Walker, Perry, Other GOP Hopefuls To Test Drive 2016 Slogans In Denver This Weekend

· Jun. 26, 2015, 2:01 pm
Photo: Santorum, Walker, Perry (AP Photos)(AP Photos)
When it comes to selecting party nominees for president, Colorado is hardly considered a kingmaker; caucuses here are non-binding and don't supply many delegates to the conventions.
But that isn't stopping seven Republican presidential hopefuls, headlined by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, from coming to Denver this weekend for the Western Conservative Summit.
So why is Colorado getting so much love from would-be nominees, including Democrat Bernie Sanders last week, a whole roster of Republicans this weekend, and Rand Paul next Tuesday? Well, for one thing, our electorate looks a lot like the rest of the West. That makes it a testing ground.
"Colorado’s a good place to come and try out strategies, try out talking points," said Ken Bickers, a University of Colorado Boulder political science professor. "And of course for whoever becomes the nominee, Colorado’s going to be at the eye of the storm."
As both a bellwether and swing state in general elections, Colorado’s becoming a can’t-miss stop on the early campaign circuit. Putting in the face time now could pay off in 2016. And for many Republican contenders that includes a stop at the Western Conservative Summit running today through Sunday. 
"It’s a great score, to have seven or eight campaigns represented and let our delegates hear from all of them," said John Andrews heads the Centennial Institute, which puts on the summit.
The candidates will be speaking to around 4,000 conservative attendees, Andrews said. But he added the summit will reach an even bigger audience through social media, blogs, and word of mouth.
"Our delegates do have leverage, they have a multiplier effect. And we hope they take home from the summit a positive contagion," Andrews said.

With liberals celebrating two big victories at the Supreme Court this week -- the continued survival of Obamacare and national legalization of same-sex marriage -- the court, and the president's power to appoint its members, is likely to be a top issue for the summit's speakers and delegates.

State Republican Party looking for a distraction

The potential to boost grass-roots enthusiasm comes at a difficult time for Colorado’s conservative establishment. The state's Republican Party has been rocked by internal controversy. Party chairman Steve House accused Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and others of trying to force him to resign. Coffman told The Denver Post she's lost faith in House, whom she once supported -- but she denies doing anything improper.
The summit will give Republican players in the state a chance to start trying to move beyond the scandal, Bickers said.
"The story within the story is really the state party trying to get its house in order," he said.

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