Friday, April 12, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: Colorado Republican Shares Hard Learned Lessons for Texas

(Author's Note: Sean Duffy is in the center of the picture, next to Santorum)
Today, Cahnman's Musings was blessed to speak for 45 minutes with Sean Duffy former deputy Chief of Staff to former Colorado Governor Bill Owens.  Almost a decade ago, Sean Duffy was a source of ours when we worked with Robert Novak.  During that time, the left was in the early stages of its takeover of Colorado.

Since the election of 2012, as the left has announced its intention to use the Colorado model in Texas, Cahnman's Musings thought back to those conversations we had with Sean Duffy in 2004 many times.  In 2004, there was something happening on the ground in Colorado that we did not understand at the time.  Having been on the front-lines of those battles, Sean Duffy shared his thoughts with Cahnman's Musings:


Education -- Early in their rise to power, the left demagogued Education.
  • In the Early 2000's education in Colorado was a mess.  Amendment 23, passed in 2000, created a mandate in the state constitution that required the state to spend at least inflation PLUS 1% on education.  This chaotic policy environment gave the left an opportunity to operate in Colorado in a way that doesn't exist in Texas today.
  • In discussing education: "Moms and Dads like substance....There's ways to deal with this [education] in a substantive way where you can get Moms and Dads to focus."
    • Author's Note: In Texas, that means School Choice, School Choice, and School Choice.
  • "If we fight over dollars we lose, if we fight over substance we win."
    •  Author's Note: I think that's the most important line in the whole interview.
Tactics of the Left
  • The left likes to "create chaos and drop a piano on someone's head."
  • The left systematically took out key Republicans in the state legislature by demogoguing particular votes and spending multiples of what had previously been spent in state legislative races; they knew who to pick off.
    • Author's note: In Texas, my educated guess is that Donna Campbell and Giovanni Capriglione are the two most likely candidates.
    • In a hilarious and ironic turn of events, this point might be the silver lining of Joe Straus' leadership. If there's one thing members of the Texas House know how to do, it's raise money and campaign.  No vulnerable Republican in the Texas House will ever lack for money.
  • The left has "an extraordinary ground game"
    • "The Left loves to go door-to-door."
    •  Day in, day out, door-to-door organizing.
    • Teachers "literally go door-to-door."
    •  "We just don't do that"...."[W]e don't cultivate neighborhoods the way the left does."
  •  Ken Salazar 2004:
    • Ran as a moderate and was well liked.
  •  "The spend a lot of time ripping our guys' heads off and we don't do as well in terms of finding the 1 or 2 message points that really unravels somebody in the public mind."
 Differences with Texas:
  • Texas conservatives already have the seven capabilities; we can get a LOT better in how we deploy them, but we're building from a solid foundation.
    • "This is the bread and butter of the left; they stand up organizations that do each of those things and they fund them."
    • Intellectual Ammunition: Texas Public Policy Foundation.
    • Mobilize for elections: Anyone who volunteered for Ted Cruz knows how many people were block-walking in 100 degree heat heading into that LATE JULY runoff!
    • Pursuing investigations: Who uncovered CSCOPE?!?
    • Strategic Litigation: Does the name Greg Abbott ring a bell?!?
  •  Colorado was never the Republican stronghold that Texas is today.
    • Bill Owens was the first Republican governor in 25 years.
    • Ken Salazar was an incumbent state Attorney General before he was elected to the U.S. Senate; in Texas terms that would be like having Joaquin Castro serve alongside Rick Perry.
    • In Texas, by contrast, no Democrat has won statewide office since 1994.
  •  Entrepreneurs in the Minority communities.
How you beat the left:
  • "You've gotta get into the specifics of where the dollars are going and pound the crap out of them!"
Finally, via e-mail, Sean Duffy shares his thoughts on how conservatives, in general, can improve our messaging:
I just think we do so much better when we use emotion, and strong compelling narrative to back up our points.  Whether in charter schools or school choice, folks are moved by the plight of eager mothers who are fighting to get their kids educated.  We are moved by entrepreneurs who succeed despite humble beginnings.  More and more, it’s the narrative that has to be developed to bolster our policy points…particularly in the new media environment.
 Bottom Line: Texas conservatives must always remain vigilant, but we're a LOT better prepared for this fight than the left thinks we are.

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