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Consultant to Longmont GOP: Unaffiliated Voters Are Key

December 6, 2018

Longmont Times-Call

Last month’s election showed that Colorado Republicans need to focus their candidates and platforms on unaffiliated voters in 2020, the head of a Louisville-based consulting firm suggested Wednesday during a GOP breakfast in Longmont.

David Flaherty, CEO and founder of Magellan Strategies, a campaign strategy and research firm, said Republican candidates need to emphasize the issues of concern to Coloradans who aren’t registered with any political party.

Coloradans last month elected Democrats to the offices of governor, secretary of state, state treasurer and attorney general and flipped one of the state’s Republican-filled congressional seats to the Democratic column. Voters also increased Democrats’ majority control of House of Representatives and gave the Democratic Party control of the state Senate.

Flaherty, the featured speaker at this month’s Boulder County Republican Breakfast meeting, said it was an “extraordinary” election outcome because in the past 20 years, Colorado voters had never so overwhelmingly rejected one political party — in this case, the Republican Party — at every level of represented government.

In this year’s mid-term election, both Democrats and unaffiliated voters participated at an unprecedented level, he said.

Republican voters did turn out, with 71 percent of the state’s registered Republicans voting, Flaherty said.

But for the first time ever, the turnout of 918,091 unaffiliated voters, which amounted to 60 percent of registered unaffiliates, and 847,338 Democratic voters, which was 71 percent of registered Democrats, was higher than the 810,143 Republican voters who cast ballots, Flaherty said.

Unaffiliated voters “came out of the woodwork like they never have before,” he said.

Flaherty suggested one problem was that messages emphasized by the GOP might not have benefited Republicans seeking election or re-election.

He said his firm’s Nov. 7-9 post-election poll of unaffiliated voters found the top two issues important to those voters and influencing their votes for governor and the state Legislature were education and health care.

Unaffiliated voters said they supported Democratic Gov.-elect Jared Polis because of his positions on those issues and the environment, and because they liked Polis’ business background and viewed him to be a more competent and qualified candidate than Republican Walker Stapleton, Flaherty said.

Magellan’s telephone survey found that many unaffiliated voters opposed Stapleton because of his support of President Donald Trump and Trump’s policies, Flaherty reported, with only a few unaffiliated voters saying they supported Stapleton for positions such as his opposition of “sanctuary cities.”

Trump’s job approval rating among unaffiliated Colorado voters was “toxic” for GOP candidates, Flaherty said.

Only 31 percent of the unaffiliated voters in Magellan’s post-election poll said they approved of the job Trump is doing, 62 percent disapproved, and 48 percent strongly disapproved.

Flaherty told his breakfast audience he wasn’t trying “to throw Walker Stapleton and his team under the bus” or to be “a Debbie Downer.”

“I’m a Republican. I want us to win. But we do need to make some changes,” he said.

A 2020 “presidential ballot test” in Magellan’s poll found that 55 percent of unaffiliated Colorado voters surveyed said they would support a “generic” Democratic candidate, while 23 percent would support Trump and 4 percent would support an “other” candidate. Seventeen percent of respondents were undecided.

Flaherty predicted that if the Republican Party and its candidates continue to make a negative impression on Colorado’s unaffiliated voters, the GOP will have “a hard time being competitive” in future elections.

Boulder County Republican chairwoman Peg Cage, an interview after the breakfast, said that while “I think it would be good for us to listen” to Flaherty’s advice, she thinks that “in America, the job of the Republican Party is to preserve the Republic.

“I don’t think we do any favors by going against our president, who is standing up for the Republican platform and the Constitution.”

As of Dec. 1, there were 3,354,273 voters on Colorado’s registration rolls, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. That included 1,269,092 unaffiliated voters, 1,036,461 Democrats and 989,445 Republicans. The rest are registered as belonging to other political parties.

John Fryar: 303-684-5211, jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc

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