There has been a lot of talk over the last week or so about Republican concerns that Tom Tancredo might poison the entire 2014 election should he emerge victorious from the June gubernatorial Primary. We won't deny that the GOP faces plenty of problems with a Tancredo candidacy, although the entire argument seems a bit silly in our opinion given the other candidates running in the Republican Primary; option #2 appears to be Bob Beauprez, whose 2006 campaign for Governor is viewed as the worst statewide campaign in Colorado history.
Former Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams has been among the loudest voices warning of a Tancredo candidacy, sounding false alarm bells dating back more than a year (we continue to be amused that anyone listens to Wadhams anymore, but that's a different story for a different day). Wadhams is a strong supporter of Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner, but as he told the Boulder Daily Camera in a story over the weekend, both Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman are doomed if Tancredo is the GOP nominee for Governor:
"If Tancredo is the nominee, everyone from (U.S. Senate candidate Cory) Gardner and (U.S. Rep. Mike) Coffman and up and down the ticket go down in November," warned Wadhams, who is supporting Kopp. "There's much at stake here."
That seems a bit melodramatic to us, but how much truth is involved in this fear of Tancredo? If we've learned anything from Colorado politics in the last decade, it is that the more moderate candidate will always win a high-profile statewide race. From Ken Salazar in 2004, to Bill Ritter in 2006 and Mark Udall in 2008 (and John Hickenlooper in 2010, although a doorknob would have beaten Dan Maes), the more partisan you are perceived to be by voters, the less likely you are to win in November. With that in mind, we combed through the annual partisanship rankings of Congress provided each year by The National Journal, and we were a bit surprised at what we found:
The biggest threat to the Republican ticket in 2014 may actually be Cory Gardner.
You may have seen references to the fact that Gardner was the 10th most-partisan Member of Congress in 2012 — more partisan, even, than conservative stalwarts such as Reps. Michele Bachmann and Steve King – but the numbers tell an even more incredible tale. As you can see from the chart above, only Rep. Doug Lamborn has a more partisan record in Congress among Colorado's delegation in the past decade, and he represents a heavily-Republican district in CD-5.
If you remove Lamborn and Rep. Diana DeGette from the list (since DeGette's CD-1 is a heavily-Democratic district), you find that Gardner stands alone as the most partisan Member of Colorado's Congressional delegation since at least 2002 (when redistricting awarded Colorado a 7th seat in Congress).
As of now, Republicans appear likely to have both Tancredo and Gardner at the top of the ticket in November. Tancredo is certainly problematic for Republicans, but it may well turn out that Gardner ends up being just as harmful (if not more) as voters continue to learn about his record.
If nothing else, Gardner's heavily-partisan record should allow Sen. Mark Udall ample space to occupy the center leading into November, which is an incredible advantage for Democrats…and, perhaps, a huge roadblock for someone like Tom Tancredo.