There wasn’t much new in the 9News/Denver Post May 23 debate, and it’s unlikely to have changed many minds. But, Chris Romer’s and Michael Hancock’s final strategies were on display.
Hancock remains the nice person and emphasizes his experience in government. He hopes Romer’s attacks will fail. In fact, he intends to use Romer’s high-profile negative campaign as his main final message – Romer lacks character and doesn’t reflect Denver values.
Romer recognizes his favorability is below Hancock’s (in fact, he repeatedly says voters should not consider personality) so he remains aggressive and does not back off his negative attacks. In fact, while defending his controversial advertisement during the debate, he re-attacked Hancock’s pay raise vote.
Romer argues the benefit of having a mayor from outside of city government. He also telegraphed his Hispanic strategy with a high-level defense of in-state tuition for children of undocumented parents and advocating opting out of the new national immigration identification law.
Romer also uses debates to collect and highlight Hancock’s missteps. He pushed on a Hancock’s statement concerning vouchers, which then shortly became a new attack direct mail piece.
Also, Romer offered strong support for educational choice to counter the impression his partnership with James Mejia signaled a drift from the reform agenda.
The two candidates are very close on most issues and, in general, ideology, but different in style. Romer’s campaign has a very deliberate strategy and is very well executed, but if he loses, it will reflect a city that prefers the familiar and the more liberal. His aggressive outsider strategy will have failed to connect with voters.