McInnis: Off message or on?

Poor timing, poor judgment, or something more Macchiavellian, would be the only labels a team-playing Republican could put on former congressman Scott McInnis's self-glorifying remarks in both Denver dailies yesterday, to the effect he would have done better against Mark Udall for US Senate than Bob Schaffer is doing. The Denver Post, a Democrat-leaning paper, was delighted to put the story on page one. "McInnis' admission comes a week before state voters go to the polls and with Schaffer trailing by double digits in several surveys," Michael Riley wrote with smirking understatement. "Republicans say it may mark the beginning of a ferocious debate about the direction of the party if next week's election goes badly."

To say "may mark" and "if... goes badly" is to slide past the glaring fact that the ex-congressman's trumpet blast, coming right now, does open the debate and will in some degree make things go worse for the GOP next Tuesday.

The weak and oblique protestations by McInnis in the Post story that this wasn't meant as a shot at Schaffer are more explicit in the Rocky story. "McInnis said Tuesday he was simply responding to a question from an online news site about whether he could have beaten Udall if he had stayed in the race.... 'This wasn't a "Hey, could you have done a better job than Schaffer?"... Not at all. It was how does this party rebuild after the election and where is it going to go.'" Sorry, not very convincing. A seasoned pro like him doesn't "simply respond" to any media question big or small. Scott McInnis -- a friend of mine and usually an ally -- is a very smart guy who always engages brain before mouth moves.

Either he wants Schaffer and the ticket to win and just got way off message, or he expects them to go down, maybe even figures it will serve his goals if they do, and decided to get on a new message of his own right now -- toward the goal of a far more centrist Colorado Republican Party after 2008, a party that looks less like Allard, Schaffer, Tancredo, and Owens, and more like... Scott McInnis.