As Colorado goes, so goes the nation?
The Colorado turnaround in 2008 was nothing short of phenomenal: a once rock-solid Republican state went Democratic in a big way. And members of both parties are still scratching their heads over what happened. Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer have dug into the question for their book “The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care,” due out April 20 from Fulcrum Publishing. Schrager, who covers politics for, KUSA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Denver, and Witwer, a former Republican member of the Colorado House, show how the state flipped and how the Democrats are working to take the model nationwide.
By Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer
In 2004, Republicans controlled Colorado government at every level. Four years later, the opposite was true.
While national trends played a part, they could not explain the stunning reversal in this once-solid GOP stronghold. Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard wrote, "there's something unique going on in Colorado that, if copied in other states, has the potential to produce sweeping Democratic gains nationwide," he wrote. He dubbed that "something" the "Colorado Model."
While pundits focus on who controls Congress in 2011, progressives are quietly aiming higher. Using the Colorado Model, they are targeting individual state legislative races not only to affect state-level policy, but to capture an even bigger prize: control over Congressional redistricting plans, which will determine the composition of Congress for the next decade.
Yet the Colorado Model is even bigger than redistricting. For progressives, it’s about building a coordinated, sustainable infrastructure that will carry Democrats for years to come, in good years and bad.
Under the auspices of the George Soros-funded Democracy Alliance, a Washington, D.C-based group called the “Committee on States” has committed $110 million to export the Colorado Model to places like Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming – all in time for the 2010 election cycle.
The origins of the Colorado Model can be traced to four multi-millionaires and a team of scrappy, savvy political consultants who in 2004 cleverly used changes in campaign finance law to build a better political mousetrap. The four multi-millionaires are: Rutt Bridges, whose rags-to-riches path led him from Georgia to Colorado where he sold his software company for what he said was “more money than I could spend in my life”; Tim Gill, the openly gay founder of Quark Xpress whose visit to a legislative hearing room led him to conclude that “somebody’s gotta go”; Jared Polis, the Princeton-educated dot-com wunderkind who brought a businesslike mentality to elections; and Pat Stryker, a minivan-driving billionaire heiress.
This “Gang of Four” and their advisors understood that campaign finance reform made the state Democratic Party obsolete, and in its place they built a thriving network of nonprofit organizations that worked in perfect harmony to upend Colorado’s political establishment.
They forged an unprecedented alliance that focused progressive organizations in one common direction: winning state legislative races. In 2004, they bucked national trends and delivered both houses of the state legislature to Democrats. In 2006, they upped the ante by funding a network of dozens of nonprofits that would become the foundation of a long-term political infrastructure designed to ensure that conservatives could never again gain the upper hand in Colorado.
Leaders in both parties are keenly aware of what hangs in the balance as the Colorado Model is refined and replicated in other states. For Democrats, it’s about achieving the kind of lasting change the Obama campaign promised.
And for Republicans, it may be a matter of survival.
Steven E. Levingston
March 12, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories: Guest Blogger | Tags: colorado election as example of the future; democratic takeover of colorado; republican concerns over colorado's democratic sweep
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