Fifteen years ago, I registered as a (choke! gasp!) Republican. I didn't do so because of any particular affection for the GOP, but because I wanted to vote for state Rep. Marcy Morrison in an upcoming primary election.
Deemed insufficiently conservative by party chieftains, she was always targeted by the extreme right. Hence squishy moderates and a few sensible liberals held their noses and signed up with the party. Thus fortified, she fought off challenges from the likes of Dave Schultheis and Kent Lambert.
Driven by laziness and transient political opportunism, I never changed my registration. That's why I'll be at Coronado High School at 7 p.m. Tuesday, ready to participate in the non-binding, likely irrelevant Republican caucuses that may enthrall political junkies nationwide for as much as an hour.
Theoretically, the Colorado caucuses could be as significant as Iowa's. We're a diverse, proudly purple state, with colorful GOP candidates and officeholders (remember Dan Maes? Tom Tancredo? Scott McInnis? Ken Buck?). As a reporter or a candidate, would you like to go to an event at The Broadmoor or the Brown Palace and hang out with Tim Tebow after a Broncos game? Or would you rather eat bad Midwestern pizza, embrace ethanol subsidies and ride the campaign bus from one dismal VFW hall to another?
In early 2011, Colorado GOPsters floated the idea of having Colorado's caucuses the day after Iowa's, thereby forcing candidates to choose one or the other. Now, that would have been fun — imagine Mitt Romney's strapping sons, Jon Huntsman's lissome daughters, creaky old Ron Paul (good on ya, fellow geezer!), genial Herman Cain, sanctimonious Rick Santorum and forgetful Rick Perry trudging around Colorado, begging for votes!
Alas, it's not happening. The road show is down to four wounded warriors (Newt Gingrich, Romney, Santorum and Paul, in case you haven't been paying attention), and the primary season is in full swing.
Nevada has its caucuses on Saturday, followed by Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, with its non-binding primary, on Tuesday. Arizona and Michigan vote Feb. 28, followed by Super Tuesday on March 6, when Republicans in seven more states cast their ballots.
So we're small potatoes. Local favorite Romney plans to do a fly-in, fly-out on election eve, while Paul visited this week as did Santorum. And Newt? We'll see, but the Denver Post has already joined the Republican establishment's deNewtification brigade, characterizing him in a Monday editorial as a "demagogue" opposed by "serious thinkers" like George Will.
Well. Anybody opposed by George Will may deserve support, but let's not forget the other three. Republicans need to make a choice, and attend their precinct caucus — and that's not so easy.
Precinct borders, numbering and caucus locations have changed, reducing the number of El Paso County precincts by more than half, to 199. Registered voters received a strange postcard notifying them of the changes from the clerk and recorder's office, according to which my new precinct number is 511182110.
That made no sense, since precinct numbers are three digits. It took a couple of phone calls and a visit to the local GOP website to find that only the last three numbers count. (If you're similarly puzzled, go to gopelpaso.com.)
What happens at the caucuses? I dunno — I'm hoping for Iowa-style candidate tents in the parking lot, free pizza, rock bands, climbing walls and dancing bears. Absent such delights, I expect grim-faced party stalwarts, the election of precinct chairs and delegates to the county assembly, as well as the informal presidential poll.
Should we go for the richest, the oldest, the looneyest (hint: the word looney is derived from the Latin luna, the moon), or the most pious? A responsible voter should choose Romney, clearly the most qualified Republican candidate at the moment. But is it a good idea to have a 1 percenter — more precisely, a 0.006 percenter — run the country?
When Elliott Roosevelt was mayor of Miami Beach in mid-1960s, he was asked whether the Mob ran the city.
"No," he said. "The Mob doesn't run Miami Beach — they own Miami Beach."
Times have changed, I guess — the nation's real owners want to be in control. Think of it as another private equity deal ...