Guest Columns

Scott McInnis — this year’s Bob Beauprez?

By Aaron Harber
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

This political season certainly is different than any in recent memory, although some similarities come to mind. One comparison can be made between (1) the severe wounding of the Scott McInnis campaign and (2) the fatal implosion of the Bob Beauprez campaign when the candidate made a series of bad decisions which ultimate culminated in the election of then relatively unknown Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter as Governor.

Congressman Beauprez began a series of misjudgments a year prior to the 2006 General Election. None of them was fatal but the cumulative effect portrayed him very negatively.

Whether it was his continued opposition to Referendum C even after it passed (he should have argued he was the businessman to lead its implementation) or his selection of an unknown running mate when he had experienced, campaign-hardened choices he overlooked (his selection was cast in an untenable role) or his tactics against his potential Primary Election opponent Marc Holtzman (poor positioning and a waste of resources) or his embracement of the missteps of ICE Agent Cory Voorhis (making Ritter look tough on crime), the cumulative effect was devastating.

Ritter benefitted tremendously from Beauprez’s mistakes and ended up with an almost unheard of margin of victory for a first-time gubernatorial candidate. The damage suffered by McInnis may have a similar benefit for his well-known opponent, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. The difference could have been minimized if McInnis acted quickly, apologized profusely, repaid (before being asked) the $300,000 he had received for the papers about water he had submitted, and asked everyone to give him a second chance.

Colorado voters will forgive most offenses — even plagiarism — and McInnis still may benefit from their largesse. The good news for McInnis is a sizable percentage of citizens are not even paying attention yet to the gubernatorial campaign so the impact of his transgressions may be minimal (unless advertisements surface later in the campaign focusing attention on the current situation but even these may not be effective).

McInnis also is fortunate, in a certain sense, because his Primary Election opponent, Evergreen businessman Dan Maes, just finalized a settlement involving campaign finance violations which resulted in a $17,500 fine — the largest ever assessed by the state against a statewide major party candidate. Hence, both Republican candidates were hobbled at the same time.

While there has been talk of finding a way to replace both candidates because they are seen by some as “damaged goods,” this will not happen. One of them will win the Aug. 10 Republican Primary. That man, despite the machinations of unhappy party insiders, will be the party’s nominee. He will head up the Republican ticket for the Nov. 2 General Election.

The toughest challenge faced by McInnis is to see if his funding sources remain supportive. If he can raise the money he needs to be competitive in the Fall, he still will have a chance to win. The same applies to Dan Maes, if he were to become the nominee.

One problem is Hickenlooper already bought $1 million worth of television advertising time. To duplicate this in the Fall — in terms of identical spots (given the likely decrease in inventory and an increase in rates) — the Republican nominee will likely need to spend $2 million just to match this single decision by Hickenlooper. That challenge, alone, will be tough.

Nevertheless, given the fact the candidates from both parties today are separated by the statistical margin of error in every current poll that has been made public and given the importance of the race (especially with the Governor’s role in the Redistricting and Reapportionment processes looming on the horizon), those making a Doom and Gloom case for the eventual Republican nominee may be wrong. Some Republican insiders may be unhappy with McInnis or Maes but, in the end, they will want a Republican in the Governor’s mansion — no matter what the cost. And while everything is coming up roses for Hickenlooper without his doing anything, there still is a plenty of time for conditions to change once again before Colorado voters cast their ballots.

While the odds are heavily stacked against any Republican nominee, anything can happen in politics — and usually does. Stay tuned for more excitement.

Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” on Channel 3 KCDO-TV on Sundays and “Colorado Election 2010 TM” on Sundays on Channel 3 and Mondays on COMCAST Entertainment Television.