Dan Caplis rejects Scott McInnis's candidacy -- and not because he wants the governor gig

Anyone who thought Scott McInnis's plagiarism problems might not kill his campaign prior to yesterday's Caplis & Silverman show on KHOW likely reconsidered afterward.

That's because Republican stalwart Dan Caplis joined the Denver Post is calling for McInnis to give up the ghost and let another Republican with a better chance to win take his place. Caplis explains why below -- and almost (but doesn't quite) take his own name out of the mix for the guv race.

Caplis has been a McInnis supporter for months, despite an on-air confrontation with the candidate last summer during which the mildest questions about McInnis's broken promise to donate unused 2004 campaign funds to breast-cancer research caused him to sputter and fume. Still, he concedes that McInnis wasn't his first choice.

As Caplis notes, "My preference was Josh Penry," now Jane Norton's campaign manager. "I only supported Scott because Josh got out of the race. Although I think Scott would be 1,000 times better than [unopposed Democratic guv candidate] John Hickenlooper, Josh was always going to be the stronger candidate."

He feels even more strongly about this view now given "the reporting on this $300,000-for-a-few-water-law-stories issue. I think that's created a situation where Scott probably can't win, and he's likely to drag down the rest of the ticket."

Nonetheless, Caplis has grave doubts about Dan Maes, the one Republican candidate who'd remain in the race were McInnis to withdraw.

"Dan Maes doesn't represent our best chance to beat John Hickenlooper," he says. "And that's no knock on Dan Maes. But we have to be realistic about the appeal of John Hickenlooper. I think it's a superficial appeal. I think he's a liberal trying to wear centrist clothing. But he's an appealing guy and an appealing candidate."

Hence, "conservatives need our A-team to beat John Hickenlooper. Now, Dan's a good guy. Every time I've heard him speak, he's been solid. But I don't think Dan yet has the history in this state, the level of connection with the people of this state, that it's going to take to beat John Hickenlooper."

This opinion isn't Caplis's alone. Indeed, plenty of Republican heavyweights are now considering the possibility of drafting a new candidate to take McInnis's place in advance of the August Republican primary.

Such backroom politicking has already happened during this campaign: Last November, shortly after former congressman Tom Tancredo said he intended to run for governor, the McInnis camp convened a summit of powerful Colorado conservatives to conceive a unity platform that kept Tancredo on the sidelines and placated Penry, who'd dropped out earlier that month.

Were something like this to happen again, the Republicans might alienate liberty movement stalwarts like Lu Busse, who yesterday in this space reiterated the support of many Tea Party and 9.12 Project activists for Maes despite a recent fine for campaign accounting irregularities.

Could the Republicans lose the support of Tea Parties and the like by cold-shouldering Maes and anointing someone else? "It is a real risk," Caplis concedes. "But you have to balance these different risks -- and the risk of continuing with Scott McInnis as a candidate is too great and outweighs the other risk.

"When it comes down to Dan Maes, you could say, 'Let's forge ahead with him, because he's worked hard and gone through the process and won top line at the state assembly. If he can win this primary, he should be our candidate.' But how many people honestly believe he represents the best chance to beat John Hickenlooper? And in the end, shouldn't that be what matters most? Shouldn't this be bigger than Scott McInnis or Dan Maes or any of us?"

The inclusiveness of this last pronoun isn't accidental. Caplis toyed with running for statewide office a few months back, and some political observers believe he's positioning himself to be a Republican savior should McInnis walk away. So why not just simply state he won't be a candidate for governor?

"You're right, I should do that," Caplis acknowledges. "And I will do that, just so nobody misunderstands what this is about. The only reason I haven't done it so far is, what if at the end of the day, none of the qualified people are willing to do it?

"I don't want it," he continues. "I want to be raising kids right now, not campaign contributions. But I also think there's a responsibility to serve when it's your turn. I don't think it's my turn right now. I think I'm meant to do other things right now. But that's why I didn't want to rule it out completely. So, just to be consistent, I'm not going to completely rule myself out right now. But I'll tell you this: It's not what I want, and I'd much rather support somebody else for it."

Somebody other than McInnis, that is.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts