Littwin: Drawing Republicans to the square state that slipped away
As you’ve probably heard, Denver has made the Final Four in the 2016 GOP convention playoffs, along with Dallas, Kansas City and, yes, Cleveland.
I’ve heard it, too. I just can’t figure out why.
It’s not that I’m surprised someone would want to bring a convention here. In fact, in most cases, it would make perfect sense.
Just not this convention.
Colorado is the poster state for every troubling electoral issue facing the Republican Party. Bringing the convention here would only remind the few stalwarts who still watch conventions that libertarian-leaning, business-friendly, oil-and-gas-rich Colorado has taken the long, winding road from a purplish-red state to purplish-blue.
If, as expected, John Hickenlooper is re-elected, he would be the Democratic governor of a thriving, photogenic state here to greet the Republican conventioneers. If Mark Udall beats Cory Gardner — the race is considered a toss-up — it would be the second time in a row that Colorado had chosen a Democratic senator in what is expected to be a Republican wave year.
How would the Republicans begin to explain any of that away? Well, that’s where the problem lies. The explanation is so easy.
Look for a Republican vulnerability, and you’ll find it here.
Start with young people. Particularly young college-educated people. Particularly young college-educated people with advanced degrees. We’ve got plenty of all of them, and all the polling says they think of Republicans as old people with old ideas who still watch cable TV. It’s that whole demographic problem, which leads directly to Colorado’s growing Latino population. We all know the story about how Republicans keep saying they need to reach out to Latinos and how, instead, they keep knocking down any chance at passing immigration reform. And then there are the Colorado Republicans who insist on making matters worse by constantly throwing Tom “They’re Coming to Kill Your Grandchildren” Tancredo into the mix.
And then there’s this: The conventional wisdom is that all close elections in Colorado are decided by women in Jefferson County. In recent years, many of those same women have apparently been turned off by the anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage, pro-personhood Republican message.
I just went to a Republican governor’s debate — in Jefferson County, no less — called “Women and Colorado’s Future.” It should have been called “Without More Women Voters, Republicans Have No Future.” The debate was a bust. In a debate supposedly about women’s issues, women’s issues never came up. There was, as everyone has heard by now, the “Dating Game” theme music playing as the all-female panel of questioners met up with the all-male panel of candidates. If only Ken Buck had been there, someone could have played “Hi-Heel Sneakers.”
There was nothing about abortion or personhood or pay equity or the difference between forcible rape and the other kinds. Nothing to assure women that birth control wouldn’t be an issue. (Now that I think about it, maybe it will be.) One person on the panel did think to ask about fracking, which she said was a women’s issue because, well, women want jobs in the oil industry, too. I was surprised she didn’t ask a follow up on, say, roofing.
It was a 90-minute, radio-broadcast missed opportunity. But that wasn’t an accident. The candidates all figured that saying nothing about women’s issues was less dangerous than saying anything.
Now, you could make the argument that since Republicans have to make gains with at least some of these groups if they hope to win the presidency in 2016, it makes sense to bring the convention to where those voters are.
Except you know better. Conventions are for the faithful, not for those who need converting. You may remember the 2008 Democratic convention, which was widely mocked in Republican circles for the Greek columns. Or the 1992 Republican convention, in which Pat Buchanan gave his widely mocked (in Democratic circles) “culture war” speech, which the great Molly Ivins wrote “probably sounded better in the original German.”
It’s easy to understand why Denver wants the convention. Hosting national political conventions eight years apart — one for each party — would solidify our place as a must-stop-and-not-just-for-the-airport-experience city. It also would be another opportunity to show how the pot capital of the world looks exactly like it looked when it was just another get-to-know-your-dealer town.
And you can see how Republicans would be tempted, whatever might happen in November or whatever did happen in all those recent Novembers. Bellwether state. Craft beers. A chance to meet Bronco great John Elway. Even better, a chance to visit Bob Beauprez’s ranch and get your picture taken with the horse.
There would be the all-but-irresistible opportunity to make the case that this is where the Obama years essentially began and that this is where they could essentially end.
Or, of course, they could pick Cleveland.
Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he now writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.
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