Scott McInnis's alleged plagiarism related to his "Musings on Water," a series of articles for which the Hasan Family Foundation paid him $300,000 he's now pledged to refund, has turned onetime political friends into reluctant enemies.
Take Senate assistant minority leader Greg Brophy, who encourages McInnis and/or Dan Maes to drop out of the governor's race following the August Republican primary. If they don't, he believes the results will be bad for them, and for Colorado.
"This is just an observation of mine," Brophy notes, "but I don't think either of the guys who are in the race can win. That's up to the people of Colorado, ultimately. They'll have their say. But if, after the primaries, the polls are upside-down from the generic, I think it would be best for one of those guys to step down and let the executive committee pick someone who knows the issues, who can appeal to the Tea Party and the independent voters, and who can carry the message for Colorado. Because I've got to tell you, we can't stand four more years of these failed Ritter policies that likely won't change under Hickenlooper."
The phrase "upside-down from the generic" is key. In many races in Colorado and across the country, a generic Republican candidate beats a named or unnamed Democratic competitor. If that's not the case for McInnis or Maes -- meaning that they fare worse than pretty much anyone else with an "R" after their name on the ballot -- Brophy thinks they should step aside.
Why? According to Brophy, "Both of them have these scandalous issues" -- a reference to McInnis's plagiarism problem and a $17,500 fine paid by Maes in relation to campaign-reporting irregularities. Brophy believes such matters "detract from the message the voters want to hear about: the economy and jobs and spending."
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Brophy emphasizes that he hasn't had direct conversations with either the McInnis or Maes camps. In the beginning, moreover, "I was just going to bite my tongue and not say anything. But -- I know this is going to sound bad -- i think there's a higher standard for Republican candidates, and Republicans in general. I don't think the party that strongly suggested that Ward Churchill should be fired for plagiarism should stand by and say nothing when their flagship candidate looks like he's done the exact same thing."
His unusual drop-out plan indicates how few options Republicans have at this juncture. He concedes that "you can't change the ballots right now" -- they're going into the mail this week -- "and although you could have a placeholder designee in theory" -- meaning that either McInnis or Maes could agree to let votes for them count toward someone else -- "it's not going to happen. So we shouldn't waste our time thinking about it."
Even so, Brophy concedes that his alternative approach is a Hail Mary, too, particularly in the case of Maes.
"If Maes were to pull a rabbit out of his hat -- and I don't think there's any chance he can win the primary -- he would think that he could win the election," Brophy feels. "Over the course of a year and a half, he hasn't learned a darned thing about how state government works, and he hasn't raised any money. But he pulled off a surprise victory at the assembly, and if he were to pull off a surprise victory at the primary, too, I'm positive he would continue chugging right along and lose handily to a guy who has four or five million of his own money. And if the polls indicated that he needed it, he could have four or five million in outside money, too."
Just as bad, from his perspective, "if Democrat 527s realize that they don't need to spend money to help Hickenlooper win over a weakened and underfunded Maes candidacy, that money would go into state legislative races, and we might lose an incredible opportunity to take back the state Senate and the House."
In contrast, Brophy considers McInnis to be more susceptible to reason.
"If McInnis wins, and if the message was sent to him very clearly -- without coordination, of course -- from organizations like the Republican Governors Association that there will be no money coming in because you can't win, he'd be smart enough to know that he'd have to step out and give another Republican a chance. That's why Scott McInnis has to win the primary."
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But what about another possibility -- that after winning the primary, McInnis might feel he could best Hickenlooper despite terrible poll numbers, if only because it's such an awful year for Democrats? Staying in the race would carry a significant risk, however. If McInnis were to continue his campaign and lose after ignoring pleas to pass the baton, Brophy says, "I suspect that would be the last time he runs for office."
In the meantime, Brophy praises bosses at the Colorado Republican Party "for doing exactly what they should be doing at this point, which is allowing the process to work its way out. I think they're doing everything they should be doing."
Should McInnis or Maes decide to fight until the bitter end, though, he still foresees doom.
"I'd like to be wrong about this," he admits. "I really would. I'd like to think that this could be handled and the candidate could go on and win, and we could move the State of Colorado forward. I would certainly hope that would be the case. I just don't think it is."