Sean Duffy, spokesman for Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, wants to make sure his guy gets a good share of the credit for Bill Ritter's impending announcement that he's going to pull out of the governor's race. As he puts it, "We beat the varsity team a little earlier than we thought we would."
Does that mean whoever becomes the Democratic standard-bearer will be part of the JV squad?
"They've got to go to plan B, or the b-team," Duffy replies. "And we'll be prepared to run as hard against them as we would have run against Governor Ritter -- and we expect to be very successful."
Like the rest of us, Duffy has no firm idea why Ritter made the decision to drop out -- but he's got some ideas.
"First of all, his numbers have not been robust, that's for sure," he says. "There have obviously been policies Scott's been talking about that are not only unpopular but wrongheaded. So I think there were some burdens the governor clearly had. And secondly, you don't give up a governors seat if you don't have strong opposition, and it's been recognized across the media this morning, including national media, that Scott has put forth a very strong candidacy. That's obviously demonstrated by a substantial lead over the governor in the Rasmussen poll, and very strong fundraising. He has a message that people have been responding to very positively."
In contrast, Duffy notes "the governor's weakness" going into the election. So is there a part of him that wishes Ritter had stuck around, rather than giving the Democrats the chance to field a candidate with less baggage?
"Leaving aside Governor Ritter for a second, there's nobody in American politics tougher to beat than an incumbent governor," Duffy maintains. "They have the machines, they've built a political organization: They're very difficult to unseat. But that doesn't mean everything is over. This is going to be a very difficult race."
One reason why, in Duffy's opinion, involves the importance the national Democratic party places on holding onto the governor's office here. He sees merit in the theory that Ritter's move may be connected to similar decisions not to run for reelection reportedly reached by Connecticut's Christopher Dodd and North Dakota's Byron Dorgan.
"Colorado is viewed as the beachhead for the Democratic sweep of the Mountain West," Duffy says. "That celebrated night at Invesco Field [in 2008, when Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president] sure looks a lot different this morning, doesn't it? And I don't think they're going to give back turf they've taken without a big fight -- and one wouldn't expect them to.
"The country is reacting very negatively to what's going on in Washington, so you have three guys who looked like a lock for reelection not very long ago, and they're all stepping aside for whatever reason. And obviously, the White House has demonstrated that it doesn't suffer problems. The evidence is there."
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As for the Dems' tack, "we're expecting, and have been expecting, an enormously negative race," Duffy asserts. "The Democratic Governors Association has said they're going to spend a million bucks to tear Scott down, so we expect a very, very tough deal here, and a very negative one. That's where they've got to go. What else do you do in their situation?"
Nonetheless, he insists that McInnis's message "isn't going to change much," no matter how Dems try to portray him -- and he thinks whoever the Democratic candidate winds up being will have a hefty task dealing with Ritter's legacy.
"They have a party record and policies they've got to run on," he argues. "It'll be very difficult for any Democrat to come in and basically run as a Republican -- to say, 'This Ritter guy screwed it up for four years.'"
As for Ritter, "You don't withdraw from re-election in a vacuum. If you have a weak opponent, you're not going to hang it up. Scott has run a very tough, very effective race in terms of message and money and polling numbers, and we're certainly going to continue that momentum -- whoever the b-team turns out to be."