Written by Dominic Dezzutti

State Senator Greg Brophy officially announced that he will run for Governor in 2014, joining Tom Tancredo in the GOP primary. While they have not made it official, Brophy and Tancredo will likely be joined by Secretary of State Scott Gessler and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler.

Over a year ago, Governor John Hickenlooper’s popularity levels were not enticing many Republicans to run against him in the 2014 election. However, after a bruising battle over guns, a controversial decision regarding Nathan Dunlap and an overall unexpected malaise, Governor Hickenlooper doesn’t seem quite as unbeatable as he did a year ago.

But just because Governor Hickenlooper has finally appears vulnerable, it doesn’t mean his eventual Republican opponent will have an advantage, especially if they are pushed into the same social conservative corners that recent GOP statewide candidates have been.

What may help determine how far down the social conservative rabbit hole the eventual GOP gubernatorial nominee will go will be the size of the GOP primary field.

Obviously, Tom Tancredo’s name visibility isn’t scaring off potential competition, with one confirmed and two potential opponents, among possible others, looking to run.

But if for some reason the actual primary ends up only being Tancredo and Brophy, it will set up a delicious battle over immigration. As State Senator, Brophy supported a bill that gave in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants. As a Presidential Candidate, Tancredo singlehandedly brought a very conservative bent to the issue of illegal immigration to the Presidential campaign.

That match up would offer a very interesting glimpse at how badly GOP voters want to win. Going with Brophy would not offer the highest profile opponent for Hickenlooper, but it would give a direct signal to voters that the GOP is ready to move on from the immigration issue. Sending Tancredo to the general election would say that the GOP would rather stick to its guns on the issue rather than actually put them in a position to win.

However, that great match up over immigration goes away if the primary gets as crowded as most people expect it to. With Gessler and Brauchler joining the fun, it will get harder and harder for the immigration conversation to get back towards the middle.

With a crowded primary field, candidates will need to compete for the conservative money and support, and likely be tempted to out-conservative each other on issues. Sticking their neck out as a moderate will become far less fashionable.

If you are wondering what this will mean for the general election, just ask Ken Buck how much he enjoyed stepping back from his primary campaign promises during the general election.

In the end, we are still over a year away from the general election and if elections in Colorado have taught us anything, it is to expect anything. Regardless of the size of the GOP primary, it should be interesting political theater. But size does matter and the size of this primary should definitely matter in the end, wherever that end may lead.

About The Blogger

– 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 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 also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, on Colorado Public Television.


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