In advance of the Colorado Republican caucuses tonight, the Northern Colorado Tea Party— perhaps the most influential of the state’s many tea party groups– isn’t backing away from its constitutional conservative mission. Far from recommending members warm up to presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, the group has unofficially thrown its support behind libertarian Congressman Ron Paul.
Last week, the Johnstown-based group (which operates over a large swath of the northern Front Range but lists Johnstown south-east of Ft. Collins as its postal address) sent out an email blast littered with exclamation points announcing Paul’s brief visit to Denver. It also pointed caucus goers to the group’s “no rhetoric, all facts” GOP Presidential Voter Guide, a deadpan exercise in candidate demolition that leaves no doubt where the group stands.
The authors of the guide skewered Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum as unreliably conservative in both fiscal matters and in checking government overreach.
The guide’s list of facts on Romney, for example, opens on “Romneycare” and underlines that the Massachusetts healthcare plan steered into law by Romney was the blueprint for tea party-detested “Obamacare.” The list then moves onto Romney’s support for the big government-style anti-free-market TARP bailouts, gun right restrictions and climate change “cap and trade” proposals. The list wraps by calling Romney a “flip flopper” on amnesty for undocumented residents.
By contrast, not a single unqualified negative comment falls into the Ron Paul list. Paul’s record on government spending is described as “stellar.” Even Paul positions typically controversial on the right, such as his anti-interventionist foreign policy and commitment to ending “War on Terror” policies and programs, are described in an unabashed positive light.
The Northern Colorado Tea Party facts on Romney:
• Passed “Romneycare” into Massachusetts law, which eventually became the blueprint for Obamacare
• Supported TARP
• Opposed Obama’s stimulus plan and urged Republicans to vote against it
• Supported Cap & Trade legislation in Massachusetts
• Has also supported his fair share of anti-gun legislation and has refused to return the National Association of Gun Rights survey
• Has a horrible record on taxes, er, should I say fees…although he opposed tax hikes as governor, he imposed a mountain of “fees” to help balance the budget
• Has a mixed record on spending. He did successfully cut government spending during the first part of his first term, but loosened the purse strings during the later years. During his time as governor, he did save the state millions by cutting out waste within the system, eliminating meaningless government jobs, and going after local earmarks instead of dipping into the states rainy day fund.
• Supports ethanol subsidies
• Supports “Right to Work” legislation and states
• Mitt is a flip-flopper on amnesty and ultimately supports a plan similar to Newt’s, granting amnesty for “some”.
The Northern Colorado Tea Party facts on Paul:
• Voted against TARP
• Voted against Obamacare
• Voted against Obama’s stimulus
• Voted against auto bailouts and Cash for Clunkers
• Voted against Cap & Trade
• Supports Right to Work legislation
• Has never voted to raise the debt ceiling
• Is an outspoken advocate for the Tenth amendment and states rights
• Is an outspoken advocate for the Constitution and limited government
• Strongly supports auditing the Federal Reserve
• Has an excellent record on gun control, recently being crowned the “Defender of the Second Amendment” by Gun Owners of America. He is the only candidate remaining to have returned the National Association of Gun Rights survey with a 100% score.
• He has an excellent record on taxes, never voting for a tax increase and always supporting tax cuts across the board. He has voted to cut taxes by $80 billion in the past 5 years, voicing his opinion that cutting taxes is the only way to stimulate the economy
• He has an excellent record on spending voting against nearly every big spending bill and was 1 of 41 congressman to vote against No Child Left Behind.
• His stellar spending record aside though, he has become a strong supporter of earmarks giving him an undesirable 29% on the Club for Growth’s rePORK card (although earlier in his career he never used earmarks). He believes that earmarks are held to much higher accountability and that if the federal government is taking funds from his state constituents, it is his responsibility to bring the funds back to them. He typically votes no on the same bills he is inserting his earmarks in.
• Believes we need to end the billions of dollars we spend annually in foreign aid, especially to the countries we are at war with.
• Supports securing our borders and coastlines, supports enforcing visa rules by tracking and deporting anyone who overstays their visa, opposes amnesty, and supports ending birthright citizenship.
• Believes we should bring our troops home and readdress our approach regarding the War on Terror and military spending along with the waste, fraud and corruption that may go along with it.
It’s hard to say how much influence the Northern Colorado Tea Party leaders will exert on caucus activity today, but the group’s large presence in the state’s fourth congressional district and strong support for CD4 candidate Cory Gardner in 2010 likely played a large role in Gardner’s easy victory over Democratic incumbent Betsy Markey. The group also lead the state-wide tea party support that boosted Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck’s U.S. Senate bid that same year, propelling him to primary victory over establishment candidate Jane Norton.
Messages to the Northern Colorado Tea Party went unanswered this week, so its loose membership in the thousands or even perhaps tens of thousands couldn’t be confirmed. Estimates, however, put state-wide tea party membership in 2010 at something like 220,000. If those numbers have been even moderately sustained, tea partiers will have a significant impact at the GOP caucuses.
There are roughly 1.08 million registered Republicans in Colorado and only roughly 10 percent of those will turn up to caucus tonight. Politically engaged tea partiers will make up a disproportionate number of attendees.
Although tea party support for Paul will certainly thin Romney support, it bodes particularly ill for rival runner-up candidates Santorum and Gingrich.
Santorum at least is likely to do well among the state’s large Colorado Springs-based evangelical voting bloc.
“I ask you to reset this race,” Santorum told voters here this past weekend. “Create an opportunity for someone who can speak to Americans about what America is all about.”
Yesterday in Golden, just miles from the country’s National Center for Atmospheric Research, the former Pennsylvania senator let loose a stemwinder at an energy forum in which he attacked international climate scientists as partners in a conspiracy to willfully create panic that would open up the country to totalitarian-like government control of the economy. He laced his talk with tent-revival-style reference to god’s will and man’s dominion over the natural world.
Yet it may be Gingrich who seems to be hoping most for a miracle in Colorado. He still has minimal campaign presence in the state and has spent almost no time here. His three wives and outrageous Tiffany tab won’t help him win the Focus on the Family-Tim Tebow vote and his term as House Speaker and then as Beltway-influence peddler are sure to undercut his attraction to anti-government tea partiers.
Romney, however, despite tea party and evangelical resistance, may pull off a key victory in the Centennial State. He has gained momentum from a series of recent primary victories and will be boosted here as he was this weekend in Nevada by the Mormon vote. Mormons make up roughly 5 percent of all religious adherents in Colorado, or something like a community of 140,000 believers who generally vote Republican.
Romney enjoyed 60 percent support among Colorado Republicans in 2008, burying John McCain in that year’s caucuses.