While most of the world is preoccupied with Christmas presents and New Years Eve parties this month, the 2018 campaign cycle continues to grind on, with another fundraising quarter ending on December 31st.  While this lull in press coverage and general interest plays out, there are some critical internal campaign decisions being made about ballot access and campaign viability.

In Colorado, candidates can make the primary ballot through either the caucus or the assembly process, which is generally a low-cost, high-touch process that involves wooing the party faithful; or they can collect signatures, a high-cost, low-touch process that usually involves paying petition gatherers to solicit signatures. That’s generally a mid-six figure endeavor. Or, those candidates who prefer to set resources on fire can do both. It’s not recommended.

For some candidates, the path is clear.  Tom Tancredo has already announced a run through the caucus and assembly process.  For others, the decision is more nuanced, and, potentially, fraught with danger.

If a candidate opts for the assembly process and doesn’t make the 30% threshold to qualify for the primary, and he or she fails to get 10% of the vote, that’s it – you are out, and you cannot collect signatures to get on the ballot.  If a candidate thinks he or she has a good shot at making it through the assembly, but fails to achieve 30% there, the candidate may not have time to collect signature. Even if he or she does, the campaign will be paying a premium to consultants who need to process essentially a “rush order.”

Statewide candidates who opt for the petition gathering process from the outset must achieve a certain number of signatures in each congressional district.  If they fail to collect enough valid signatures in just one district, they will not make the ballot.

As we turn the calendar to 2018, there are a number of candidates facing their most important decision since filing their campaign paperwork.  If they have not raised a lot of money, and don’t have the support of the grassroots, are they willing (or able) to write that check – and it will be a big one – to collect signatures to get on the ballot?  Will others be able to effectively compete at the assembly to secure that key 30% figure to get on the ballot? This is obviously a complex formula where five or six legitimate candidates are vying for the same nomination and the math doesn’t work for everyone.

Campaigns are going to start getting real any day now.