The best political investment of the decade may well have been the money Americans for Prosperity’s Art Pope spent to turn North Carolina’s legislature over from Democrats to Republicans. The GOP’s victory there, in 2010, deprived Democrats of any say in congressional redistricting, effectively switching three seats from blue to red for the rest of this decade. AFP, which isn’t as noisy as some Tea Party groups (I’m thinking of all the ones that went big and loud for Chris McDaniel), figured out a long time ago that a little money to win a state legislative seat goes further than the same amount in a congressional race. By 2013, with Republicans in fully command of the state, the triumphant Pope was North Carolina’s budget director.
So no one look surprised to see AFP go on the air—in July!—against three Democratic state senators in the Denver metro area.
It’s been more than a decade since the GOP could run the table in Colorado. In 2004, Colorado Democrats made gains even as John Kerry lost the state—Ken and John Salazar took over Republican seats in the Senate and House. In 2006 the party won control of the governor’s mansion and legislature. In 2008 they extended that. In 2010 they lost it, but held the governor’s mansion and the U.S. Senate seat. In 2012 they roared right back, with a Senate majority enabling the passage of progressive bills like a post-Newtown gun control measure.
Cue the backlash, from a smaller and less liberal electorate. Last year two state Senate Democrats were taken down in recalls, credited to voter anger at the year’s liberal bills. (These Democrats were not as successful as Scott Walker in arguing that a recall for political purposes—when no crime or ethical violation was alleged—was horrible precedent.) This year, Republicans thrilled at weak poll numbers for incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall. Outside groups charged into the state again. All they need to do is remove Hickenlooper, win one Senate seat, and win the House to make the state red again.