Second Democratic presidential campaign goes professional in Colorado.As Colorado’s Feb. 5 Democratic presidential caucus approaches, the state is drawing increased attention from the presidential hopefuls. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has recently appointed a state coordinator, and the campaign plans to open an office here as soon as they find suitable space.
Heading up the Clinton campaign effort is Tyler Chafee, a Denver native who has worked on campaigns for U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette and the presidential campaign of former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley and has served as the political director for the Colorado AFL-CIO. He is currently on leave from the consulting firm RBI Strategy and Research. (Full disclosure: RBI handles the public relations work for Colorado Confidential.)
The campaign plans to have permanent digs soon, but since there are none yet, we met Chafee in his temporary office, the Fluid Coffee Bar downtown, for a vanilla latte and some campaign talk.
Colorado Confidential: What does the Clinton campaign see here in Colorado?
Chafee: The campaign is definitely expanding into some of the states beyond the first four. Colorado is unique, because it really is the heart of the West.
There is a tremendous organic field network that built itself out here. Without any paid staff on the ground, there are 12 county coordinators. I’m walking into this – it’s a best-case scenario for me. I’m not walking into a situation where there’s no infrastructure.
We’ve got thousands of volunteers, county coordinators; we have endorsements from several legislators and now Congresswoman DeGette, as well as the speaker of the House, the majority leader of the Senate Ken Gordon. And of course Wellington Webb, who is a national co-chair.
A huge volunteer network like that, it gets so big, at some point you’ve got to bring some staff aboard.
CoCo: Does the interest in Colorado indicate a lesser emphasis on the early primary and caucus states?
Chafee: I think the emphasis on the early states is increasing for every campaign. People are traveling to Iowa in droves to go volunteer for the campaign. Even some of our key volunteers here are going to be spending some time in Iowa – provided of course they come back right afterward, because there will only be like a month until the caucuses here.
CoCo: What do you see as Hillary’s strengths and weaknesses in Colorado? What is the thing you have to improve the most here, for instance?
Chafee: That’s a tough question. Because the strength is her experience. People know that she has a tremendous level of experience … She’s been involved in grappling with some of the most major ongoing policy conundrums that we face – health care, education, things like that. That by far is her strength, that she’s a known quantity.
I think the weaknesses that we face are … I guess, you know, she’s been the focus of attacks by the far right for so long, that sometimes people buy into those attacks when they’re not even realizing it. So getting some folks to separate the facts from the fiction is really going to be the key.
CoCo: Why do some people seem to have this visceral reaction to Hillary?
Chafee: There’s a lot at stake right now in America. So there are a lot of passions on all sides of this. But I always find that the most passionate detractors are the ones who have the least amount of understanding about her experience and her accomplishments and her ability to reach out.
One thing that more people need to understand is that before she walked into the U.S. Senate, people made a lot of presumptions about how she would lead. She dispelled all those notions by reaching out, forging consensus and working toward solutions with Republicans, Democrats, whoever.
CoCo: So, do you have any predictions for the outcome of the Colorado caucus?
Chafee: Caucuses are notoriously unpredictable. I’ve heard of candidates who have lost because there was a big basketball game that night. Things can happen – the weather’s bad, the kids get sick.
For the campaign nationally, with 23 states on Super Tuesday, there is a strong but not absolute chance that the nominee will be decided then. But if it’s unclear at that point, I always hesitate to say this, but it could come down to the convention. Which would be interesting