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Wake me when the election's over

Between the Lines



Some nights, the dream comes and goes quickly, just a brief interruption of a normal night's sleep. Other times, it unfolds in super-slow motion, with each agonizing detail lingering in my mind.

Occasionally, as was the case last weekend, the nightmare continues through awakening in a sweat and then drifting off again, ending only when I give in and stay up — even if it's still hours before dawn.

The dream has happened so many nights now, I remember it vividly. Every time, it brings the same shudders.

Ironically, the nightmare begins with me waking up, early on Wednesday, Nov. 3. And the 24-hour media everywhere, cable TV and online, are going crazy about what has happened in Colorado's general election.

It starts with the race for governor. Somehow, Tom Tancredo has eked out an apparent victory over Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. The margin is only about 150 votes, guaranteeing a recount, but Tancredo claims victory regardless, even with Democrats going ballistic over strange-looking results from a few counties. Republicans are orgasmic, because Dan Maes has surpassed the 10 percent threshold for the GOP to continue as a major party, and they know Tancredo really is one of them, anyway.

In the U.S. Senate race, Ken Buck has held off Sen. Michael Bennet, also by fewer than 200 votes. That means another recount, but there's a whiff of something scandalous, especially from voting machines in a few El Paso County precincts. Buck and the GOP don't care, because his "victory" gives the Republicans a 51-49 majority in the Senate.

Two races, two astoundingly close outcomes. Also, Republicans regain control of the Colorado Legislature.

With that as his weapon, Tancredo calls a news conference that same day in Denver. Flanked by gleeful GOP leaders, the governor-elect claims he's a Republican again, and they all vow to pass a frightening package of reforms. Even though Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 have lost, they promise to enact many of the same draconian measures.

The new leadership also vows to ram through — as soon as possible, after the Legislature convenes in January — an anti-immigration bill that will make Arizona's look sissified by comparison. Tancredo drives home the point by announcing that extremist Phoenix-area sheriff Joe Arpaio is moving to Denver and will become Colorado's new head of corrections.

Meanwhile, Buck flies to Washington and stands with ultraconservative Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Jeff Sessions of Alabama as they roll out new agenda items. They talk of repealing Roe v. Wade, outlawing all homosexuals from the military, doing away with public education, privatizing Social Security and funneling billions more into defense spending.

They might not have the numbers to overcome a filibuster, but they swear to oppose any White House legislation, even if it means Capitol gridlock.

And through it all, there's a sudden panic among Colorado's stunned Democrats, victimized by apathy and poor turnout.

"Nobody said it would be this bad," they cry out. "If we had only known..."

Around that point, the nightmare fades. But the pain in that dream is severe among the state's Democrats, who also have lost some local races by tiny margins. And all because of votes that never were cast ... but should have been.

It's one thing to lose to a tidal wave. It's totally different to come so close and barely lose. So I'm sharing the nightmare here, preferring to dramatize these premonitions now rather than ignore them until it's too late.

Everywhere, we hear of Democrats trying to stir their troops, along with the uncertain moderates. Just 50 people calling 20 others could mean 1,000 more votes. Fifty convincing just six others to cast ballots would mean 300.

It's not so funny now, but in August many wondered why the GOP couldn't go ahead and put the Tea Party out of its misery. That didn't happen, of course, and now the dream feels so real.

Will it happen? Come Wednesday, we'll know.

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