were positive.
3. Substantially outspent, Republican Kevin Faulconer won because of “his emphasis on working across party lines and his embrace of fiscal measures” to rein in over-spending. Since most Coloradans have unfavorable opinions of both political parties, avoiding hyper-partisanship is a winner. Dem AG candidate Don Quick, in a blatant ploy to gain campaign cash, landed on the wrong side of “working across party lines” when he attacked current AG John Suthers … who is term-limited. Democrats’ over-spending is a real negative, as Coloradans’ 2:1 vote against Democrats’ billion dollar income tax hike proved.
4. “Union ties were devastating.” The Faulconer campaign called their opponent “a tool for labor unions.” Since union cash flooded Colorado (above $30 million in the last three elections), and Democrats gave unions special advantages, Republicans have an easy campaign pledge: We’ll protect your pocketbook while the Democrats will raid it to pay back the unions.
5. Without Barack Obama on the ballot, turnout dives. The Democratic candidate in San Diego was Hispanic, but that didn’t goose minority turnout enough. Colorado Democrats’ minority checklist for 2014 was relentlessly created by driving out other candidates (and not letting ordinary Democrats pick the party’s candidates). Stifling voter input isn’t a good start for boosting turnout of Colorado’s Democrats.
Jack Nicholson’s movie “Five Easy Pieces” is about a purposeless wanderer. Colorado’s Democrats have not wandered, true. But their hard-charging “smear and spend” campaign plan looks to have outlived its usefulness … if Republicans apply these five easy lessons.