One Less Name for the List

Trial balloons are funny things. Sometimes all of the hot air in the world won’t get them off the ground.

Republican Dan Caplis has floated his name as a possible candidate for the U.S. senate by reportedly mentioning his interest on his radio show, “Caplis and Silverman” (KHOW-630). To some degree, his “trial balloon” has worked; his name has been mentioned as a potential candidate in news articles both local and national whenever the 2008 senate race is discussed.

But if you’ve wondered why Caplis is continually mentioned as a potential candidate, you’re not alone. He probably shouldn’t be.With the exit of former Rep. Scott McInnis from the race last month, Republicans are still looking for their candidate for the top line race in 2008. Former Rep. Bob Schaffer is rumored to be a likely candidate, and both Attorney General John Suthers and former CD-5 challenger Bentley Rayburn have also expressed interest. Caplis is frequently mentioned as a “potential candidate” as well, but does he really belong in the discussion just because he brought it up himself?

To hear Republicans talk about Caplis, the answer is pretty clear.

No.

“I don’t know any Republicans who are taking that seriously,” says Lynne Cottrell, a former Arapahoe County GOP chair and longtime Republican activist who knows Caplis personally. “I don’t know anyone who is supporting him. Dan’s a good guy, but I don’t know where [the media] is getting this idea that he is a potential candidate.”

Attorney John Zakhem, a well-known GOP insider, is equally blunt when asked if he knows of any Republicans who are taking Caplis seriously as a candidate.  “Nobody [is talking about him],” he says. “He’s not on the radar for me or any other Republicans that I know of.”

Adds another Republican insider who wished to remain nameless speaking about the U.S. senate race: “Caplis? No. There isn’t anybody who is thinking about Dan Caplis as a potential candidate.”

Caplis did not respond to repeated attempts for comment, so it’s hard to say whether he is seriously thinking about running for the U.S. senate or if floating his name is just a publicity stunt (“There are a lot of skeptics out there who say he’s just trying to promote his radio show,” says Zakhem). But if Caplis is serious about running for senate, he’ll have a lot of convincing to do.

“He just hasn’t been around,” says Cottrell. “People don’t know him. He hasn’t has any experience. He did come to our “Repaint the State Red” dinner [in March], which was the first time I had ever seen him at a party event.”

Cottrell isn’t the only person who hasn’t seen Caplis involved in Republican politics ever before. “I’ve never seen him involved in any party organizational function at any level whatsoever,” says Zakhem. “He has to my knowledge no ties to grassroots efforts, and I don’t think he has ever contributed to anything financially.

“I don’t know that he’s built up any credibility with the party faithful.”

A quick check of donor records at PoliticalMoneyLine.com indicates that Caplis indeed hasn’t made a single donation to any candidate in the 2004, 2006 or 2008 election cycles. The only contributions that appear from Caplis in recent years were when he and his wife, Aimee, gave a total of $2,000 to Democrat Bill Ritter’s gubernatorial campaign in September 2005. Needless to say, that won’t play well with the GOP faithful if he becomes an official senate candidate.

That all may be a moot point anyway, because there’s little reason to think that Caplis is really taking a serious look at running.

“Usually you’d start to hear that they have a committee put together, or there is a group supporting him and they’re out there, but I haven’t seen any sign of it,” says Cottrell.

But what if Caplis was serious and was poised to make an announcement that he would run for the U.S. senate? What then?

“I think there would be very little reaction whatsoever,” says Zakhem, who is not actively supporting any potential senate candidate. “Until he starts working on delegates and Republican primary voters, it’s irrelevant what he says.

“I’ve heard his radio show, and I’ve heard he’s a good lawyer. But I don’t know that being intelligent and being a good lawyer makes you qualified to run for the U.S. senate.”

If Caplis was really a serious candidate for the U.S. senate, he wouldn’t be the first Republican in recent years to make the big leap from the private sector straight into running for the biggest political seat available in Colorado. Beer magnate Pete Coors jumped into the 2004 senate race and handily dispatched Schaffer in a Republican primary before eventually losing to Ken Salazar in the general election.

“I supported Pete Coors in 2004,” says Zakhem. “Dan Caplis is no Pete Coors.”

Both Cottrell and Zakhem were politely dismissive of a potential Caplis candidacy, and it wasn’t a minority opinion. He may have his supporters somewhere, but I couldn’t find a Republican who thought that Caplis was a legitimate candidate. Given that Caplis didn’t respond to repeated requests to comment for this story, it’s hard to see this as anything more than a trial balloon that didn’t leave the ground.

There is a definitely a short list of potential Republican candidates for U.S. senate in 2008, but Dan Caplis probably shouldn’t be on it.

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Jason Bane

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