Color us red in 2012?

(Denver Post, Aug. 28) I wish Tom Tancredo was Governor of Colorado. I wish Scott McInnis was. Heck, I wish the ill-starred Dan Maes was governor. Any Republican, any conservative, rather than the limousine liberal Democrat we’re stuck with, John Hickenlooper. Whence these idle fantasies? Not heat stroke from recent egg-frying temperatures. Not oxygen deprivation from my annual 14er climb. No, it started when I found myself seated between Tancredo and McInnis at a GOP luncheon on Aug. 10, the anniversary of Scott’s shocking loss to Maes in last year’s gubernatorial primary. Tancredo, you remember, was so sure neither man could beat Hickenlooper that he demanded both quit – then bolted and ran as the American Constitution Party nominee. The final numbers in a campaign most of us would like to forget were Hick 51%, Tank 37%, and Maes 11%. Ouch.

Someone said this luncheon was the first time Scott and Tom, formerly congressional colleagues, had seen each other since then. Nothing untoward occurred, and the occasion went in the file drawer of funny coincidences. But that awful August flashback got me wondering whether our party has learned enough from its debacle in 2010 to count on carrying Colorado in 2012.

My daydream of reclaiming the governorship isn’t on tap next year – perhaps just as well, since the GOP has lost five straight contests since 2004 for that seat and for U.S. Senate. So coloring the state a Republican red again in 14 months would mean winning the Colorado House and Senate, keeping or improving our 4-3 edge in congressional seats, and above all, delivering nine electoral votes against President Barack Obama.

Can the Grand Old Party do that? Part of the answer will depend on organizational and fundraising efforts by young state chairman Ryan Call, elected last winter after veteran chairman Dick Wadhams stood down.[1] Part will depend on conservatives and moderates (like the two dozen ex-legislators from both camps at the luncheon) transcending our differences to unify in defeating Democrats.

On those fronts, prospects seem good. On others, however, work is needed. After Call’s luncheon speech, Tancredo queried him about efforts on the right to match CoDA, the Colorado Democracy Alliance of nonprofit groups outside formal party ranks that has given the left such an advantage here in every cycle from 2004 to 2010. Nobody claims that one is solved yet.

A few days later, in a column for World Net Daily, Tancredo asked another tough but fair question: Do Republicans here and elsewhere really want to be “the party of constitutional liberty – or merely the ‘other’ party, the party of slower drift into socialism instead of the passionate embrace of socialism offered by the Obama Democrats”?

The Colorado House under GOP control this year, Tom went on to say, missed its opportunities for “connecting state Democrats to Obama’s policies” by offering a “coherent alternative” that would “reverse course” on such issues as health care, regulation, and taxes.

Speaker Frank McNulty, nursing a 33-32 majority, would doubtless disagree. But there’s a case to be made that voters will need to see more evidence of a rising red tide in policy under the Gold Dome next January if they are to move the state out of the blue column next November.

Then there’s the Tea Party. Dan Maes, hapless novice that he was, turned the best phrase of 2010 in pleading to “introduce the institution to the revolution” and thus cement a Colorado conservative majority. Wrong messenger, right message.

Maes told me last week he sees Chairman Call and other Republicans making progress on allying with this potent new force for freedom and responsibility. Will it work? “The jury is out,” said Dan. On such an alliance, more than any other factor, the red-state hopes for 2012 will turn.

[1] The column as published in the Denver Post erroneously stated that Call's candidacy "moved... Wadhams to retire." In fact, however, Wadhams dropped his bid for another term prior to Call's entering the chairman's race. I regret the misstatement.