Former State Senator Mike Kopp shocked Colorado’s political world this last weekend by claiming the top line of the GOP Gubernatorial Primary ballot.
The top line is no guarantee of success on June 24th, but the fact that Kopp was able to go from the pack of “maybe” contenders to upsetting Secretary of State Scott Gessler, winning the top line, is indeed a significant achievement.
The primary ballot is almost official. If the signatures that Bob Beauprez turned in are certified as expected, the ballot will be set and will include Beauprez, Tom Tancredo, Scott Gessler and Kopp.
Kopp is still the underdog when you look at that ticket. All three of his opponents bring much greater name recognition and fundraising to the race.
However, elections are very susceptible to momentum. Strong momentum can overcome many weaknesses and help propel candidates very quickly.
Momentum can spur fundraising, and increased fundraising can spur just about anything.
It will be very interesting how the four candidates now treat the next 10 weeks between now and the primary election.
Both Tancredo and Gessler have announced that they refuse to debate fellow Republicans, but what happens if a poll shows Kopp gaining ground? Would that change their minds?
If the big three, Beauprez, Tancredo and Gessler need to focus on one another to squeak out a win in June, will they leave an opening for Kopp?
Even though he owns the top line, Kopp is still a significant underdog. The average Republican voter may not know much about him and he’s been out of the public eye for some time as he took time to raise his family after the death of his wife.
Despite the virtuous reason for his absence, it will cost him now that the race isn’t among dedicated party faithful attending a state assembly. The GOP voters that will vote in June’s election look far different than the few thousand party diehards that gave him the top line and Kopp’s competition all have far greater name recognition and campaign bank accounts.
But Kopp may be able to play his underdog status to his advantage. Coloradans, Republicans and Democrats alike, love an underdog story. John Hickenlooper’s underdog story is legend, as he won a Mayoral election after initially polling around 2%.
In order to capitalize on this momentum, Kopp will need to make all of the right moves, and exercise brilliant strategy, and it still may not be nearly enough.
However, the very last thing his opponents should do is take Kopp and his momentum for granted. Beauprez, Tancredo and Gessler are seasoned politicians and should realize the real value of momentum and the underdog status.
It will be very interesting to watch the next several weeks to see how everyone in the race treats Kopp’s new found status.
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– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.