A Remarkable Political Year to Talk Seriously about Candidate Dan Maes

In case you hadn’t noticed, this isn’t a normal election year. If it weren’t 2010, a political outsider like Dan Maes arrayed against the political establishment, tons of money and a campaign organization would be little more than a nice guy also-ran, and yesterday’s Denver Post piece would be pure fantasy:

Although Maes had no previous political experience, a cultural movement was forming across the country with a focus on pressuring the Republican Party to return to its core conservative values and principles. That movement played a substantial role in elevating Maes’ campaign from a “no chance” to a “what if.”

“My base emerged while I was looking for a base,” Maes said. “I had a message and they had a message, and it was the same.”

But 2010 is different. Why? Because we can talk reasonably about Dan Maes as a serious “what if” candidate, and it’s not just a matter of good timing. Left out of the article is the amount of shoe leather and elbow grease Maes has applied in his many months on the campaign trail, and the effective political skills he has developed while remaining true to himself and his principles.

The first of the Post article’s closing three questions points out the sticking point for the upstart Colorado Republican’s gubernatorial campaign (the other two questions are loaded and vaguely open-ended, respectively):

Will Maes be able to secure enough financial backing to take his campaign beyond the grassroots?

That depends on how much the “grassroots” — the Tea Party types and their kindred who specifically get involved at the precinct caucus and assembly level — believes the campaign funds will follow their support. If Dan Maes earns top line at the state assembly in May (by winning more than 50 percent of the votes from delegates), then watch out.

Hardly a Maes cheerleader, fellow RMA blogger Don Johnson sees that presumed GOP frontrunner Scott McInnis is in trouble. The wider the perception of McInnis’ vulnerability against new Democratic challenger John Hickenlooper grows, you can expect the steam behind the insurgent Maes campaign to pick up.

Then what happens? One way or another, Colorado conservatives need to focus on regaining majorities and increasing strength in the state legislature. Because whoever occupies the state’s highest office, we need representatives and senators who will move a fiscally responsible limited government agenda.

The Post piece on Maes closes with an implied question:

His main challenge will not just be convincing voters he is the only real conservative in the contest. He also must explain why that distinct notion makes him qualified to be Colorado’s next governor.

But if you have followed the campaign in the slightest, you will have heard Dan Maes make the case for his candidacy not simply on his ideological bona fides but on his track record and executive experience in private business.

Is it enough? To say Dan Maes’ chances are improbable may be generous. But the fact we’re even having the conversation at this point says a lot not only about the man’s character and confidence but also about a remarkable year. For the sake of our state’s future, it kind of makes you want to pay attention to campaign 2010, n’est-ce pas?


  1. says

    My sense is that Republicans expect McInnis to win the nomination.

    But no one has any way of telling how well Maes will do if he sticks around until the bitter end.

    Note that Maes jabs McInnis gently over who is the “real conservative” and over who might do better against Hick, but he doesn’t attack McInnis at establishment GOP meetings (he might at smaller meetings that I haven’t attended). He doesn’t really question whether McInnis is qualified to be governor or challenge his proposals. And Maes has not come up with any creative or out-of-the-box solutions to the state’s budget and economic problems. He tries to sound very mainstream, I think.

    So far, this isn’t a bitter campaign in public, although I know establishment Republicans have demanded that Maes drop out.

    And Maes’ supporters are dismayed because he hasn’t attracted the support of many establishment Republicans. So far, the activists still aren’t putting their money where their hearts supposedly are. Maes hasn’t reported on the results of his moneybomb fundraising effort on Feb. 14, which suggests it wasn’t that successful.

    I think that Maes’ biggest problem is that voters are pretty sophisticated. They’ve seen businessmen fail as candidates and as governors (Corzine, NJ), and they know that a businessman can’t just become governor and start ordering changes. The General Assembly is more powerful than the governor, and the state Supreme Court is stacked with partisan Democrats.

    So both GOP candidates have credibility problems, but so does Hick, which, as you write, makes this an interesting election year.

  2. james says

    I also think many voters are becoming much more “sophisticated.” However, that sophistication is not based on seeing businessmen fail as candidates and governor. Voters are sophisticated enough to see that career politicians also fail as candidates and governor.

    As I understand it, the Colorado Republican establishment, in their sophisticated wisdom, supported McCain. McCain failed as a candidate. Perhaps, voters are becoming sophisticated enough to not trust the judgment of the Colorado Republican establishment.

    That does not mean McInnis will not get the nomination. Also, that does not mean Maes, if he wins the nomination, will not pick up substantial financial support. It means voters may be more inclined to consider Maes. Hence, this conversation.

    Perhaps, voter sophistication has reached a point where they recognize that more money to Maes will not overcome establishment support for McInnis prior to caucus and state convention. Perhaps, they are after votes that cannot be bought.

    Heck, I don’t know. But, if Maes gets the nomination, and does not draw establishment financial support, the alternative is Hick. I do not think the establishment wants Hick selecting judges after the four get kicked off the bench. Am I wrong?

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