Littwin: What Colorado’s GOP chaos means for the RNC

Whatever else you’re tempted to say about the bizarro Colorado GOP convention — and people are still trying to explain Darryl Glenn’s shocking Senate win — you have to admit that it has done the country a great favor.

I mean, if anyone was still confused about what lies ahead for the national convention in Cleveland, a weekend of chaos in Colorado Springs should have cleared everything up.

We didn’t have riots in the streets — as Donald Trump predicts for Cleveland if things go badly for him there — but we did have Ted Cruz throwing a 34-0 delegate shutout at Trump, the kind of score we see in these parts usually only at losing Rockies games.

And that was just the beginning. The real fun came in the after-convention, when the Donald, in full-Trump mode, variously described the process and the result as “corrupt,” “dirty,” “rigged,” “crooked” and, basically, the end of democracy as we know it. Speaking to New York voters in Albany Monday night, urging them to vote, Trump said that “we found out in Colorado it’s not a democracy like we thought, and we’re not going to have a rigged election (here).”


Or just, as Cory Gardner would Tweet, a Trumpian “temper tantrum”?

Let’s just say that Trump does have a point — if only barely. Cruz out-hustled and out-organized and out-smarted and out-inside-gamed Trump by playing according to Colorado delegate rules, which — and here’s Trump’s point — don’t have much to do with the one-person, one-vote concept. Not that Trump, even when he’s not quoting Mussolini, is necessarily anyone’s democratic ideal. And, in any case, he might have mentioned that, despite the corrupt and dirty and rigged and crooked delegate system, Trump has won 45 percent of Republican delegates — according to an NBC count — with only 37 percent of the primary vote.

In Colorado, the system may not be fair, but it’s not like ‘Nam – there are rules, and the rules were followed. But the rules did include a decision not to have a presidential preference poll at the precinct caucuses, meaning the anti-party Trumpists had little incentive to show up, meaning it would be left to the usual suspects, who predictably fell in line with Cruz and the #neverTrumpists.

Is there anyone to blame other than Trump, whose lack of organization is leaking delegates across the country and whose team at the Colorado convention had trouble even spelling the names of its would-be delegates?

You could blame state GOP chair Steve House, whose explanation for not holding a presidential poll at the caucuses is his widely-mocked fear that it would, yes, bring out too many voters. (As I may have mentioned before, we know Republicans are hot to suppress the vote, but who would have thought that included GOP voters?) But the real reason, when Republicans decided back in August to forego the poll, was almost certainly to keep the Trump voters home. The move was supposed to benefit establishment-choice Marco Rubio, who, as you might have heard, didn’t make it to Colorado.

Or you could blame Dudley Brown, the head of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, and not only because he’s usually to blame. I got this from veteran pol Greg Brophy, who told me that it was Brown who helped kill the latest bid in the legislature for the state to return to primaries instead of caucuses — you know, like real democracy, with hundreds of thousands participating.

“Dudley was going to be a Rand Paul guy,” Brophy told me. “And he thought that if he could control the state convention, he could get Paul some delegates.”

Paul didn’t make it to Colorado either. And for Brown, things would get even worse. While he was busy forging an alliance with the Cruz people, Brown’s close ally, state Sen. Tim Neville was on his way to a Jordan-Spieth-like defeat. Neville, the odds-on favorite to win the Senate to-line slot,  was clobbered by Glenn, a virtual unknown whose victory is being attributed to having given a good speech. He got 70 percent of the vote so, yeah, it must have been a really good speech — good enough to get Glenn on the GOP primary ballot, to face off against as many as four better-known candidates trying to petition their way on.

But maybe it wasn’t just the speech. It might have been that delegates who had seen the Colorado Springs Gazette editorial warning them not to vote for Neville — because he was too close to Brown — were looking for an alternative, particularly after Neville had the bright idea to make sure everyone read the editorial by using it for target practice and Tweeting out the results.

OK, it’s a Twitter world — just ask Trump — and Cory Gardner apparently can’t stay away. He came to the defense of the Colorado GOP by tweet-slamming Trump at every turn, usually with something along the lines of asking how Trump would handle Putin/ISIS/IRS if he can’t handle Colorado delegate rules. Presumably Gardner is hoping that someday Trump might notice.

Gardner has been attacking Trump for a while, starting from when he was on the campaign trail for Rubio. I remember “buffoon” coming into the conversation. And also the KKK. Gardner is now in establishment-GOP limbo — hitting Trump, doubting John Kasich, but still refusing to endorse Cruz.  The establishment plan is to get to an open convention and to find someone other than Trump or Cruz. It’s the Paul Ryan fourth-ballot dream, a dream of rescue.

In real life, Ryan insists he’s not running. Cruz talks of revolt. Kasich won’t go away. Trump will probably challenge the Colorado delegation and a few others, although it’s not clear whether the challenges would come before or after the riots. And Cleveland will be the convention at which chaos would be a good day.


Photo credit: Jamelle Bouie, Creative Commons, Flickr



  1. I’m canceling all engagements in and around July 18-21 so I won’t miss a moment of the three-ring-circus Greatest Show on Earth, complete with trained and untrained elephants, monkeys, lions and tigers. Oh my!

  2. Does the Republican party really believe that Trump won’t defect if he is in the lead and not nominated? They have been drinking too much of their own Kool-aid.

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