Where's the leadership, Gov. Ritter?

Weak, indecisive, ineffective, directionless, no clout, poorly staffed -- those are some of the descriptions of Bill Ritter that this former Senate President has heard recently from legislators in both parties and on both sides of the aisle as Colorado's freshman governor nears the end of his second legislative session. "Afraid to lead," "out of his depth," and "doesn't get it" are several more unflattering appraisals directed at the Democratic chief executive and his first floor (staff and cabinet) operation by second-floor State Capitol players in the legislative branch.

"This isn't good for Colorado, this ship of state adrift," a leading Republican told me -- even as he admitted it plays to his party's advantage in the 2008 campaign. Transportation, health care, education, and other big issues need a strong hand in the governor's chair, he said, and when that's missing as it has been during Ritter's lackluster 15 months in office, adverse consequences hit the state as a whole, partisanship aside.

Seasoned veterans in the business community and journalism seem to be reaching the same unhappy conclusion about the former prosecutor and professed (but now tarnished) pro-business, pro-life Democrat who swept in on a 2006 landslide. Little of his "Colorado Promise" agenda was realized in 2007, and action points were few in his State of the State message for this year.

Especially since his spectacular misjudgment on handing unions the key to state government last November, Gov. Ritter is said to have little influence with majority Democrats in the state House and Senate, or they with him. "He's almost like a third-party governor, in terms of that disconnect with legislative leaders," one observer said.

On the other hand, it's still only March, and much can still happen in the final six weeks of this year's legislative session. Ballot issues in the fall could prove to be another equalizer for the governor's sagging fortunes -- and there's always the Democratic Convention coming to town this summer, fraught with both upside and downside possibilities for Ritter.

We can't forget that politics is like football: the ball has pointy ends and seldom bounces straight. The Stumbling Bill of today could be sprinting again by election time. But there is no evidence as yet that his shortcomings noted in my January column, "Ritter's Bad Year," are on the way to being remedied.