Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The morning after, first impressions

I'm still recovering from the party last night and the months of physical and emotional exhaustion that went into making this happen. I'll have more when I have some time to reflect but a few things jump out at me immediately from last night's results.

Here in Colorado we saw Barack Obama win more votes than Mark Udall. All conventional wisdom says that Colorado Democrats will always outperform national Democrats here in the state. The CW held that national Democrats just don't play as well to Colorado's western independents. Throw that out the window now folks. Mark Udall is a westerner through and through, he comes from a family with a long and storied history in the American west... and he was just outperformed by a young black man from Chicago named Barack Hussein Obama. That's remarkable. Colorado has evolved more politically in the last decade than even the most hopeful of us had thought.

Betsey Markey in Colorado's 4th Congressional won an incredibly decisive victory by a margin that no one saw coming. Congratulations to her and the people of her Congressional district who will now finally have real representation in Washington. Marilyn Musgrave and her brand of fear-mongering divisive politics were roundly rejected by the voters. It's a win that restores your faith in the wisdom of the voters.

I have a similar reaction to Bob Schaffer's loss. Colorado's voters have rendered a clear verdict on the GOP's culture warriors. Schaffer floundered for months, with most Colorado voters (according to polling that I saw) find him to be quite unlikeable and his policy positions to be a decade too late. Colorado is now a blue state and far-right candidates like Schaffer and Musgrave are seeing their base rapidly disappear.

In the state House Bernie Buescher's suprising loss in Grand Junction opens the door for Anne McGihon to become the next Speaker of the Colorado House.

In the state Senate Republican incumbent Shawn Mitchell won a solid victory in SD23 over embattled challenger Joe Whitcomb. Recent revelations about Whitcomb's past legal troubles were clearly a factor, this race was expected to be much closer. Evie Hudak eeked out a very hard fought race in SD19. That race was a true battle between not just the candidates but also the the parties and their various interested groups. Democrats can feel good about winning such a hard fought race. Congratulations to Linda Newell for holding off far-right reactionary Lauri Clapp in SD26, Newell's margin of victory was just 81 votes.

What of Governor Ritter's thumping on Amendment 58? Given the personal investment that the governor made into Amendment 58 I think this loss is fairly significant for him. He made a personal appeal to voters in the closing weeks and he was flat out rejected. It's been 2 years since the governor cruised to a 17 point victory. Since that time he has failed to pass any major pieces of legislation in health care, education or transportation. His achievements in environmental policy are largely illusory as most of the ground work for that legislation was laid prior to his term, he didn't birth the New Energy Economy to a large extent he merely blessed the work of others. Ritter's popularity has been in a free fall for the last year and he chose to pick another fight with the oil and gas industry (remaking the oil and gas commission and new oil and gas regulations being his first skirmishes with the industry). If he had won his challenge to industry would be framed as a courageous stand. A resounding defeat though makes one doubt his viability in 2010. He is a wounded governor and he will need to regroup quickly in the coming weeks to have a successful 2009 legislative session. This is clearly the low point for Ritter, has he reached bottom?

On a related note one has to wonder if Amendment 59's loss could have been prevented if there had been better coordination and cooperation between Ritter's office and the Speaker. 59 would have begun to undo the ties that bind Colorado's budget and Colorado's policy makers. A win would have fundamentally changed Colorado's fiscal position and had a profound and immediate effect on policy making in the state. Was it wise to try and run both 58 and 59 this year? Would it have made more sense for Romanoff and Ritter to prioritize and focus on getting one or the other through?

Congratulations to all of the winning candidates and campaigns, my condolences to those of you who ended up on the wrong side of the ledger last night.

I'll get more inside the numbers later and perhaps a bit more reflective on the Obama victory for now though these are my first impressions the morning after.

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