Things are not going well for Dan Maes in Colorado. After a series of highly-publicized miscues over the last few months — and a third-party bid from ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo — Maes’ supporters are now leaving him in droves. The result? In a cycle where the GOP ought to be making strong gains all over the map, the party seems to be waving the white flag in the Colorado gubernatorial race — where they should have had a great shot of winning.
Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter is retiring after one term, which saw him accrue negative ratings. The Dems are now running Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper — and the Republicans no longer seem to be sure who they’re running, even after the primary.
The trouble started with the two candidates in the GOP primary. Former Rep. Scott McInnis was caught in a plagiarism scandal, and Maes, the tea party-backed candidate who touted his business acumen on the trail, turned out to not exactly be a successful businessman. He was delinquent in filing required state paperwork, was late in making payments to his homeowners association, and had a lien placed on his house. Maes also made some interesting policy pronouncements, such as alleging that Hickenlooper’s support for bike paths as mayor was part of a United Nations plot to destroy America’s sovereignty. On the policy end, Maes proposed that he would lay off 2,000 state employees “just like that.”
Then Tancredo threatened to get in as a third-party candidate if McInnis and Maes didn’t drop out — clearly as a potential threat to be a spoiler candidate — and Tancredo later made good on his threat — essentially splitting the conservative vote and all but handing the race to the Dem Hickenlooper.
Maes won the primary narrowly. Soon after, he had to back away from a claim that he’d worked as an undercover officer with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Despite mounting calls for him to drop out, Maes has stayed in the race.
Now, some of the GOPers who once backed him are starting to abandon ship. In a highly unusual move, Republican Senate nominee Ken Buck — who, like Maes, attracted much of his support from Tea Party activists — has recanted his endorsement of Maes. “I have decided that I can no longer support his candidacy for governor of Colorado,” Buck said in a statement last week. “[Maes] is struggling to determine the best path for his campaign, his family and for Colorado.” The Tea Party base is turning against him, too, with numerous Tea Party organizers telling Maes that it’s time to get out of the race.
And now even Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS), chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a potential candidate for president, is writing it off. “We have put some money in Colorado,” Barbour told reporters. “Past tense.”
Now more shoes are dropping. Tancredo has rolled out endorsements from 20 elected and formerly elected Republicans, the Denver Post reported. “The narrative has been written about Dan Maes and the weakness of his campaign. He can’t overcome it and beat Hickenlooper,” said Republican state Sen. Ted Harvey. “We’ve worked very hard in the conservative trenches to have an opportunity like this … and Tom Tancredo is the only strong conservative in the race who can raise money and put on a credible campaign.”
Another Tancredo-backer is former Rep. Bob Beauprez — who was previously the Republican nominee for governor back in 2006: “I think Maes’ support will continue to evaporate rather dramatically, and I expect a coalescing of Republicans around Tom.”
If Republicans are waiting for a coalescing of support for Tancredo, it better come quickly — the TPM Poll Average shows the Democrat Hickenlooper in first place with 44.6%, then Maes in second with 28.1%, and Tancredo way behind at 12.7%.
Late Update Maes is responding to the crisis. “You discovered that I’m fallible,” Maes told conservative activists on Thursday. “You discovered that I’m a human being. And perhaps you thought I was more than maybe I really was. But by golly, I’ve made a few mistakes, and I’m going to own up to them.”