CO-Governor: Was Ritter's Problem Moderation or Inconsistency?

Commenter Bob Stovall offered a good response to my post arguing that Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's moderate approach doomed his governorship: It is not ...
by | January 12, 2010

Commenter Bob Stovall offered a good response to my post arguing that Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's moderate approach doomed his governorship:

It is not as simple as saying Ritter is a moderate and therefore doesn't appeal to anyone. A significant factor in my mind is that he was unpredictable. No one seemed to know where he was going to go next. People look for some sort of guiding principle. There is a difference between being a moderate and changing course frequently to please everyone.

The sequence of events is that Ritter vetoed a labor supported bill (because he didn't think it was passed in the correct way) and then issued his collective bargaining directive to try to appease labor. Then he vetoed another labor bill.

The Bennet appointment showed flawed political thinking. There was nothing to gain and lots to lose by appointing Bennet instead of Andrew Romanoff.

Moderates can succeed if they know where they are going.

I think this is a smart take on Ritter's problems. He really got off on the wrong foot with his initial labor bill veto, which caught the unions by surprise. Ritter tried to find a middle ground on business-labor issues, but ended up just vacillating back and forth.

The lesson seems to be that while it's bad for your allies to feel unsatisfied, it's much worse for them to feel betrayed. Ritter didn't just fail to mollify his base. He also failed to manage their expectations.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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