There Will Be No GOP Gubernatorial Primary Debates This Year

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

​As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

Secretary of State Scott Gessler is the latest Republican candidate for governor who won't participate in GOP primary debates or forums.

Gessler's campaign this week said he wouldn't attend a debate sponsored by The Denver Post on Feb. 18, and other candidates said he hasn't been at forums in recent weeks.

Last December, former Congressman Tom Tancredo said his campaign decided to nix primary debates, believing they only give Democrats fodder for the general election…

Obviously, the two frontrunners in the Republican gubernatorial primary announcing that they won't participate in debates or candidate forums puts an end to the prospect of them for all practical purposes. Make no mistake, this is a very significant development, at marked variance with recent primaries. In 2006, Bob Beauprez debated Marc Holtzman. In 2010, Scott McInnis even debated opponent Dan Maes, who went on to win the GOP nomination after McInnis imploded in a plagiarism scandal. We'd have to go back to the pre-Bill Owens era for more examples, because we're pretty sure he debated Republican primary opponent Tom Norton back in 1998 as well.

Tom Tancredo.

Tom Tancredo.

​The point is, it's really weird to have a gubernatorial primary in Colorado with no debates. Under no circumstances should the campaigns of Scott Gessler or Tom Tancredo be able to pass this off as business as usual. It is not. And at least one gubernatorial primary contender, Sen. Greg Brophy, is livid about having no chance to directly face his higher-profile opponents. Bartels:

"If you're not willing to get on the stage to debate me and the other guys, how on earth are you going to be prepared to go up against Gov. Hickenlooper?" Brophy said. [Pols emphasis]

From a purely strategic perspective, Gessler was smart to pull out of the debates once Tancredo had made his decision; it helps Gessler position himself alongside Tancredo as one of the two GOP frontrunners. Brophy is justifiably upset, since his inability to raise money makes attacking Republicans through earned media his only real campaign strategy. The one candidate who is hurt most by this news is Mike Kopp, who has been outmaneuvered in such a way that he now looks like a second-tier candidate alongside Brophy.

As for why this is happening, there's really no sugar coating it. One of the greatest threats to the candidacies of both Gessler and Tancredo are their own unvarnished words. The last time they appeared on stage together for a candidate forum was last November, which resulted in damaging audio of all candidates present denying human contribution to climate change in sweepingly ignorant fashion. Tancredo in particular has years of experience as a walking, talking gaffe machineyou bet he thinks debates only "give Democrats fodder."

But folks, it's not the debates that give Democrats their "fodder." It's the candidates.

29 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ClubTwitty says:

    Be fair Pols!  Scott Gessler needs to be your Governor!  And he has no chance if he has to let Colorado voters see what he really thinks.  The less you all know, public plebians, the better!  Its Honey Badger's turn and all you Post-Maes tea-partiers and Tancredistas need to get the hell out of the way, stfu, and just accept that those who know more in the party 'leadership' have decided who will be your leader.  

  2. At least Tancredo's honest about it: words come out of Republican mouths and are used against them (verbatim, in context) by Democrats – because the majority of voters don't agree with what comes out of their mouths. Better to keep their plans secret.

    • BlueCat says:

      And he's got the most name rec so why say anything or help bring attention to people most potential voters have never heard of?  The same goes for Gessler at a lower but better than next to nothing name rec level. The others need all the name rec growth they can get and debates are away to drum up a little but without better known participants it will be a very little more. As in negligible. Why should Tanc or, to a lesser degree, Gessler give them a hand? 

  3. Diogenesdemar says:

    So these guys are all gonna' try to out-crazy one another from separate venues, times, and multiple media . . .

    . . . emptying all those asylums??  Now that's what I call strategery!!!

  4. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    If Brophy wants a debate – I'll offer to full in for either Tanc or Scott 

  5. dwyer says:

    Don't forget that there are hours every day on local talk radio and so republicans can always talk to their base without fear of being challenged.

  6. Andrew Carnegie says:

    They could run the Republican debate back to back with the Dem debate.  Oops, not a single progressive Dem will step up to the plate and primary Hick? 

    Might as well cancel both of them.

  7. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Tancredo is formidably appealing to young males working in construction or related fields, and others working in low-paid jobs, who see that immigrant labor takes the bottom out of the wages in their field.  The solution to their real-world problem is complex – a higher minimum wage, portable health insurance, fixing the problems with ACA and unionized health insurance, comprehensive immigration reform which gives a path to citizenship, so that illegal immigrants don't have to take whatever crap employers dish out.

    Tancredo offers a simpler solution – "deport them all", and this was quite appealing to 37% of voters who voted in 2010. The Tanc also is a better speaker than either Gessler or Brophy.

    Brophy has worked hard to appeal to the gun-totin' abortion-prohibitin' crowd- but that is an enthusiastic, but minor (less than 30%) voting block.

    Gessler's ethics and budget missteps will haunt him, even though he is the most likely of the R candidates to get the nomination. He also does not have an appealing public persona. He comes across as what he is – an uncaring, rich corporate hack.

    So a debate would likely show them up as what they are: the bigot, the paranoid gun nut, and the snaky money-grubber. Not too surprising the two top favorites are declining.

    • dwyer says:

      Excellent analysis, mj55, thanks.  What do you make of the fact that Giron's successor supports Gessler and vice a versa?

      • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

        Wasn't aware of that, dwyer, but it makes sense. Political payback.

        Rivera would never have "won" the successor seat without Gessler and Co's shenanigans around blocking mail ballots, the Chieftain's nonstop propaganda grinding out supposed Giron "ethics violations" (more people around here actually read the Chieftain than any other semi-metropolitan area, I've been told – don't know the primary source).

        AFP Colorado / and Magpul funding the TV smear campaign, which apparently ran on all local stations, helped, too.

  8. hawkeye says:

    The top two Republicans have chosen not to participate in a circular firing squad .. who could blame them.  They need no practice in debating our current governor, who is either at a loss for words or is backpeddling from gaffes when he's not speaking from a prepared text.

  9. Republican 36 says:

    Is Gessler dropping out of the governor's race?

    The most interesting item in this story is the comment from other Republican candidates that SOS Gessler "hasn't been at forums in recent weeks." When candidates stop attending political events that is sometimes a sign the candidate intends to drop out of the race. His wife recently gave birth so that could be the explanation but campaigns and the need to meet and greet the base doesn't stop.  

  10. DawnPatrol says:

    Shorter CO GOP: "We know we're odious, unlikable, unelectable, incoherent slugs. Don't make us embarrass ourselves by being ourselves."

  11. ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

    One of the other commenter alluded to what is going here IMHO/speculation.  This is becoming a two person race between Tancredo and Gessler.  With Tancredo out of the debates, why would Gessler participate?

    • ajb says:

      Or maybe it's that Tanc and Guess fully understand that what they would have to say in a Republican primary debate would cause them to lose the general elelction. 

      • BlueCat says:

        Saying Tea Party crazy stuff never bothered Tanc before. He's got the name rec already. He doesn't need debates. The other guys do. Let them tear each other down. Why should he bother? Why should he bring them more attention with his high profile presence? Gessler probably deludes himself that his situation is the same as Tanc's. It's not. His name rec is still nothing compared to Tanc's. 

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