View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Friday, March 12, 2004

Finally, a Candidate 

Seeing the Democratic and Republican parties in the state scramble for nominees is a lesson in the political reality. The primary process was supposed to open up the nomination, to make sure that the "smoke-filled rooms," illegal now in many cities, didn't dictate candidates to the populace. And now, what do we have? Both the Democrats and Republicans are trying desperately to avoid a primary battle. Both parties have decided that unity is more important than freedom of choice.

There's nothing the matter with this, and it's almost certainly connected to the rise of partisanship and hardening of party lines. Winning has always been important to the party faithful, but now that faithful includes a higher percentage of the public at large, whether or not they're willing to admit it.

Right now, with Schaffer the only announced candidate, eyes are turning to former RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson, and Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. Both, I think, may have image problems. Nicholson's a good guy, and comparing him to someone like Terry McAuliffe is like comparing, oh, Steve Spurrier to Joe Gibbs. But he's also seen as more of a political operative than a public servant.

And nobody knows anything about Jane Norton. Oh, suppose if you ran an exhaustive search, you might be able to come up with some old position papers or something, but she's done a complete Hubert Humphrey since the last election. She might well be capable, and would have months to make the case, but if this is such an important Senate seat, be sure the national Democrats will be in there defining her for us.

There is one other factor at work here. Colorado is not a large state. It's physically big, but the battleground areas are well-defined, and the population only rates 7 House seats. It's possible, even necessary, to campaign at the retail level here. It doesn't make television irrelevant, but it does mean that candidates aren't so beholden to it. That helps narrow the gap considerably between whoever the Republicans choose and Salazar.

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