The negative ads are gone, the hype has died and the election is (finally) over. The expected GOP wave indeed swept across the country, bringing Republican majorities in the U.S. House and in statehouses across the country.
Back in Colorado, however, the wave was muted. To be sure, Republicans picked up two congressional seats, the state House of Representatives and two statewide offices (treasurer and secretary of state).
But the biggest prizes — governor and U.S. Senate — stayed in Democratic hands. Democrats also managed to hold onto their majority in the state Senate.
So how did Colorado buck national trends? In a word, infrastructure: Democrats have it; Republicans don’t.
Since 2004, Democrats have been the beneficiaries of a network of coordinated nonprofit organizations that fulfill the functions once provided by political parties. This network expertly stitches together voter registration, opposition research, media outreach, social networking, political advocacy, and — most significantly — get-out-the-vote programs.
Republicans have plenty of TV ads, but when Election Day hits, Democratic walkers are the ones who fan out and knock on doors to turn out voters. The GOP relies on airwaves, Democrats on shoe leather.
This is how Colorado Democrats minimized their losses in a GOP wave year. They understand that after campaign finance reform, political parties can no longer be relied upon to provide the blocking and tackling necessary for widespread success. They have privatized political party functions to great effect.
Every year since 2004, GOP faithful have been saying, “Don’t worry — Republicans will catch up.” This year they came close. But not close enough.
Maybe in 2012.
Rob Witwer is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and co-author of the book, “The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care).”