‘We’re not normal’: Denver Post political reporter Lynn Bartels explains Colorado caucus day

Dylan Stableford
February 7, 2012

Voters in Colorado and Minnesota will caucus on Tuesday in what will be the sixth (and seventh) contests of the 2012 Republican race for the presidential nomination. In our continuing interview series with local political reporters, Yahoo News spoke with the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels on the eve of the Colorado caucuses about the dimmed enthusiasm for 2012, how Mitt Romney's frontrunner status has made him less accessible, and why an endorsement from Tim Tebow would trump Trump.

Yahoo News: What's different about covering the 2012 race than the others you've covered?

Bartels: I have to say, in 2008 there was a lot more excitement in Colorado because the Democrats and Republicans held their caucuses on the same night. I couldn't keep up with all the calls from people saying, "I'm at this precinct, the line's around the block, I can't find a parking spot anywhere." I had [then-Colorado Republican Party chairman] Dick Wadhams call me from Columbine High School, saying "You can't believe this." It was the same thing everywhere. Now, you don't have the Democrats campaigning here. What's really new is, Colorado used to be a flyover state. People forget, in 1996, Colorado went for Bob Dole over Bill Clinton. Also, we used to be part of Super Tuesday. People here are jazzed that all the candidates are here in the state this week.

Were you rooting for a different outcome in Nevada? A closer race?

I always root for a Patriots-Giants-type finish. Do I think we'll get one tomorrow? No. Mitt Romney did well here last time, and he has a great infrastructure set up. And there's something of a Mormon population in Colorado.

Who or what is the most important endorsement in Colorado?

Attorney Gen. John Suthers, who was an early endorser of Mitt Romney. In 2008, we had Senator Wayne Allard, former Colorado governor Bill Owens, whose support the candidates were vying for.

What about Tim Tebow?

Everyone loves Tim Tebow.

What does the national media not know about Colorado media? Or Colorado in general?

We're not normal. We're a one-third, one-third, one-third state: one-third Democrats, one-third Republicans, one-third unaffiliated with either party. I think Republicans are shooting to put Colorado back in play in the general election.

It seems the debates have played a much larger role this cycle.

Oh my God. I watched the South Carolina debate, when John King asked the opening question. Oh. My. God.

What would've been the first question you'd ask?

Hindsight being 20/20, I thought he asked a great question, but blew the follow-up. I think a lot of people feel that way. Instead of saying, "It wasn't our network, Mr. Speaker," he should've said, "So, Gennifer Flowers wasn't an issue?"

It's funny, the media is "big and terrible and awful," and then the candidates get here and are like, "OK, who do I need to talk to." In that sense, it's too bad Florida and Nevada were such blowouts, because otherwise Mitt Romney would have to talk to everybody. He'd have to be much more accessible. It seems like the bigger your campaign gets, the less accessible you become.

You're not the first reporter to say that about Romney.

It's good to have candidates here, because you can actually talk to them. It's not like Obama, who comes here with a traveling press corps, and you have to be somewhere at 10:30 in the morning for an event at 3:30 in the afternoon.

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