Memo to Colorado GOP: Court–Don’t Co-opt–The Tea Party Crowd

Update, 12/2: More valuable insights from Joshua Sharf.

First, the Denver Post‘s Dan Haley weighed in on the Republicans’ “Platform for Prosperity.” Today, the story went national with coverage from Wall Street Journal reporter Stephanie Simon, and a quote from from one of my favorite grassroots activists (in spite of her misplaced football loyalties):

Republicans, however, said the platform would prompt voters to focus on the party’s message, rather than their feelings about individual candidates. “People can vote for the agenda,” said Tom Tancredo, a former Republican congressman who had been mulling a run for governor.

But Nikki Mata, a conservative activist in suburban Denver, said that such a strategy misses the point of the tea-party movement. Endorsements and platforms matter less to her and her fellow activists, she said, than their gut feelings about whether a candidate would shake things up — or would cave in to the establishment.

Despite such flashes of populist anger, political analysts in Colorado said the GOP move would likely strengthen the party by scaring off challengers from the right.

“At the end of the day, the tea partiers don’t have anywhere else to go,” said Eric Sondermann, an independent political consultant in Denver. “If they show up at the polls next year, it won’t be to pull the Democratic lever.” [emphasis added]

First, you need to go back and read the whole story — not just the punchline. However, if you’re like me (sorry to scare you like that), you’ll have the perfect reaction to the story brewing in your mind and ready to publish on your blog, only then see that one of your best blogging buddies has beat you to the punch and said it better. So cue El Presidente at the People’s Press Collective:

Key words: “If they show up.” The Tea Partiers, rank-and-file GOPers, conservatives of all stripes, libertarians (small and big-L), independents, unaffliateds, and even Michigan ex-pats (sorry Ben) have to be convinced that McInnis (pending Dan Maes primary challenge) is the right guy for governor of the state of Colorado.

In other words, they probably won’t pull the lever for Ritter . . . but then again, they might not even show up.

And we know how that worked out in 2006.

Ditto — especially to the part about Michigan ex-pats. I don’t know which GOP bigwigs, if any, read Mount Virtus or even the PPC. You have to believe they’re tuning in to the Journal, though.

But just in case they stop by here, too, it won’t hurt for me to reiterate the very important difference between Republican leaders courting the Tea party movement and co-opting it. The former approach will work better for all involved — most especially in the long run. Especially since their concerns about the size and scope and spending habits of government deserve primary attention by the people’s representatives.

Anyway, great piece today. Way to go, Nikki (and Michael Schneider)!

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