Be careful what you wish for as presidential politics turn nasty

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By Greg Romberg

Be careful what you wish for! For as long as I can remember, Coloradans of all political persuasions have lamented the fact that we weren’t players in presidential politics. We weren’t players in the nominating process because of our timing and relatively few delegates. We weren’t players in general elections because we were such a lock for the Republican nominee. A Democrat hasn’t had the majority of presidential votes in Colorado since I started voting. Bill Clinton won Colorado in 1992, with a plurality instead of a majority, because Ross Perot took votes away from George Bush.

We’ve tried a variety of things. We had a presidential primary. We’ve moved our caucuses around. We even defeated (thankfully) a constitutional amendment that would have split our electoral votes and made us the least relevant state in the country in electing a president.

But this year is different. Our caucus was on Super Tuesday with 21 other states in February. Both party nominations were still in play, and we had record turnout. Any national interest in Colorado in the nominating process is minuscule when compared to our projected role in the actual election.

Colorado, though still maintaining a Republican registration plurality, is anything but a lock for Republicans in 2008. Democrat Ken Salazar won statewide in the 2004 U.S. Senate race. Democrats Bill Ritter and Cary Kennedy won governor and treasurer races respectively in 2006.

A variety of political analysts now believe that a sweep of Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada will deliver the presidency and that all three states can go either way. And so, be careful what you wish for. Our airwaves are inundated with political ads for and against the presidential candidates. The tenor is decidedly negative and will likely only get worse. While people in most of the country have only heard about the Barack Obama rock star commercial, we see it repeatedly.

On top of the presidential race, our U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Wayne Allard is slated to be competitive, expensive and nasty. We just officially chose Mark Udall and Bob Schaffer as party nominees earlier this week, but that hasn’t stopped either the candidates or independent committees from running attack ads. What can we expect when voters start to pay more attention after Labor Day?

We’ll face a very crowded ballot in November. A large number of controversial ballot issues will join the presidential and Senate races. You’ll see more political ads, specifically more negative political ads, than ever before. We’re definitely relevant. We have the opportunity and obligation to help chart our country’s future. But we’re all going to heave a sigh of relief once the negative ads finally stop in November!

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.