As the dust settles on this week’s election, political observers are combing through the results to reach some broader conclusions about the state of politics in Colorado, and what it means for the 2014 vote.
Ryan Warner talks with CPR’s Megan Verlee about what she's been hearing from consultants and pollsters.
A tax increase that never quite found its base:
Few in the political establishment thought Amendment 66, the nearly billion dollar education tax measure, would pass, but many were surprised by how badly it lost: 65% to 35% in preliminary returns. That suggests even traditionally Democratic voters broke against a measure supported by lawmakers from their party.
"Hispanic voters are very tax sensitive, as are blue collar Democrats, the Adams County type of folks like that. Blue collar Democrats are very, very tax sensitive. And so when there’s not a question of party loyalty, they’ll vote no."
- Katy Atkinson, GOP communications consultant.
Atkinson blames the failure of A66's organizers to attract high-profile Republican support for some of the measure's crushing defeat. Atkinson says there are enough tax-averse Democrats to doom a measure that lacks bipartisan backing.
One campaign where money didn't seem to matter:
The defeat of Amendment 66 looks a lot like deja vu. Two years ago, Proposition 103, which would have instituted a smaller tax increase, failed by a virtually identical margin. The main difference is that Prop 103 had only a fraction of the financial and instututional support enjoyed by A66.
"Voters are only so malleable. Campaigns matter, but they only matter at the margins. A good campaign can take a 48% proposition and get it to 51%, but it can’t take a non-starter and make it into a starter."
- Eric Sondermann, founder of SE2 consulting
Or maybe all that money had a downside:
Supporters of Amendment 66 raised more than $10 million to push for their measure, with much of it coming from education unions, helped out by a last-minute cash infusion from outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, each of which contributed a million dollars.
"I think the early labor money just sent a signal to the public that this is mostly about self-interest and not reform. And the late money from particularly Mr. Bloomberg sort of said that this is sort of a partisan, out-of-state interest and not local, even though this was locally conceived and sponsored."
- Floyd Ciruli, Denver-based pollster.
Ciruli says that list of donors was sure to help inflame conservative opposition to the tax increase.
Yet another defeat leaves Democrats licking their wounds:
Democrats had a great legislative session, pushing through priority bills on everything from gun control to renewable energy to elections. But ever since the General Assembly adjourned in May, it's been a different story: the recall of two Democratic Senators, a headline-grabbing secession movement in rural counties, and flagging poll numbers for the party's figurehead, Governor Hickenlooper. Have Democrats misread the electorate?
"By going for the whole enchilada [during the legislative session] it told me that they really thought that they were to a degree bulletproof, that this was now a reliably blue state. And I think what we’ve seen over the last couple of months is that no, this is a purple state indeed."
- Eric Sondermann
Sondermann says both parties in Colorado should beware of believing they have a mandate.
So where does that leave us in 2014?
While there weren't any partisan races on the ballot, analysts generally say this election was a win for Republicans. But November 2014 is a political lifetime away, and the party faces potentially grueling primaries in its quest to win back the governor's office and a US Senate seat.
"All the signs are good for Republicans right now. But Republicans are still capable of screwing it up, if they can’t come up with good candidates."