Colorado Republicans would have voted against Donald Trump, a boon for the GOP establishment. But the state’s Republican voters will have no say in tonight’s presidential preference polls.
We knew back in September that the Colorado Republican Party had made a major error when it dumped the presidential preference poll in the midst of maybe the wildest Republican race ever.
It was a huge gaffe, a blow against small-d democracy, a self-inflicted wound made worse when party chair Steve House — having survived the Coffman-Tancredo coup attempt — explained the decision by saying he was worried too many people would turn out for the caucuses. As I might have mentioned at the time, we knew Republicans were trying to tamp down the Democratic vote, but who’d have thought they didn’t want Republicans voting either?
It was a huge gaffe, all right. But we’re only now learning, on the eve of the caucuses, just how massive the gaffe actually was.
At the time, the only reasonable explanation for the unilateral disarmament was that party leaders were afraid Colorado Republican voters, left to their own devices, would make a statewide leap onto the Trumpian bandwagon. So in order to save Colorado some embarrassment and for the leaders to maybe save their phony-baloney jobs, party brass decided that direct voting was overrated.
It’s a rare moment when you’re faced with real irony in politics, but it turns out the state that would be best positioned to give Marco Rubio a victory on Super Tuesday – his first victory all year – and a chance to fend off a Trump near-sweep, is the state that has guaranteed no one will win the vote because there won’t be one.
If you think I exaggerate, read Nate Cohn’s data-filled examination of Super Tuesday in The New York Times. He thinks of the 11 states in play that Rubio has a shot at two – Minnesota and Virginia. But his best shot, he writes, would have been Colorado, with its mix of voters that run to the highly educated and to the highly religious, which would have been a good mix for Rubio, who is being supported by Cory Gardner and most of the GOP establishment.
Still, as Cohn points out, Rubio “will not have the opportunity to win . . .” Because, you know.
At the same time that Rubio can’t win, Colorado Democrats may provide Bernie Sanders with one of his few Super Tuesday chances for victory in his attempt to diminish Hillary Clinton’s powerhouse move though the South.
Sanders may win in Colorado. In fact, if he doesn’t, it would be a disaster for Sanders’ chances. And yet, it would have been an even bigger win for Rubio, if only for history’s sake. This is a critical time — a time when Donald Trump might actually be on an unstoppable path to a major party’s nomination.
This round of voting comes two days after Trump went on CNN and refused to disavow David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan — at least until later in the day when he thought better of it. He also defended retweeting Benito Mussolini noting, as the Donald said, Mussolini is Mussolini, which, I guess, is true. He said a judge in a case against him should be removed because, as a Hispanic, the judge might be biased against Trump. His team kicked out a group of black students before a Trump rally at Valdosta State University because, being that they’re black, they might protest. And on and on it goes. And still Trump is an overwhelming favorite.
Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse was moved to say he wouldn’t vote for Trump if Trump were the nominee, putting pressure on other prominent Republicans (do not see: Gardner, Cory) to make such a stand, not that Chris Christie or Jeff Sessions got the memo. Or Dick Wadhams, for that matter, who was quoted in The Washington Post as saying that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy would unite all Republicans behind Trump.
Team Mitt Romney said Trump had disqualified himself with the KKK furor. Laura Ingraham, in defending Trump, said Romney sounded like Obama, which was apparently the meanest thing she could think to say. Meanwhile, some conservative pundits are predicting that a Trump win would, in fact, split the party, maybe even prompting someone — say, Romney, who notably hasn’t endorsed Rubio? — to get in the race as a third-party moderate-seeming independent.
But Colorado Republicans had the chance to make a stand – if only they had been allowed to make a vote.
Of course, it’s not as if Rubio has made himself stand-worthy. Over the weekend, he decided that the way to beat Trump was to out-Trump him. Unfortunately, Rubio thought this meant going back to his middle-school days. He not only did a riff on Trump having possibly wet his pants, he went full-Animal House in joking about Trump’s small hands – “Have you seen his hands? They’re like this? And you know what they say about men with small hands. (Pause for distant drum roll.) You can’t trust them.”
Yes, that’s right — a small-hands-means-small-penis joke from the man who who thinks he should be president. Apparently, Rubio laid off the jokes Monday, battling hoarseness as well as Trump and Cruz, who is expected to win in Texas, which, of course, helps Trump because it keeps the race at least a three-way (which we figure Rubio will be snickering about any day).
As of now, Rubio, who on most issues is more to the right than Trump, is sticking with Trump as a “con man” and “clown act.” But as George Will wrote, Rubio could have made that case months ago, back when it might have mattered. And, while he was at it, he might have also made the case, in Will’s words, against Trump’s “demagogic cynicism and anti-constitutional authoritarianism.” Actually, there are countless cases to make against the Donald.
The question, of course, is how Colorado Republicans — at least those few who attend caucuses — would have responded. And the answer, thanks to the state’s party leaders, is that we’ll never know.
Photo credit: Justin Ennis, Creative Commons, Flickr.