Since Denver mayor John Hickenlooper declared his candidacy for governor, Scott McInnis and his braintrust have been busy insisting that SM's approach to the race won't change -- a point McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy reiterates. "No matter who the Democrats are running, Scott's focus is still the same," he says, adding, "It's not really about John Hickenlooper's future, or Scott McInnis's future. It's about Colorado's future."
Still, Duffy highlights a distinction between the candidates beyond specific issues: McInnis lives in Grand Junction, while Hickenlooper calls Denver home -- like so many of his colleagues.
"Almost every major Democrat office holder in Colorado is from Denver," Duffy says. "They could all get together within several blocks of each other. So we do think there is a different outlook and a different approach. And at some point, there has to be some diversity."
Duffy's use of the word "diversity" in this context may raise hackles in certain quarters, especially considering that both of the candidates in question are Caucasian males. But the issue isn't merely academic. A percentage of people from more rural parts of the state do indeed tend to look askance at candidates from Denver, thinking that they don't understand the problems of folks in less metropolitan areas. This is among the key challenges Hickenlooper will have to face when trying to broaden his constituency beyond the Mile High City's limits -- and Duffy's comments indicate that McInnis may try to draw a contrast between his background and Hick's.
As for McInnis, he's got more than his share of quirks -- many of which are capable of creating distractions. Take his sudden decision to shave his mustache, which he's worn for decades, and the whispers that he's darkened his hair color. Most candidates would consult with their team before making such a move, but Duffy swears that in the case of the lip decoration, the conversation took place after the fact.
"He called me Friday night as I was on my way home," Duffy recalls, "and he told me, 'I lost a bet to Dax'" -- his son. "And I said, 'Oh?' And he said he'd bet Dax that the Broncos would make the playoffs when they were 6-0 -- and we all know what happened. And because of that, he said, 'I had to shave my mustache. Is that okay?' And I said, 'I don't care. Best to you.'
"There were no strategy meetings about it, no focus groups, no morphing of photos," Duffy continues. "That's just the way he is. What you see is who he is."
Does the same go for his hair? Duffy dodges that one, declaring, "The instrument has not been made to measure my indifference to Scott's hair color." Then, when he's asked if coloring his locks contradicts the assertion that "what you see is who he is," the gray-haired Duffy shoots for humor, saying, "I don't know: Maybe he doesn't want to look old and decrepit, like his press secretary."
Predictably, Duffy would rather talk about McInnis's campaign themes. "Scott's been talking about job creation -- changing the economic policies of the state, the whole business climate. He's very job focused."
So, too, is Hickenlooper -- and he was a businessman before getting into politics. Does that make the contrast between the candidates less distinct?
"I don't think so," Duffy maintains. "Both of these candidates have a record of how they've done in business. For example, Scott and his family are investors -- they've had family investment pools and invested in small businesses. But they also have a public record about the ways in which they view the role of government, the way they view taxes and spending. That's all part of the debate these two guys are going to have."
He means "debate" literally, by the way. Whereas McInnis shrugged off calls to debate Josh Penry, his opponent turned supporter, reportedly because of the fear that it would weaken the eventual Republican standard-bearer, he can't wait to get into the ring with Hickenlooper. "We don't want to sound cocky or arrogant," Duffy says, "but Scott's ready to mix it up. He's ready to go."
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In the meantime, he continues to bring his message to the people -- although not necessarily in the most effective way. This morning, McInnis was in Colorado Springs, "rolling out the initial look at what he's calling his 'strategic plan for Colorado' -- an analysis of what he sees as the economic challenges, as well as the opportunities, facing the state," Duffy says.
When asked for a copy of the plan, however, Duffy admits that he didn't have one to pass along. "Scott was doing it on his own," he notes. "He was out there with a white board and some paper, walking the guys" -- about a hundred of them -- "through it." Duffy hopes to have something tangible for people who didn't attend the presentation later this afternoon.
At least McInnis doesn't have another mustache he can shave off before then. But he could add some highlights to his hair...