A longtime Republican political analyst said he doesn't know which of the four GOP contenders for governor will come out of next week's primary — but it's doubtful that any of them can beat Gov. John Hickenlooper in the fall.
However, the four Republicans who are vying to unseat Hickenlooper take issue with that assessment.
Bob Loevy, a retired Colorado College political science professor who has analyzed Colorado politics for decades, believes that Hickenlooper “remains the strong favorite” to win re-election in November, regardless of which candidate Republican voters select to face him in the June 24 primary.
“Yes, this is an exciting primary, but what I take away from it is, at the moment, it's highly unlikely any of these candidates can beat Hickenlooper,” said Loevy, a registered Republican.
Voters will cast ballots for four Republican candidates next week: former Congressmen Bob Beauprez and Tom Tancredo; Secretary of State Scott Gessler; and former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp.
Loevy said that it's “almost impossible to say who is going to win.”
“There is little basis on which to think which of these candidates stands out from the other,” he said. “The vote is going to be split. None are total non-entities... you can give a reason why each one of them might win and why each one might lose.”
Regardless, Loevy believes that “none of these candidates have the asset of looking like a winner in November.”
“The main criticism of (Hickenlooper) is he's too moderate,” he said. “In that case you're criticizing him for what wins elections.”
But in recent interviews with Colorado Community Media that occurred prior to Loevy's analysis, the GOP hopefuls pointed out plenty of areas where they see weaknesses in the governor's record.
Beauprez blasted Hickenlooper's “failure of leadership” on several policy fronts. Tancredo said the governor “kicked the ball down the field” when he granted a temporary reprieve for death row inmate Nathan Dunlap, who killed four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1996.
Kopp said that Hickenlooper hasn't provided leadership on the hot issue of local community control of hydraulic fracking.
“He should stand up against the radical interests in his own party who want to shut down the oil and gas industry in the state,” Kopp said.
And the candidates believe that Hickenlooper is anything but a moderate, having signed into law bills on gun control, election overhaul and civil unions, to name a few.
“Look at Hickenlooper,” Gessler said. “He says he's a moderate, that's what he claims. And yet he signs the most liberal agenda in the history of Colorado.”
But Loevy feels that the candidates from his own party have their own set of obstacles to overcome.
Loevy said that Tancredo benefits from a split field because of a “set block of highly conservative Republican voters supporting him.” At the same time, Loevy wonders if voters might see Tancredo as unelectable, given his unabashed views on issues like immigration that could turn off moderate voters in the fall.
Loevy said that Gessler has done an effective job in soliciting Republican voters through email, which has helped him in fundraising efforts.
“But then Gessler, as we all know, has gotten bad press,” Loevy said, referring to a state ethics commission's finding that he violated ethics rules for using state money to attend an out-of-state Republican event.
Loevy said that Beauprez could very well win the nomination, but wonders if his double digit loss in a 2006 gubernatorial race to Bill Ritter still lingers in the minds of general election voters.
And Kopp might be over his head, according to Loevy.
“He just does not have, in my view, enough of a statewide reputation,” he said. “I think the office is way larger than a person with his qualifications can hope to win.”
Hickenlooper could be vulnerable if we see a Republican wave sweep across the country in the fall, Loevy said.
“Maybe in a giant Republican sweep someone might be able to win a close race against Hickenlooper,” he said. “Unless that happens, this is a race of theoretical interest.”