The first rule of the hole says, “When you’re in a hole, stop digging!”
As Colorado Republicans consider whether to continue to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in the Republican primary election, they should consider the hole we’re already in with unaffiliated voters whose votes are essential to electing our candidates in statewide elections.
Even in Republican strongholds of Douglas and El Paso counties, unaffiliated voters are breaking hard against Republicans.
In Douglas County, Joe Biden won 65.7% of ballots cast by voters who were neither Republican nor Democrat, piling up 27,011 more votes than Donald Trump. Two years earlier, Jared Polis won 64.2% of those ballots over Republican Walker Stapleton.
In El Paso County, long considered vital for any Republican to win statewide, Biden won 59.1% of ballots cast by unaffiliated voters in 2020, and Polis won 60% of those ballots in 2018.
Other metro countries were much worse for Republicans. In both Denver and Boulder, Biden won more than 80% of the unaffiliated vote – a 4-to-1 margin. In former bell-weather counties, Biden won 70.8% of unaffiliated votes in Arapahoe, 67.7% in Jefferson, and 69.3% in Larimer. In fact, Biden actually racked up bigger margins of raw votes among unaffiliateds in Arapahoe and JeffCo than he did in Boulder.
Of the dozen largest counties in Colorado, Trump won more unaffiliated votes than Biden in just three: Pueblo (65.9%), Mesa (53.7%) and Weld (52%). However, Trump’s combined margin of 13,409 more unaffiliated votes in those three counties were less than Biden’s margin in any one of the largest counties except Adams (13,245) and Broomfield (9,200).
What about the other 52 smaller counties? Surely unaffiliated voters in more rural counties provide fertile territory for Republicans? In certain of those counties, yes. But overall, Biden won the 52 smaller counties with 55.8% of the unaffiliated vote and a margin of 21,520.
Colorado Republicans already find themselves in a deep hole with swing voters. What could they do to dig that hole even deeper? Telling those unaffiliateds who still want to vote in our primary election that they aren’t welcome would just about turn that hole into a bottomless pit and seal the fate of Republicans running for statewide office.d
Mark Hillman served as Colorado’s Republican National Committeeman from 2008 to 2012.