Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scott McInnis Struggles to Keep Campaign From “Being Overwhelmed” by Water Musings Gate

Since the story first appeared on the front page of the Denver Post, Colorado gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis has had a defensive and inadequate response strategy. His statement that “this is a non-issue” was wishful thinking.

9News (7-13-10)

“Ciruli says the way McInnis handles the situation, especially over the next 24 hours, could have a major impact on his campaign.

‘It could end his campaign, frankly, I think it’s that serious,’ Ciruli said.”

It was clear from Tuesday morning on the story would derail the campaign if not managed.

9News (7-13-10)

“Ciruli says the front-page story in The Denver Post could impact the race for the Colorado governor’s mansion.

‘This is very, very big, at least for Scott McInnis. It changes the dynamics of his campaign,’ Ciruli said. ‘He is now on the defensive.’”

His cavalier treatment of the water report simply confirmed he felt he was providing something else for the money.

9News (7-13-10)

“9News Political Analyst Floyd Ciruli says the story does not look good for McInnis.

‘It was a strange story to start with several months ago because $300,000 for a few water stories just did not have a good value proposition. You couldn’t understand what was being paid for,’ Ciruli said. ‘So, it didn’t look good. But now, the fact that he apparently didn’t write the material, it looks dishonest.’”

For people like judges, teachers, lawyers, engineers and other professions who write a great deal, his behavior is inexplicable and embarrassing.

A few observations:

• McInnis will attempt to push ahead toward the August 10 primary. If he wins it, he will consider that confirmation that the issue was minor and is behind him. But, his winning may more be a function of the lesser evil rule – Republicans simply believe Dan Maes is an even worse candidate.

• The specter that scares Republicans is Bob Beauprez’s 17-point loss to the not very politically-talented Bill Ritter four years ago. 2010 was the year to win the governorship back. Polls indicate that Republicans, including with McInnis as the nominee, tend to have a 5-point advantage going into the race. Now, McInnis, even if he survives the primary, has picked up major baggage and turned the only statewide newspaper against him early and loudly.

• Obviously, Republicans want to contain the damage. They are currently ahead with either of their senate candidates and likely to win the state’s only competitive congressional race. They also have potential of winning the Colorado House. They do not want a poor campaign and damaged candidate running for governor hurting the whole ticket.

• John Hickenlooper is already attracting more money than McInnis, some of it from the same Republican metro area funders that McInnis was depending upon. If Maes wins the primary, or McInnis looks fatally damaged, expect a stampede of money to Hickenlooper.

• Although there is a mechanism for finding a stronger nominee if McInnis continues to be buried by the controversy, it would be very difficult maneuver to execute. McInnis would have to win the primary, then drop out of the race. It’s not clear what could motivate him to give up after, in his mind, he was just selected (forgiven) to be the nominee.

But even if it was possible, the public impact on swing voters, both unaffiliated voters and moderate Republicans, is not clear. It would look like a backroom political deal and hugely burden the new Republican nominee.

(See articles in Grand Junction Sentinel, Coloradoan, 9News and Washington Times)