Denver Republicans will play a crucial role in the presidential election, party leaders told several hundred donors at the county’s Lincoln Day fundraising dinner on Monday night. While Denver Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly three-to-one, there’s still such a large pool of votes in the county that boosting GOP turnout by even a few percentage points can make the difference which party carries the state, considered a linchpin for both major party candidates this fall.
And in order to accomplish that, a parade of current and former officials said, Republicans must set aside any differences lingering from a divisive primary and get behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the party’s presumptive nominee.
It’s a message that rang through a hall at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, including in the rousing keynote address delivered by conservative darling U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, who brought the crowd to its feet more than once with his roughly half-hour speech.
The presidential election, said West — standing in front of an enormous rendition of the face of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president — is perhaps the most important one in the country’s history, because it offers a stark choice about the future.
“It’s between choosing conservatism, which is about freedom, or it’s about choosing socialist egalitarianism, which isn’t about freedom,” he thundered. The Democratic option, he maintained, “is about one simple thing, and that is this perverted sense of fairness, where someone can determine what is right for each and every one of you.”
West recently made headlines when he charged that House Democrats included in their ranks “78 to 81” lawmakers who belong to the Communist Party, later adding that he was referring to the membership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which includes U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder.
With 46,164 active Republican voters at the end of May, according to the Secretary of State office’s latest figures, Denver has more Republicans than all but five counties in the state, lagging just Arapahoe, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson and Larimer.
Last spring, Denver Republicans heard from Herman Cain, who was at the time a dark-horse presidential candidate but who went on to lead the pack briefly last fall before dropping from the race.
At least one speaker at the dinner raised the possibility that this year’s keynoter belongs on the national ticket.
Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, who staged a brief run for the 2008 presidential nomination, said he might have had the first website to promote West for president. Even though Republicans have settled on Romney, Tancredo said, there was still a place for West on the ballot.
“I guess I’ll have the Honey Badger monicker to live up to forever,” jokes Secretary of State Scott Gessler after state GOP chairman Ryan Call presented him with an “I Am a Honey Badger” T-shirt meant to poke fun at the nickname given to Gessler by political foes for his relentlessness.
“We have a great candidate for president, and I’m happy, and I will go door to door on my knees, I will do anything I can to support Romney for the presidency of the United States,” said Tancredo, who supported former Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Rick Santorum in the primary. “But we know, in order to win, he’s going to have to win the West. So, there’s this perfect bumper sticker, right? Romney-West.”
Right after the dinner, Adams County activist Jane Schindler agreed, saying she thought Romney should tap West as his running mate.
“Florida’s important, Colorado’s important, but No. 1, we’ve got to excite the base,” she said, a beaming smile on her face. “West could excite the base. That’s what we need right now, and it’ll put Romney over the top.”
West, a retired Army colonel and decorated combat veteran, told Republicans that economic security, energy security and national security are the key issues in the election, and went on to lambaste President Barack Obama for what he termed “failed leadership” on all counts.
“We have a tendency to forget that, at the end of the day, all the government can do is transfer wealth from one person to another,” he said to appreciative cheers. “It takes wealth from one part of the economy and gives it to another — that’s all it is truly capable of.”
The government, he said, should get out of the way and stop picking winners and losers in the economy, even if “private enterprise isn’t always pretty” as new industries replace old ones.
“When we let government get away with its version of venture capitalism, we get what we deserve,” he said, adding, “Imagine where we would be as the United States of America if Americans had vilified Henry Ford for putting the horse and buggy out of business.”
He slammed the administration for defense cuts, charging that Democrats would weaken the military by holding Republicans to a budget deal that could lead to painful cuts across the board unless both sides can work out a compromise.
“It’s a dangerous world in which we’re living,” he said, pointing to increased threats from China, nuclear ambitions in Iran and unrest in the capitals of European countries whose economies are floundering.
In order to attain energy security, West said, he supports an “all of the above” approach, which he described as “a full-spectrum development of the energy resources that we have here,” including coal, oil, oil shale, natural gas, wind, solar and nuclear power.
“Only by pursuing a multi-faceted approach can we hope to be self-sufficient,” he said and then blasted Democrats for “playing politics with the Keystone XL pipeline,” a project intended to transport heavy oil from Canada to Gulf refineries that has been idled by the Obama administration. It was an example, he said, of a concrete step Obama could have taken to create jobs and reduce reliance on Middle Eastern oil.
“Instead, we have a president who places the demands of the environmental lobby above the needs of the Americans he is supposed to serve,” he said, labeling it “another in a long list of failures of leadership we must replace.”
He shook his head in wonder and said he found it “amazing” that there are Americans who find Obama’s record “acceptable.”
“Our party, the Republican Party, has not always lived up to its ideals of limited government,” he acknowledged. “But when push comes to shove, I think the American people are going to discover that we’re on the side where it counts. Because at its core, this party was founded on a belief in individual freedom, not collective dependence.”
It was time, he said, for Republicans to “come together as a party now, when it matters most to do — as a great leader of the conservative movement once commanded — to stand before the history that Obama is imposing on this nation and to insist that it stop.”
As the crowd leaned forward, West reiterated his contention that the upcoming election would be a crucial turning point in the nation’s history.
“It will either be the moment that America surrendered its claim to be the greatest power for good that the world has ever known,” he said. “Or this will be the moment when Americans will say one simple word: enough.”
Former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown also spoke, deriding Democrats for the notion that “if we just spend a little more money, it will stimulate the economy.” As the crowd chuckled, he added, “If the solution to our economic problems were bigger government and more deficit spending, we’d have the most roaring economy in the history of mankind.”
Urging Republicans to patch things up in the interest of unseating Obama, Brown, who supported Romney in the primary, recalled when Lincoln learned that the Confederacy had surrendered and brought the Civil War to an end. A crowd thronged the White House porch, he said, and called for a speech from Lincoln, who obliged and then asked the band to play “Dixie.”
“At the end of the cruelest, hardest, most bitter war in America’s history, where more Americans died than all of our wars combined, he asked to hear the song of the South,” Brown said. “It was because he knew it was time to bring America back together again. If there ever was a time that we as Republicans need to unite to elect a president, it surely is now.”
Tancredo presented the county party’s Lifetime Achievement award to former state Rep. Ruth Prendergast, R-Denver, recalling that she had been a member of the “House Crazies” when the two served together in the legislature, so labeled because Democratic Gov. Dick Lamm called them crazy for wanting to actually cut government.
“There is no way that any of us in words can ever express the debt of gratitude we owe you for what you have done for your city, your state, your nation,” Tancredo said.
Presenting Prendergast with the award, he smiled. “You earned it a long time ago. You had a lifetime of achievements 20 years ago, and you just keep building.”
Calling the award a “humbling experience which brings tears to my eyes,” Prendergast said she was glad to receive it.
“I really wear that honor proud, that they considered me a part of the Crazies because, to me, that was awesome,” she said with a grin. “I am crazy!”
Earlier in the day, West held three fundraisers for his congressional campaign. For $500 a ticket, supporters could attend a breakfast in Greenwood Village, a luncheon in downtown Denver, and the chance to “Come Shoot with Rep. Allen West” at a firing range in Lakewood.