In April, former Republican Governor candidate Danielle Neuschwanger announced she would be running for Colorado Governor as a member of the American Constitution Party, prompting concerns from the state Republican party that she would draw voters away from their nominee.
“I don’t know what percentage she’ll get,” said GOP attorney George Brauchler on his KNUS radio show earlier this month. “I presume it will be low single digits. That’s just my best guess. But whatever she takes, it won’t be from Polis, right? She ain’t gonna take a single vote from the people who are going to vote for Jared Polis.”
Neuschwanger had been running for Governor as a Republican but failed to meet the voter threshold at the GOP state convention in April to appear on the primary ballot. Neuschwanger needed to win the votes of 30% of Republican delegates but checked in just under that at 27%.
The two candidates who will appear on the June Republican primary ballot are University of Colorado regent Heidi Ganahl and former Parker mayor Greg Lopez.
During a radio interview in April with Randy Corporon on 710 KNUS, Ganahl said a third-party candidate will hurt the Republicans’ chances of getting Polis out of office.
“I believe Danielle believes in the principles that we hold and that we share and I hope that she’ll join us in our effort to take back our state to beat Jared Polis,” Ganahl said to Corporon, adding that we “absolutely can win this thing” but Republicans have to play “almost a perfect game” to win. “Running on a third party isn’t going to help that.”
Colorado political analysts and pollsters share this point of view.
Floyd Ciruli, who founded Ciruli Associates, a research and consulting firm, brought up the 2010 Governor’s race in Colorado when asked about Neuschwanger’s impact.
In 2010, former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) ran for Governor as a member of the American Constitution Party, drawing support away from Dan Maes, the Republican nominee. That year current U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) won the election with 51% of the vote. Tancredo received 36% while Maes won just 11%.
“It has the potential to be like the 2010 gubernatorial election,” Ciruli said, “I’m not sure she’s a Tancredo but I understand she’s pretty wild. She knows how to get attention and as you know the party has an angry sense about it. A sense of grievance.”
Ciruli clarified that Neuschwanger likely won’t have as much of an impact as Tancredo did in 2010, but her presence will definitely hurt Republicans if she stays in the race.
“We assume that Polis is ahead in a head-to-head with either of the two potential Republican nominees, and obviously if there is a conservative candidate out there she will draw votes on the Republican side of this,” Ciruli said. “Whether it is a modest amount or a greater amount there will be some level of conservative votes diverted to this third-party candidate. No doubt about it.”
Ryan Winger, director of data analysis and campaign strategy at Magellan Strategies, a Colorado-based polling firm, pointed out that Republicans should do well in the 2022 midterms, so Republicans are right to be nervous about a third-party candidate running for Governor in Colorado.
“This atmosphere is arguably going to be as good as its going to get here in Colorado for Republicans,” Winger said. “It doesn’t make it a slam dunk like it is in other parts of the country but it’s going to be a lot more competitive than it otherwise would be. In a state where Republicans have not been able to win the Governor’s race since 2002, they really need every vote they can get. Any right-of-center votes that are not going to the Republican candidate are going to hurt Republicans in November.”
Winger agreed that Neuschwanger in 2022 will not be an exact replica of Tancredo in 2010.
“I’m pretty certain that it’s not going to turn into a scenario like 2010,” Winger said. “I don’t anticipate that Danielle will get a lot of support, but I also don’t think that it would take much for her to play spoiler.”
Seth Masket, professor of political science and the director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver, said that in a potentially close race, Neuschwanger getting even 10% of the vote could have huge implications.
“It’s not like she’s a household name or anything like that,” Masket said. “However, it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of votes to be influential if it’s a close election. I see little chance of her getting more votes than the Republican nominee but whatever she gets could make a difference. This could be a race decided by single digits.”
Masket said the difference between the 2010 and 2022 Gubernatorial elections was that in 2010 the Republican establishment largely abandoned Maes’ campaign to support Tancredo. Masket said he does not envision that happening in 2022.
Joshua Dunn, a professor of political science at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, agreed that Neuschwanger’s campaign could be bad for Republicans.
“My quick reaction, which isn’t surprising, is that this is bad for the Republican nominee and very good news for Polis,” Dunn said. “Polis certainly has the advantage going into the general election but if the economy continues to suffer with high energy prices and inflation the more the Republican nominee has a chance. Of course, as national politics continues to have a greater effect on state and local races the fact that you have a midterm election with a president with low approval ratings the more the race is within striking distance with the right Republican nominee. But given the Democratic drift of the state everything has to break right for the Republicans. Anything that could split the Republican vote is the opposite of that.”
The American Constitution Party promotes a religious conservative view of the U.S. Constitution. Founded in 1990, the party has supported several far-right politicians in local, state, and federal elections.
Neuschwanger accused the Colorado Republican Party of allowing voter fraud at the state assembly and has been an ardent supporter of numerous other conspiracy theories, such as baselessly claiming that incumbent Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) is not actually gay.