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CO-Governor: In Search of Conservative Unity, ASAP

If there were one conservative candidate in the Colorado governor's race instead of two, he'd have a chance to win. But, if Don Maes and Tom Tancredo are going to join forces in Colorado, they'd be best off doing it this week.

If Don Maes and Tom Tancredo are going to join forces in Colorado, they'd be best off doing it this week.

There have been no signs the last few days of any agreement between Maes, the Republican nominee for governor, and Tancredo, the former Republican congressman who is running on the American Constitution Party line because he says Maes can't win. But, of course, every candidate says they're running until they're not running. Who wants to donate money or time to candidates who says, "I might drop out next week?"

A couple of polls recently have indicated that Maes is somewhat within striking distance of John Hickenlooper, who, as the Democratic nominee, is the heavy favorite as long as the conservative vote is split. Perhaps more importantly, polls have consistently found that were the supporters of Maes and Tancredo to unite behind a single candidate, that candidate would be competitive (or perhaps leading) Hickenlooper. That's why I keep wondering whether Maes or Tancredo (more likely Tancredo, since he usually runs third) would drop out, despite bluster to the contrary.

For that reason, I checked with the Colorado Secretary of State's office today to see when ballots are finalized, meaning candidates cannot drop off. The answer: Friday.

Of course, if Tancredo were to drop out after that date and publicly back Maes, it's an open question how many people would stick with the former congressman. Probably, many of his supporters would go to Maes, although Tancredo has enough of a following (he's much better known than Maes) that he would win a decent number of votes even as a non-candidate, hurting the Republican's chances.

What unquestionably won't work is for Tancredo to wait for the eve of the election, then, if he's polling poorly, throw his support behind Maes. Colorado will mail ballots to overseas voters October 1, mail ballots to permanent absentee voters (most Colorado voters are signed up to always receive ballots by mail) October 12 and begin early voting October 18. An election-eve endorsement wouldn't do Maes any good.

Most likely, all of this discussion is irrelevant -- Hickenlooper will win regardless of what Maes and Tancredo do. I tend to think that Maes' poll numbers are somewhat inflated right now by his primary victory. Even if he turns out to be a better candidate than many people think, his deficit of campaign cash is a big problem.

Still, in this election year, almost any Democrat with an opponent is not entirely safe. For that reason, I'll be keeping my eye on Colorado this week to see if there are any tidings from Tancredo and Maes.

Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..
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