Across the country, major party candidates who've been associated with the so-called establishment have had a far tougher time than anticipated.
No wonder Republican Scott McInnis asked Margo Knutson, a member of a grassroots Douglas County 9.12 Project group, to place his name in nomination for governor at the party's state assembly this past weekend.
However, Lu Busse, chair of the 9.12 Project Colorado Coalition, wants everyone to know that McInnis hasn't been endorsed by the outfit as a whole, adding that the vast majority of the grassroots activists she's surveyed prefer his opponent, Dan Maes.
Earlier this week, Busse put out a press release -- see it below -- emphasizing that the 9.12 Project isn't endorsing any candidate this season. "We decided it's too divisive," she says. "We feel that if you inform and educate voters, they'll come to the right decision on their own."
Busse believes coverage of the assembly -- she makes special note of Denver Post reports -- didn't make this position clear. Moreover, she thinks Knutson's remarks may have left a false impression among attendees and news consumers alike that McInnis did have the backing of the state's 9.12 organizations.
This was especially problematic, in her view, because of what she calls McInnis's "history" regarding grassroots organizations. That's a reference to his December appearance on Fox News, during which host Neil Cavuto called McInnis the "Tea Party candidate," as well as a Wall Street Journal report that offered similar hints.
"He claimed to have had nothing to do with that," Busse concedes, "but we're still a little touchy about it."
Does Busse think McInnis chose Knutson to nominate him to fool people into thinking he had the 9.12 Project endorsement? She doesn't go that far. But she says, "we conducted an internal poll just before the caucus. Nine of the 9.12 Project groups and two Tea Party groups participated, and they showed that Mr. Maes had 87 percent support from the 532 people who took part in the survey. When it's that overwhelming, we don't want to give the impression that there are a lot of 9.12ers who are supporting Mr. McInnis."
Sean Duffy, spokesman for the McInnis campaign, declines to comment on the results of this survey -- and he says his guy actually won the caucus straw poll to which Busse refers in her press release by an approximate 60-40 percent margin. Regarding Busse's other assertions, he sees them as an attempt to "clarify" the situation, which is fine by him, since he says McInnis was in no way trying to suggest he had an endorsement he hasn't won.
"That's not even remotely within the universe of possibility," he says. "Margo Knutson, who put Scott's name into nomination, talked about how she had been a supporter or our opponent [Maes], and how she'd looked at both their records and plans for the future of Colorado and electability. And after vetting the candidates, which is a very important part of what 9.12 Project and Tea Party members do, she made the determination that Scott was the right man for the job.
"We were happy to have her support, and that of her husband, down in Douglas County. But anybody who heard her knows she didn't imply or infer in any way, shape or form a larger endorsement."
At the same time, he says McInnis will fight for the support of other activists like Knutson.
"Our job is the primary is to go get every vote we can get," Duffy emphasizes. "And Scott has spent a lot of time, and will spend a lot more time, with grassroots groups. As he said on Saturday, and has said a million times before, we're going to get every vote we can. And when he sits with folks, he does a good job of explaining how electable he is and what he's going to do and how he's going to govern. He picks up a lot of support when he does that."
Likewise, Duffy shrugs off any potential negative publicity in the wake of word that a planned fundraiser had been postponed. The reason? Two pharmaceutical-industry lobbyists were sponsoring the shindig, but state law precludes them from donating to a campaign until after the governor has dealt with all the bills passed during the legislative session.
When asked if he's worried that the likely Democratic nominee for governor, John Hickenlooper, will use the pharmaceutical lobbyists' connection to argue that McInnis is in the pocket of the health-care industry, Duffy declines to comment. Instead, he focuses on McInnis's pro-business mindset, which he contrasts with the alleged job-killing approach of Hickenlooper and Colorado Governor Bill Ritter.
For her part, Busse says she's very happy that there will be a contested Republican primary -- one that'll feature Maes's name above McInnis's. "It's hard to have a choice if there's only one name on the ballot," she says.
Here's the aforementioned press release:
The 9-12 Project Colorado Coalition Does Not Endorse Candidates
Members' Nominations or Seconds of Candidates Do Not Speak for Group
Denver, Colorado -- May 25, 2010 -- "9-12 Project members who nominated or seconded candidates at the Republican District and State Assemblies do not speak for The 9-12 Project group to which they belong, or for any of the other groups in our coalition," said Lu Busse, Chair of The 9.12 Project Colorado Coalition. The 9.12 Project Colorado Coalition is a volunteer-based, non-partisan collection of grassroots groups focused on building and uniting our communities around 9 American Principles and 12 universal values.
Busse further explained, "To date, The 9.12 Project Colorado Coalition has not endorsed any candidate for any race. Since a 9-12 Project member from Douglas County nominated Scott McInnis for Governor at State Assembly, we have received numerous inquiries and need to set the record straight that these nominations and seconds should not be misread or promoted as an endorsement by our coalition or its member groups. We focus on educating and informing constituents and then letting them make up their own minds, not on collectively supporting candidates for office."
"None of the groups in our coalition have endorsed Scott McInnis or Dan Maes. One, Vail Valley 9-12, expressed support of Maes for an online fund raising activity in February. The fact that a member of a 9-12 Project group personally endorsed a candidate at an assembly should not be misinterpreted to suggest that such an endorsement is representative of The 9.12 Project Colorado Coalition or its membership as a whole."
"Thousands of voters from The 9-12 Project, Tea Party, and conservative grassroots groups researched and met with candidates who accepted invitations to various events across the state. There were at least four (4) events sponsored by the grassroots where both Maes and McInnis spoke before caucus night. After their own "vetting" of the two, a majority of the estimated 11,000-12,000 grassroots voters in the caucus preference poll as well as 49.35% of the delegates at the GOP State Assembly did not choose Scott McInnis," Busse concluded.
About The 9-12 Project Colorado Coalition
The 9-12 Project Colorado Coalition, 25 groups with a combined membership of over 10,000 voters, is part of nationwide movement. The 9-12 Project is a volunteer based non-partisan movement focusing on building and uniting our communities back to the place we were on 9/12/2001. The day after America was attacked we were not obsessed with political parties, the color of your skin, or what religion you practiced. We were united as Americans, standing together to protect the greatest nation ever created. Our goal is to bring us back to that same feeling of togetherness again. Our Mission is to inspire individuals and groups to connect with their communities through education, service and dedication to the 9 Principles and 12 Values to which we have committed.
The 9.12 Project Colorado Coalition
Member Groups: The912Project.us Online Network -- Colorado -- As A Mom -- Colorado Moms -- Bayfield -- Broomfield -- Cortez Conservatives -- Denver Front Range -- Denver, Bailey, Littleton, Thornton -- Denver Metro South -- Durango -- Fort Collins -- Four Corners Liberty Restoration -- Genesee -- Greeley -- Kit Carson County -- Lamar Colorado Voice Longmont -- Loveland Montrose/Ouray/Delta -- Pikes Peak Patriots -- South Denver -- Vail Valley -- Western Slope Conservative Alliance -- Windsor