Colorado GOP and Gardner campaign reinvigorate ground level strategies

DAN FROSCH ---- The Wall Street Journal 

DENVER—Stung by recent losses in this pivotal swing state, Republicans in Colorado this year are mimicking the data-driven ground game that Democrats here used to beat them and are now employing nationally.

The new strategy uses expansive field operations and data mining to home in on likely GOP voters in every corner of the state, even areas generally hostile to the party. Colorado Republicans say the shift is an effort to catch up to tactics that Democrats showcased here in 2010, when Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet defeated Republican Ken Buck by less than two percentage points.

National Democrats are aiming to replicate the Colorado blueprint to hold on to their slim Senate majority with a voter-targeting campaign dubbed the “Bannock Street Project,” after the location of the state’s main Democratic field office in Denver.

But here in Colorado, Republicans believe they have matched the sophistication of their opponents’ efforts and are banking on results this fall in tight House, Senate and gubernatorial contests that are being watched around the country.

“There was almost a sense of Republican entitlement before 2010,” said Chris Hansen, campaign manager for GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in November.

In years past, Mr. Hansen noted, Republican election losses were dismissed as anomalies, but a new wave of party strategists “have a different picture.”

“As far as tactics go, some people don’t like it, but we had to change,” he added.

For several years, a cadre of younger GOP operatives including Mr. