By Jason Kosena
and Jody Hope Strogoff
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Bob Beauprez is looking to get back in the game.
Coming fresh off the release of his new book and time spent on his 1,300-acre ranch in Jackson County, the former congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate said in a wide-ranging Q&A with The Colorado Statesman that he has his eye on many opportunities.
Beauprez, who served two terms representing Colorado’s 7th Congressional District before losing to Gov. Bill Ritter in 2006, indicated he is seriously considering a run against U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010, or perhaps, another run against Ritter instead. He spoke bluntly about what he’d do differently — both in life and in a second statewide campaign — to avoid loss and its subsequent pain.
“I’m in the ‘thinking about thinking about it’ stage,” Beauprez said of his 2010 ambitions. “The Senate campaign, the governorship still has interest.”
Beauprez plans to be “fairly deliberate” in weighing his options, suggesting that he still has a few months to decide.
“I suppose if you’re going to get serious, you’d better be getting fairly serious by summer,” he said. “I don’t know if that means you’ve got to announce and all that, but you’d better at least be doing the preliminary work.”
When asked what he would do differently in a second statewide campaign, Beauprez candidly suggested that he’d have to draft a new campaign team, pointing to Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen as his model.
“You’ve got to get some new folks in and surround yourself with a different team,” he said, noting that, although he doesn’t blame anyone on his ’06 team for his loss, this time around,
he’d focus on talking about issues with voters.
“Hopefully, we can start on the offensive and talk about what we’re for instead of just about what we’re against,” he said. “Talk about a way to get America out of the economic mess… I think if I were to do it again, I would try very, very, hard to talk about issues with people.”
For the past few months, Beauprez has been promoting his book, A Return to Values, a 192-page, semibiographical effort to guide the Republican Party back to power and influence after its recent losses.
“The book was a lot harder than I thought it would be,” Beauprez said. “I always wondered if I could write a book. It’s a very big process, especially if you’re doing your own research, as I did.
“Anyway, I got it done. And I do enjoy it a lot, and I hope maybe I can write a few more books.”
The Q&A has been edited for clarity and length:
Colorado Statesman (CS): What are your plans?
Bob Beauprez (BB): I’m in the “thinking about thinking about it” stage. I’d like to be involved somehow. I’d like to help make a difference — as I guess I have for two or three decades now, (with) party work, running for office, being in office, being out of office. And now, writing a book. I found I enjoyed writing.
CS: Was it hard to make a transition?
BB: The book was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I always wondered if I could write a book. What would I write about?
It’s a very big process, especially if you’re doing your own research, as I did.
I can sit down at the computer, and if the words just don’t come out, you’re just not in the mood. So I had to find that moment.
Anyway, I got it done. And I do enjoy it a lot, and I hope maybe I can write a few more books.
I’m doing this monthly Web site, and I’m having a blast with that. And if that’s my contribution, so be it.
I’m wondering if 2010 is a year when we can make a difference again. The Senate campaign, the governorship still has interest. But I’m going to be fairly deliberate. I suppose if you’re going to get serious, you’d better be getting fairly serious by summer. I don’t know if that means you’ve got to announce and all that, but you’d better at least be doing the preliminary work. That you know full well.
CS: If you were elected, chances are you’d be serving in the minority. Is that something you think about as you decide whether to run?
BB: It’s not a very big factor, especially if you’re thinking about the Senate, because the Senate’s a different body than the House.
If I went back to the House, I would probably get my Ways & Means seat back, but minority status is horrible in the House.
The Senate, I think, would be a little different, and nothing’s forever. So that’s not a big factor.
And it wasn’t a huge factor for me when I thought about running for governor, and it wouldn’t be again if the House and Senate stayed Democratic.
It is what it is. It’s fairly simple, in that I’ve got to decide if I’ve got something to offer and it’s doable. I don’t want to take on a “Mission Impossible,” just because. And I guess checking (to see if I’ve got) that fire in the belly.
CS: Do you have an inclination for one over the other — running for governor or Senate?
BB: No, both of them have a great deal of appeal to me. I guess you could look at the book. It focuses almost exclusively on federal issues, and it lays out a federal agenda.
Federal issues push my buttons. They always have. Having said that, I don’t take back any of what I said leading up to the ’06 election. I do believe that the governors can have a bigger impact on their state and the citizens in their states quicker, more profoundly, than probably any other political office in the country.
CS: Because they’re executives versus legislators?
BB: Yes, you manage the affairs of the state. And you can affect them profoundly (for) good or negatively.
Zell Miller and George Allen and George Bush and others who had served in both Washington and in governorships convinced me absolutely that that was the case.
I’ve got to decide which one is more achievable and which one I feel more passionate about at the moment. Both would be enormous opportunities, of course. And I guess I would humbly submit that I should be so lucky as to even consider having a shot at them.
But I guess that is the reality — at least within our party — that there’s only so many that could legitimately take a run at it. And I suppose I’m in that mix.
CS: Do you regret leaving Congress to run for governor?
BB: No, I don’t. That may seem odd, but I really don’t. I believe I made the decision for the right reasons.
I was absolutely convinced — and still am — that that (being governor) is a job where you can have impact.
I’m almost quoting Zell Miller when he said, “You want to make a difference for the people in your state? Go get something done. Go be a governor.”
And that’s an interesting thing for a guy that’s in the Senate and a Democrat to tell a Republican. He was just adamant about it when he said it. I asked George Allen. I asked George Bush. And everybody who’d ever been a governor told me the same thing.
So the reason was sound, and I still believe I’d have been a good governor. Having said that, the circumstances are different now than they were then. And I’m going to have to try to make a decision whether to take a second bite at the same apple. Or bite a different apple, or none at all.
CS: How do you think Gov. Ritter has been doing?
BB: About like I expected. I’ve always thought he was a decent man. I still think he’s a decent man. But I also thought he was perhaps ill-prepared and maybe more than a little bit naïve in taking on the magnitude and complexity of the job. All of us would come into any position with some weaknesses.
I thought he would surround himself with an extremely talented and experienced team. Either he’s fallen short on that or he doesn’t listen, because I think there’s been a surprisingly consistent list of “He really did that?” — You know, surprises.
In the first two years, I think everybody wanted to cut him some slack, and I understand and appreciate that. The second year, I think you expect them to be rolling up their sleeves and having an agenda. Where was it?
And now, times are going to get real tough. With the budget constraints, it’s going to get pretty hard for him to deliver on what I think most people perceived as this promise.
The honeymoon’s definitely over. I think he’s got challenges. He hasn’t endeared himself within his own party.
CS: Have you run into him much?
BB: I run into Bill surprisingly often, and we get along well — much like Mike Feeley and I do. Probably not quite that much. Mike and I just have genuine admiration for each other. But there’s no personal animosity towards Bill or Jeannie at all. He had a great opportunity put in front of him, and he seized it, as anybody with a brain would do. And I give him credit for that.
CS: Did it take a while for you to get over that campaign?
BB: Yeah. So far, it’s been two years, and I don’t know if you do get over it. You know, you’d probably ask John Elway if he’s over those Super Bowls that he lost, even though he won a couple of big ones. And he’s in the Hall of Fame. And he’s a big guy. You don’t get over it. Anybody who says, “Oh, yeah. I’m over that. That’s behind me,” they weren’t serious about it in the first place.
CS: Do you just take it day by day? Do you assess blame? Or do you just wait it out?
BB: I’m not very good at blame. I don’t blame others. I’ll blame myself. I know what Harry Truman meant — where the buck stops.
It was a tough environment. I felt like we were always on the defensive, and some of it was of our own making. Some of it was not of our own making. A lot of it was not of our own making. I knew the field was going to be messy, but we had to play on. I don’t look back that way.
I scratch my head a little to figure it out. Has Colorado really changed that much? Or are we still a center-right state, and we Republicans have just lost our voice that badly? I think it’s the latter, and I made that case in the book.
I think we have failed to communicate. And I have great admiration for the president — for President Bush, now. Any president. God bless him. The challenge of that job! But I have great admiration for the fact that he was a man of action. And whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him, he seemed to stay with his convictions. And I never, ever, ever — right up until the last day when he flew out of D.C. — saw him when he didn’t seem like he was fully engaged and fully committed to the job. So I admire him for that.
But I do criticize him for failing to tell us the “when,” “how” or “what” of the war in Iraq. And people get real weary real quickly. And when the press got very suspicious, it was over. By the time I got to Congress in January of ’03, the “Kumbaya” and the “God Bless America” out on the Capitol steps — that was gone. And it just kept going downhill.
Plus, we lost our franchise value of being the party of limited government, of fiscal constraint — the moral high ground.
Voters understandably said, “Let’s give the other guys a shot.” We’ve got to regain credibility with the voters. I don’t think we have suddenly become a left-center state. And the recent ballot issues, the tax issues, specifically, I’m thinking of now, would suggest that we haven’t changed significantly.
But the voters lost confidence in the Republicans to deliver on those values and those principles.
CS: Taking what you just said into consideration, if you were to run a second statewide campaign, what would you do differently?
BB: This isn’t meant to blame any of the people that were working for me, but I think I’ve got to do a little bit of what Pat Bowlen just did. You’ve got to get some new folks in and surround yourself with a different team.
Hopefully, we can start on the offensive and talk about what we’re for instead of just about what we’re against. Talk about a way to get America out of the economic mess. I don’t think you can spend yourself wealthy. I’m just mystified… If part of what got Republicans in trouble was deficit spending, if we deficit spend times two or three or 10, somehow that’s going to be better? That’s exactly the path we’re going now.
I think if I were to do it again, I would try very, very hard to talk about issues with people. Frankly, I was told in my last campaign that policy doesn’t mean anything to anybody, and we don’t want to focus on that. We just need to get you out there face to face with Bill Ritter, and people will see the dramatic difference. It didn’t work. So I would very much like to take an agenda, a message to folks that this is going to make a difference in their lives — and why.
I don’t think that we have become a nation that believes in less personal individual freedom.
And whether that means I don’t get to choose where my kid goes to school, somebody else decides that for me. Whether that means I don’t get to control where I work and the conditions I work under, somebody else is regulating and dictating that. Whether that means that some son of a gun across the pond somewhere that I never heard of has blown up a bus somewhere, and that took away some of my personal freedom to travel and do as I want to.
Whether that means some politician in Washington, D.C., decided he’s got a bunch of programs that he thinks ought to be funded, and so he’s raised my taxes and taken my discretionary income out of my pocket.
Those are all freedoms. And we seem to be — it’s human nature — willing to see somebody else’s freedoms evaporate. Until our toes get stepped on, we don’t notice it so much. I think people are understanding that their toes are starting to get stepped on. And when you’re doing it in trillion-dollar chunks, the toes are going to get bruised.
CS: Do you think the stimulus package is going to pass?
BB: Oh, yeah, there’ll be a stimulus package. I mean, the votes are there. Obama’s made it clear that he wants one. It’ll get passed.
And having been inside the belly of the beast enough — at least a little while — I think I understand the process. Unfortunately, I think what’s going to happen is that it’s going to grow. The Democrats are going to have what they want in there.
And, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out — I thought accurately — this is a 40-year wish list. They’ve been waiting a long time to pump up some of these programs. And they’re not going to give up.
It happens at every level, whether it’s over here or it’s back in D.C. That’s exactly how you get bipartisan support. You buy it. You buy it with taxpayers’ dollars.
So it’s going to get huge. It’s going to be obscene. And I’m not a huge historian, but I’ve read enough that I don’t believe that it was all that deficit spending in the ’30s that got us out of the Depression. I think it was the Second World War. And I’m glad we got over it, but the record’s pretty clear. Unemployment continued to increase. And deficits continued to increase. And the economy was not growing from all these programs. But we’re going down that path again.
You can only pay for it one of three ways. You can take out more debt. You can print money and suffer the inflationary consequences later. Or you can raise taxes. And all three of those are problematic.
CS: Were you surprised by Michael Bennet’s appointment to the U.S. Senate?
BB: Surprised is not the right word. Shocked.
CS: Do you know him?
BB: I know Michael, I think, fairly well. First met him when he was working for Mayor Hickenlooper, in John’s office. I don’t know if that was the first time, but it was the first meeting I ever had with Michael on an extended basis.
All the stuff that’s been written about him is true. He’s very bright, highly motivated, been successful everywhere he’s been. He also has a very liberal East Coast pedigree, and I think that’s probably what will get in the way of a voting record. And there shouldn’t be anybody surprised by that.
If you were a party chairman and saw that kind of talent walk in, and he said, “I’d like to run for office,” you’d drool. Well connected and all the other stuff. So it doesn’t surprise me that the governor would have been enamored with Michael. But when you consider the rest of the field, that’s the shocking part. When John Hickenlooper publicly said he was interested in the job, I figured the gate was closed.
CS: A lot of people did.
BB: Why wouldn’t you? I don’t know, but I’m guessing John Hickenlooper has name ID that rivals the governor’s, maybe exceeds the governor’s. I’m guessing that John Hickenlooper has 4:1 favorable/unfavorables statewide. There isn’t enough money in the world to peel that down to 1:1 — to where you could maybe beat him.
John Hickenlooper could claim — he won’t do it because he’s got enough humility to not do it — but he could claim that the DNC was successful in large part because of his efforts to raise the money. He not only has a Rolodex with names in it, they are successful names.
John could raise more money and be more easily elected. His appointment would have taken that seat almost completely off the table. I don’t know what John could have done to make it truly competitive.
It’s competitive now, and they’re going to have to defend it. And that’s not saying that Michael Bennet’s not a credible guy. But when you had Hickenlooper. And — if you wanted a surprise — Romanoff. But even that one could have been easily defended. The only thing Andrew didn’t have is the national fundraising machine that John had. But Andrew’s a great guy — I have enormous admiration for both Andrew and John.
In fact, I told Andrew, had I been governor, I was very much looking forward to working with him. And I mean that sincerely. Those two picks, those are slamdunks, and you still have three sitting members of Congress.
CS: It was a surprise even to the Democrats.
BB: Obviously. And they made that sentiment public. So privately, I could only imagine. And I’m still trying to figure out all the reasoning why.
CS: Do you think that opens an avenue for a candidate like you?
BB: Well, obviously, I’d like to think so. Everything else about him (Bennet) you’d say, “All right, he fits into the Democrat Party mold really well.” And you add to that the fact that he’s connected. And he gets it. He’ll be a quick study.
But can he fit into a western state like Colorado? I mean, Hillary Clinton can move to New York and put on a Yankees cap. And maybe she can pull it off. That’s New York.
That gets real tough in the West. And I still think, even though we do have a lot of immigration into Colorado, a lot of folks came here with the intention of being like Colorado. They adopted Colorado. They didn’t necessarily bring Connecticut here so it became more like Connecticut.
I think it’ll be a tough sell for Michael. George W. Bush was more Texas maybe than most people could take. He obviously didn’t spend his entire life in Texas, but he adapted. And he sounded like west Texas. He looked like west Texas.
Michael hasn’t shed the East Coast thing. And he’s not going to be completely comfortable at the Cow Palace in Lamar.
CS: So does that mean you’re looking hard at that?
BB: I don’t know. How do you define hard? But yes. We’re very much looking at it. But it’s a different sort of a feel this time than it was probably in ’02, ’04 or ’06. In ’08 it was quite easy, frankly.
You’d have been an idiot to say, “Let’s jump back in right now” after ’06.
You know, I’m 60. I’m enough of a realist to know that if I ever do run again, it’s probably got to be in 2010 or maybe 2012. If I stand on the sidelines much longer than that, it’s either passed me because I’ve been out of it long enough or it’s passed me by because I’m just flat-out too old.
I don’t think I’m too old yet. In fact I feel pretty prime. I feel very prime, in fact. And I guess the thought that keeps going through my head is, is it really me?
I see too many people in both parties — and this always has disgusted me; this is not a new thing — that in politics just push everybody else out of the way and are so shameless and self-promoting.
It’s got to be about them. And although they continually say, “It’s not about me” — it’s about them.
I hope I can say this honestly, without sounding braggadocious.
But I’ve got a pretty good job, a pretty good life. I’ve got a very good life. And I don’t need to put another notch in my belt or another mark on the wall.
But I would like to help, if I can. And I mean that very sincerely — help.
If I’m the best that our party can offer, Claudia and I are going to have to take real serious inventory as to whether or not we want to go through that again. Because it’s not a fun process, regardless of what it looks like from the outside. It is as taxing as anything I can ever imagine somebody going through. But I know we’ve got it in us to do it, and I think we’re pretty good at it.
CS: Do you see the potential for a primary for either governor or Senate?
BB: Sure, looks like (there is going to be a primary) for governor. Everybody must like the pay or something. I don’t know. I suppose it’s the house.
CS: It is a nice house.
BB: It’s a very nice house. There is almost surely, I guess, going to be a bit of a crowd for governor. On the Senate side, I don’t know, now that John Suthers has backed off. The only other name I’m hearing seriously is maybe (Dan) Caplis. And I don’t know if that it is serious.
Dick (Wadhams) mentioned Mark Hillman this morning, but I know he’s also looking at the 4th (Congressional District) and also maybe looking at taking 2010 off to be with his young child.
Mark’s a good friend of mine — about as good a friend as I’ve got. And I think he would say the same. We have this big mutual admiration society going.
I think the staggering reality of trying to raise that much money would be a bit daunting for Mark, too. It’s daunting for me, but I think I’d be in a little bit better situation than Mark. But that’ll take a lot of dough. I think the world of Mark. Love him dearly. But I’d be a little surprised if he takes that.
CS: Do you hear much about Scott McInnis?
BB: I saw Scott recently. Scott told me he has no interest at all in the Senate. But he does (in becoming) governor.
And (that’s like what Tom) Tancredo told me — which surprised me.
I thought both of them would probably think the Senate opportunity was readymade for them. But both of them have said “no.”
And, in fact, Tom told me, “The worst thing about being elected Senator is you’d actually have to do it.”
And I said, “Oh, I guess you’re not too fired up.”
“No,” he said. “No.”
CS: What about Bill Owens?
BB: Bill has consistently told me — with a smile on his face and gleam in his eye — that he’s done with politics. That he’s having more fun than he’s ever had in his life.
And maybe that was before all of this financial collapse stuff. And maybe it’s not as much fun today. I don’t know.
But if Bill’s interested, I’ve not heard it from Bill. When I hear it, it’s always with a question mark. “Would Bill be interested?”
Then, of course, you’ve got the whole Bill/Frances stuff that’s out there.
CS: We saw him over Christmas, and he seemed genuinely happy.
BB: He does seem happy — and lighter. It just seems like life is good, that he didn’t know it could be this way. In fact, he told me that.
He said, “I didn’t realize being out of office could be this enjoyable.”
CS: How do you like living up in Jackson County?
BB: Oh, God, I love it. After ’06 we moved back to our house in Lafayette, because we fortunately kept it. But then, Claudia —— God bless her. She’s so patient and persistent.
We talked about finding a ranch, and I’d just about given up on finding one that still fit my criteria. Working ranch, had its water. I didn’t want just a place.
