OK, now that self-declared Christian conservative constitutionalist Darryl Glenn is officially the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate, it seems we can officially retire the Cory Gardner playbook on how Republicans win in Colorado.
I thought at the time, when Gardner became the first Republican top-of-the-ticket winner in Colorado in a decade, that it was a one-off. But, I’ll confess, I didn’t know just how off it would be.
As a candidate, Glenn is the ultimate anti-Gardner. He’s got the smile — the one that Gardner used so effectively to put a moderate face on a hard-right voting record — but that’s where it ends. Glenn doesn’t dance around the abortion issue. He’s a no-exceptions guy. He’s not coy about Supreme Court litmus tests. He says he’ll work to see that Ted Cruz (honest to God) gets the job. He doesn’t go for the I’m-not-a-scientist dodge on climate change. He plainly says he doesn’t believe human activity is responsible.
He’s not just out there. They ought to play “Rocket Man” at his campaign events.
In the minutes after the five-man race to take on Michael Bennet was called for Glenn, the argument on my Twitter feed was whether he’d be the most conservative Senate nominee in Colorado history, or just in recent memory.
In swing-state Colorado, you win from the middle. That’s the way it is in most states, but in Colorado, it’s kind of an obsession. We like to talk about the Colorado way, whatever that is. What I mean is, when The Denver Post endorsed Gardner over Mark Udall, it predicted, somewhat embarrassingly, that we should select Gardner because he would be a leader in ending Washington dysfunction.
Glenn, meanwhile, is actually for Washington dysfunction. Seriously. Maybe you’ve seen his quote that he’s tired of hearing that Republicans should work across the aisle. That was bad enough. But then I saw him in action in a post-election interview with 9News’ Brandon Rittiman.
Rittiman asked Glenn, the little-known El Paso County commissioner, what people should know about him. Sure, it wasn’t exactly the toughest question, but somehow the answer still went sideways.
After raising hardly any money at all for his primary run, Glenn said he was now looking for small donors who could trust him to do the right thing. So far, so good. But then: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, independent (and here he pauses, shakes his head and then proceeds), you know the one thing that matters is the fact that I’m going to represent you.”
You might have noticed that he didn’t say he would represent you if you were a Democrat. He tried. He did pause. It seemed as if he considered saying the word, but couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. Of course, he’s not even so sure about Republicans. He has already vowed he wouldn’t vote to re-elect Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader, just in case anyone thought Washington-establishment Republicans were going to send any money Glenn’s way (for the record, they’re not).
Yeah, he’s that kind of Republican — the kind supported by Ted Cruz, who campaigned for him, by Sarah Palin, by the remnants of the Tea Party, by 37 percent of Colorado Republicans choosing among a field of also-rans, the kind who says he’d be happy to join Donald Trump on stage this week when Trump comes to town.
It was a strange race from the beginning. It is said, in virtually every reference, that Bennet is the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent in this Senate cycle. That would have been meaningful if the GOP could have found a top-tier candidate to oppose him. Instead, the establishment was forced to get behind Jon Keyser. I don’t have to detail the disaster of his campaign except to say that his Great Dane, Duke, will be remembered long after Keyser is forgotten.
None of the Republicans ever got any traction, even within the Republican electorate, until the end when the far right decided to adopt Glenn, who was ready-made for them. And now Democrats are beside themselves. They don’t know which Glenn quote to use first in which attack ad.
I’ve said a few times that John Hickenlooper was the luckiest man since Ringo, but I’m thinking of pushing Bennet up to the front of the line. In his first election, he got to run against Ken Buck, whom he successfully painted, with not a little help from Buck himself, as a right-wing extremist. But you don’t need to do any embellishment with Glenn. As he says, he’s unapologetic. As The Washington Post said, in a story after his primary win, he’s also the Republican Party’s latest mistake in a national Senate campaign that can’t afford any mistakes.
Of course Glenn needed a few minor miracles just to win the Republican nomination. No one thought he could do it. He had no name ID. He had no money. But he did win, and you can’t blame him if he thinks he can win in the general election, even if no one else does. After all, maybe there’s a trend there. Or maybe the more important trend ended with the last page of the Cory Gardner playbook.
Mike Littwin writes for The Colorado Independent (www.coloradoindependent.com).