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On GOP Unity In Colorado   December 1st, 2009
Unity doesn't require a lack of choice, and a lack of choice doesn't guarantee unity       


More observations...

For the majority of my readers that do not live in Colorado, a little background...

Like most of the country, the conservative base in Colorado has been downright energized since at least the Tea Parties this spring. Conservatives everywhere have been getting active, getting organized, and participating. There has been growing excitement regarding our prospects for 2010 and people have been actively promoting their candidates and getting anxious about being involved in the 2010 process.

Over the last month or two we've seen some significant consolidation in our 2010 races.

We've seen a U.S. Senate candidate leave the race and instead run for U.S. Representative in his district. We've seen a candidate for governor unexpectedly drop out of the race and endorse a competitor. And a Tea Party activist that was running for Congress dropped out citing personal reasons. All of this a year before the election.

At least some of the consolidation in Colorado races has happened in the name of "party unity" under the assumption that a primary battle between Republicans will weaken the final candidates in the general election. This theory was allegedly bolstered by the electoral wins in New Jersey and Virginia. The conclusion drawn was that the GOP had resounding wins in those states because there was no messy primary to damage the GOP candidate, and the candidate could focus on the Democrat challenger. Perhaps.

But there was no messy primary in NY-23, either, and we got Scozzafava--who not only lost but also endorsed the Democrat! The lack of a primary didn't help there. In fact, it's unlikely Scozzafava would have ever been the candidate had there been a primary, and it's entirely probable that the conservative candidate, Hoffman, would have won.

There are obvious differences between these three races, but what is clear is that the lack of a primary does not guarantee party unity nor does it guarantee victory. Those that are concerned about party unity shouldn't avoid a vigorous primary season but rather should simply commit to running a clean primary campaign centered entirely on the issues. Take the gloves off in the general election, if necessary.

2010 is going to be decided by the grass roots, and the grass roots want to be involved in 2010. They've been licking their chops all year, anxious for the 2010 process to begin. And in order to win, the GOP needs these people to be involved. Party unity is useless if the grass roots isn't energized and doesn't show up.

It's difficult to expect Republican voters to play hard in the playoffs (the general election) if they were denied access to the games the rest of the season (a meaningful choice at caucus and primary). Republicans going to caucus in March 2010 and voting in the primary in August need to have a real choice. It doesn't matter why it happened or how we get there, a single choice is no choice. Giving candidates the choice to support a platform is no substitute for giving Republicans the choice to support their candidates at caucus and in the primary.

This isn't a criticism of any current or past candidate. Rather it's a message of concern regarding the general risk of eliminating viable candidates prior to caucus and the primary. Doing so reduces the caucus and primary to being formalities, rubber stamps--and that makes it less likely people will be motivated to participate.

Caucus and primaries aren't just about selecting the candidate and they're not just about making the candidates stronger--they're about getting members of the Republican party actively involved in the process so that they'll help propel the party to victory in the general election and beyond.

The conservative base is fired up and ready to work hard. I've seen it firsthand. We can't afford to not give these rank-and-file Republicans a meaningful seat at the table when it comes to making the decision of who our candidates will be. If the grass roots is not given a seat at the table, they might just stay home.

And we know how well that worked out for us in the 2008 election.

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