Combing through Colorado GOP Senate candidate Jane Norton’s campaign filings this week, Congressional Quarterly finds Rick Davis among the many notables on the impressive Norton donor list, a collection of interested parties that generated a cool half million dollars in 16 days.
Who is Rick Davis? Grassroots Colorado Republicans not in the know already will be interested to learn he was an adviser to John McCain during last year’s failed presidential bid. Davis is yet another McCain connection for Norton, who has been taking heat from state conservatives as a doomed McCain-driven national party pick since even before she announced her candidacy in September.
As many GOP voters know by now, Norton was a main backer of the McCain campaign in Colorado last year, which is far from a great thing for Norton. Mitt Romney trounced the Arizona Republican in the GOP caucus here, pulling down 60 percent of the votes to McCain’s 18 percent. When Norton first announced her candidacy, former GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and others lambasted her as McCain’s pick, repeating the fact– and forcing Norton to admit it to the media– that she had consulted by phone with McCain before deciding to run.
Tancredo told the Denver Post Norton should have called fellow Republicans statewide earlier in the year and outlined her reasons for wanting to run for office. Instead, he said, McCain, “a family friend and political ally,” talked her into running.
“Does John McCain have a right to do that? Sure. Do I have a right to bitch about it? You bet.”
McCain is a liability for Norton in the state but the connection will not be easy to unravel, even if Norton wanted to unravel it. The ties thread through her relationship with her “uber-lobbyist” brother-in-law Charlie Black, who was one of McCain’s senior advisers last year. Black co-hosted a fundraiser for Norton at the end of September in Washington D.C. with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn.
The conservative People’s Press Collective blog put it bluntly:
“Jane and McCain” – not exactly the best association to make in the minds of voters right out of the gate.
In addition to general distaste in the state for McCain’s brand of conservatism, right-wing analysts here see the national party as suffering from a rejection of true grassroots candidacies. Norton is seen as a prime example.
Cornyn’s NRSC was seen to be meddling when in August, weeks before Norton declared her candidacy, it purchased Internet domain names for her campaign, a story broke by conservative site Complete Colorado.
Ben DeGrow, a policy analyst at the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, was all over the report at his Mount Virtus blog, lamenting it as a sure sign that the premature national party “candidate coronation process,” was already underway, a process he said has deflated local power and has ended in a string of GOP defeats.
That Norton can pull down huge sums to fuel her campaign against Democrat Michael Bennet surely cheers state Republican activists. That those donors are national big wigs gives them pause. That much of Norton’s campaign, including a large portion of her war chest, is tied to McCain is still a surefire negative.