And she found this place for sale. And it’s got a great history behind it. It was homesteaded by a Civil War vet — and his grandson was still operating it.
CS: How large is it?
BB: 1,300 acres. We’ve got about a hundred head of buffalo females on it. We’re raising buffalo. That was the one remaining fantasy I had relative to agriculture. I knew I could raise cows. I wanted to see if I could raise buffalo.
CS: Is it really that different?
BB: It’s very, very similar, really. They’re a little more wild, I suppose. But we selected ours from good, established herds and then managed them well, and they have adapted great. Our second son’s managing the place, and so I’m up there about half time, I guess — pretty close to half.
And just having a ball. Getting calluses again. Oh God, I love that county. It’s still so rural.
They had an ice golf tournament last Saturday. They go out on the Walden Reservoir, directly west of town. They plow on top of the ice. They plow little fairways. And they drill about 12-inch holes for the cup, and you play with a tennis ball.
This year — so they said — they took the outline of Pebble Beach, and that, supposedly, was the course. And they shorten it a yard so the 500-yard hole becomes a 500-foot hole.
But again, you’re playing with tennis balls. It’s just a riot. Of course, all those good old boys are out there with their Jack Daniels and making sure that they stay warm (laughs).
But it was more fun than anybody ought to be able to have. It was just a great time. This weekend, they’ve got an ice fishing tournament. It really is just a fun county.
CS: Have you ever talked to Mark Holtzman since the governor’s race?
BB: Well, I’d like to, actually. And it’s probably a call I should make rather than the other way around. I understand he’s interested in the governorship maybe again. That one gnaws at me a little bit.
CS: Pretty tough?
BB: I thought so. He didn’t even stop (going after me) after it was over. As one of my consultants back in D.C. put it, “He wanted to make sure that if he couldn’t be the Republican nominee, then nobody else was going to.”
I don’t know. It’s not fair to lay it all on him. Politics is tough business. But that one took a little bit more getting over than others.
CS: How do you think President Obama’s been doing? Do you think his honeymoon is going to last a while?
BB: I think it’s going to be remarkably brief. I mean, he’s got enormous political capital to spend. There’s no getting around that, and that will last for a while. And he’s got significant majorities up on Capitol Hill, and I know how effective those can be.
So he’s going to get done whatever he wants to get done, I think. But the maybe overly aggressive nature of the stimulus Package, especially on the House side.
For Nancy Pelosi to push the biggest spending bill in the history of the nation — $825 billion — through in 24 hours. No committee debate. None! That’s pretty brash!
CS: After the recent elections, Republicans are a little bit behind the technological curve. Do you think that with Obama winning the presidency, the Demcrats took it up a notch?
BB: A little bit behind! I might have said a little, but I was understating.
It’s impossible not to just be amazed at the skill with which they reached out to massive numbers of people and were so successful. Not only in ginning up a great deal of support, but financially, too.
You know, if somebody gives you a buck they’re probably going to show up and vote. And a huge number of them not only showed up and voted, but they worked. So the buy-in was just phenomenal. I don’t know if somebody can take that and go up yet another notch or not. But it’s going to be the standard for a while.
CS: Campaigns can’t really go backwards.
BB: Better not. I found out what happens if you do that. It’s not much fun in being second place.
CS: Do you think Dick Wadhams did a good job as Republican State Chairman?
BB: I think Dick was handed a tough job. Real tough. It’s easy to sit back and say, “Woulda, shoulda, coulda,” but he had a significant amount of debt. He had a party that was decimated and down. He had this big Senate race.
I go back to the way I felt when Dick called me. I was walking off the floor of the House one night from a vote, and my cell phone rang. And Dick Wadhams said, “I’m thinking about maybe running for State Party Chairman.”
This was immediately after ’06. This was the best news I’d heard since Election Night. And I’ll go with that; we should be so lucky to have people with Dick’s commitment and ability who are willing to step forward.