It’s only fitting that during March Madness we see a Colorado politician recognizing the value of a strong bench, even when vying for a shot in the starting line up.
State Senator Owen Hill announced this week that he will drop out of the U.S. Senate race, continuing to clear the way for Rep. Cory Gardner.
While the move wasn’t necessary for Gardner to secure the nomination and the right to go head-to-head with Sen. Mark Udall, the move is newsworthy for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is how Hill responded to Gardner jumping in the race and how Ken Buck and Amy Stephens reacted by dropping out immediately. Hill called the moves “backroom deals” and was highly critical of how it went down. To back out after making comments like that makes the move even more significant.
Since Hill had earned a key endorsement from the Tea Party Express in Colorado, he could have stuck to his guns and made Gardner sweat it out. We’ve seen in the past where stubborn primary opponents, even without a clear shot at victory, become an annoying and damaging thorn in the frontrunner’s side, eventually weakening the frontrunner for the general election run.
It seems that Owen Hill has remembered his history, but more importantly, understands that win or lose, with Gardner taking his shot now, the list of viable Republican candidates for future races is a short one, and one he can lead if he plays his cards right.
My friend Jon Caldara is fond of saying that when it comes to future candidates, the Colorado Republican Party doesn’t have a bench, it has a folding chair, and he’s right. Looking at the Governor’s race tells you everything you need to know about potential Republican candidates in Colorado. The new blood in the race has a name recognition problem, and the ones that everyone recognize have a retread problem.
Cory Gardner represents the GOP’s single best shot at a statewide victory at this point. But after him, who is the next great hope for the GOP in the future?
I think Owen Hill recognizes this problem and by gracefully bowing out and not becoming a problem for Cory Gardner, he sets himself up quite well for future runs for elected office. He can now say that he played ball for the party, but also comes with strong street cred with Tea Party conservatives. Add those elements to his young age, and he quickly becomes a top potential candidate for the fledging GOP bench.
While I am sure bowing out of the race at this stage of the game was a bitter pill for Owen Hill to swallow, by doing so, he invests in his own future. He was not going to defeat Gardner in a primary and the only opportunity he really had was to damage the Republican Party’s shot at retaking a statewide elected seat in Colorado.
If in a few years from now Owen Hill is able to play the role Gardner is playing this year, he will look back on this decision as one of the key elements that made his future success possible.
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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.