Donald Trump is leaning into his 2020 re-election campaign, and Colorado Republicans should be paying close attention. You can bet Democrats are.
Against all political logic, Trump has revived health care as a GOP talking point, and he's calling for congressional policies that would be doomed as long as Democrats control the U.S. House. He says he has a plan better than Obamacare, but you have to wait until after the election to find out what's in it, apparently.
Trump's tariffs have hurt the rural voters he promised to help, and his border war rages on, leaving the incumbent to run on problems he promised to fix.
A ride on the Trump bandwagon is sure to cause some motion sickness, especially in Colorado. Republicans here love their embattled president more than ever -- way more.
In 2016, Trump accused Colorado Republican Party leaders of running a rigged system in a Wall Street Journal op-ed after he skipped the state convention and he got none of the state's 34 delegates to the Republican National Committee. They went to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. When the convention rolled around, some of the Colorado delegates walked out.
Cruz received Trump's blistering campaign criticism, too. Cruz and Colorado made up with their precocious president.
U.S. Rep. Ken Buck of Windsor recently was elected state party chair. Buck was a delegate who didn't walk out on Trump at the RNC. He will continue to be member of the House Freedom Caucus, the most reliably conservative members of Congress who have been credited for steering Trump to the right.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who isn't in the Freedom Caucus, once called Trump a "buffoon." Now his re-election wagon is hitched to Trump's mule. Gardner sided with the president on the national emergency to spend military money on the border wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for. In January he called for ending the government shutdown over the border wall.
Confused? It's complicated.
Gardner already has given Trump his official endorsement for re-election, a move Gardner needed to make to stave off a primary challenger from the far right of his party. Before Gardner declared himself a Trump man, the chatter was growing on talk radio in Denver that his conservative credentials were to be second-guessed. I was among the airwave chatterers.
There's one thing operatives on both sides have told me often: You can't win without your base.
That's the reason Walker Stapleton embraced Trump on the way to losing the governor's race last year. If you've forgotten, Stapleton is a cousin to the presidential Bush family.
The Bushes have been prominently opposed to Trump. Early on, Jeb Bush was the former Florida governor whom Trump called "low-energy Jeb." Trump was critical of President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq, and more recently he mocked President George H.W. Bush's "Thousand Points of Light" campaign to honor public service.
The matriarch of the party, the late Barbara Bush, particularly detested Trump.
"He doesn't give many answers to how he would solve problems," she said in February 2016. "He sort of makes faces and says insulting things."
“I have heard that she was nasty to me, but she should be," Trump told the Washington Times this month. "Look what I did to her sons.”
Unlike George W. Bush, both Trump and Stapleton lost in Colorado. On the other hand, Republican U.S. Mike Coffman of Aurora, who had once seemed unbeatable, ran away from Trump last year and he lost his first race in 30 years to a political newcomer.
Republicans' problems with or without Trump won't worry many Democrats. The party on the left, however, has its own problems that for now it's choosing to ignore.
The number and party leanings of the state House and Senate seats in play next year favor Democrats. Color me very surprised if either chamber flips to the GOP.
But 2022 could be the Democrats' Waterloo.
For one, if Trump is voted out in 2020, then 2022 will be the first mid-term for a Democratic president. The party that occupies the White House has historically lost seats in Congress.
Last year, Trump's first midterm, saw a blue wave engulf Colorado. In 2010, President Obama's first midterm, Democrats lost every down-ballot race for statewide office and a 10-seat lead and its majority in the House.
Unaffiliated voters are a fickle bunch in Colorado, and Democrats have a lot of expensive and very green ideas, just as the state's economy appears to be cooling.
If Republicans have a Colorado comeback in mind, it happens in 2022 with a Democrat in the White House.
If oil and gas regulations drive out companies that take their jobs and tax revenue with them, local economies will feel that quickly. Even if the underlying reasons are the economy or fuel prices, Democrats will get the blame for that.
If people are paying more on their electric bills, rightly or wrongly, renewable energy will be sold as the culprit. Family paid leave, a higher minimum wage and any number of regulations past or present will be alleged killers of small businesses and Trump's thriving economy.
Elections have consequences, but future consequences also have elections.