Littwin: Bob Beauprez’s horror show
October 26, 2014
The truly frightening thing about the Bob Beauprez horror-movie campaign ad is that Beauprez and his team must have thought it would actually work.
I don't know if the ad is an act of desperation or an act of political ineptitude or perhaps some combination of the two, but it not only sets new Colorado standards for fearmongering; it also reveals Beauprez as one of the least talented politicians in modern state history.
But you already knew that. As you certainly recall, Beauprez lost to Bill Ritter in his last run for governor. His campaign strategy was based, in large part, on showing that a career district attorney was soft on crime. Let's just say it didn't work. Let's just say Beauprez lost by 17 points in a purple state against someone who had never run for any office higher than Denver district attorney.
And now, remarkably, Beauprez is back to talking about crime. He has somehow determined that his best closing argument would be that, thanks to John Hickenlooper, Colorado is a dangerous place to live, where killers are routinely released from prison to roam our city streets, wives are destined to become widows, children are destined to become orphans and the Colorado version of the West is dangerously wild, meaning the critical question on the minds of the Colorado electorate is this:
"With John Hickenlooper as governor … is your family safe?"
That's the tagline in the ad, which is supposedly about "public safety" but is really about testing the limits of public disgust with politicians.
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The answer to the Hickenlooper question is, of course, "yes." It would be "yes" if Beauprez were governor. It was "yes" when Ritter was governor and when Bill Owens was governor and when Roy Romer was governor and when Dick Lamm was governor.
I mean, what Colorado is he talking about? Watch the ad. I'll wait. Watch it again, and this time try not to laugh. It does not pass what they like to call these days the "eye test." Beauprez is asking why scary prisoners who had served their sentences were being released. Maybe because they've, well, served their sentences.
And yes, there are some scary convicts. But look around. This is not Willie Horton time. And it's not Colorado Chainsaw Massacre time either.
The ad is so bad that Beauprez has already had to change it. The ad opens with chirping crickets — I'm not kidding — but as soon as we hear the crickets, we see this line: "Under John Hickenlooper, violent criminal Evan Ebel was released from prison and brutally killed two Coloradans."
One of those Coloradans was, of course, prison chief Tom Clements, who is not mentioned in the ad. He doesn't have to be. The ad clearly suggests that Hickenlooper is responsible for his death, even though he happened to be Hickenlooper's friend. It's a low blow, of course. But low blows are standard fare in attack ads.
But this ad is so low that it moved Clements' widow, Lisa Clements, to send a letter to Beauprez asking him to stop exploiting "our family's tragic loss for your personal and political gain." I'm not a political strategist, but I'm guessing that this is not the kind of reaction for which Beauprez and his team were hoping.
At first, Beauprez refused. Apparently, he hadn't felt the need to talk to the widow before making her a centerpiece in his campaign and, after she had made her distress clear, he still didn't feel the need to address her concerns. But the Denver Post then released an editorial accusing Beauprez of gutter politics, and so he caved, agreeing to remove the Ebel line.
Of course, what he should do is remove the entire ad and hope that everyone forgets that he ever put it on the air.
I don't know how Beauprez could have thought this ad would be received any differently. He first raised the Ebel issue earlier this month in a debate in Pueblo, in which he somehow thought he could make this into a women's issue, the government needing to protect the little ladies. Here's the money quote from Beauprez: "If women have an issue, I think that issue is trust — trusting that government to somehow be protecting their public safety."
Much of the crowd booed, which should have been a hint. Hickenlooper, not exactly your most confrontational debater, called the Beauprez debate strategy "reprehensible." That should have been more than a hint. I wrote that night, which would have been Clements' 60th birthday, that Beauprez was lucky the debate wasn't televised. I guess Beauprez didn't see it that way.
The polls show the race to be basically a dead heat, although the Hickenlooper campaign insists it is leading. I thought that with an improving economy and with a long history of successful incumbent governors, Hickenlooper was the clear betting favorite, but maybe not.
I do know that the race has been a referendum on gaffe-prone Hickenlooper, whose campaign has been waiting for a chance to turn the spotlight back on his even more gaffe-prone challenger.
It's dark. The crickets are chirping. Someone should be afraid. Very afraid.
The Beauprez campaign took down the original version of the ad, which ran with an earlier version of this column, and posted a new version that took out reference to Evan Ebel. That new version of the ad is now included above. Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.
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