View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, September 06, 2004

Salazar & Colorado Springs & Miles 

Ken Salazar opened his Colorado Springs office this weekend, and guess who showed up? Mike Miles. Finally. The Post presents this as a love-in, with the two "joining forces," and seems to take it all but for granted that any intra-party rivalry is over. At the bottom of the article, though, this:

On Saturday, Miles said the rivalry was behind him as he made his first public appearance with Salazar since the August primary, in which Salazar got 73 percent of the statewide vote and Miles got 23 percent.

"I have never been able to say anything bad about Ken," Miles said.

The two met privately about two weeks ago, and that is when Miles offered Salazar his support for the run against Republican brewery scion Pete Coors.

It took Miles two weeks to offer his support to Salazar, and then two more weeks to actually get around to making a public appearance with him. Even then, it had to be on Miles's home turf. Pardon me for thinking his heart really isn't in this.

In the meantime, the Post takes pains to present the Republicans as still divided, and Coors as being unsuccessful in bringing the party together. This despite the post-primary visit by Sen. George Allen, who never once licked his thumb the entire time. Schaffer immediately and graciously endorsed Coors, has seemingly withheld nothing, and went on a "Unity Tour," dismissed by the Post.

In fact, the Post seems to go out of its way to interpret optimistic comments by State Treasurer Mike Coffman as pessimistic:

Treasurer Mike Coffman, a Schaffer supporter now backing Coors, said a conservative defection could be damaging for Coors.

"If you didn't bring your grass roots together, your support is fractured," Coffman said. "If it's fractured, they stay home."

But Coffman said Coors has repaired the schism. He contrasted the Republicans' efforts with crowing from Democratic moderates after Salazar beat the more liberal Mike Miles.

"The unity tour wasn't for the average voter, it was for the grass roots," he said. "During the primary, I would have expressed some doubt about whether we can come together. But it's really coming together."

"A conservative defection could have been damaging for Coors," is closer to what Coffman actually said. The article goes on to bury recent praise for Coors from a number of prominent social conservatives.

There are two reasons why Coors needs to be more mindful of former primary opponents: their numbers are larger, and the primary was more bitter. But the dynamics of the race probably turn in Coors's favor. He's more comfortable running as a conservative than Salazar is as a liberal. Coincidentally, this positioning is also more likely to be popular statewide.

Salazar was also always seen as a much stronger candidate than Miles. Coors needed to convince people he could do well in the fall. As a result, pragmatic Miles supporters were probably more likely to defect than Schaffer supporters in the primary. Coors's large margin of victory came not from traditional Republican prmary voters, but from traditional Republican general election voters. Which means that the remaining Schaffer voters include more pragmatists than the remaining Miles voters. These voters will support Coors more easily.

Finally, as an aside, Salazar is going to host former Senator Max Cleland in the Springs on Thursday. Cleland is probably intended to appeal to the large active military and veteran population is the Springs area, but this is unlikely to work.

With no history in the state, Cleland further ties the Salazar campaign to the national Kerry-Edwards ticket on an issue where they can't win: national security and terrorism. Veterans are strongly behind Bush, and strongly doubt Kerry's credentials on this issue.

Given Cleland's increasingly shrill and off-balance attacks on the administration, it's possible his target audience is the Miles liberals. In that case, they'd be better off showcasing him in Boulder, where the market for that sort of talk is much larger, and he'd be less likely to remind veterans of why they don't like the national Democratic ticket in the first place.

Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.

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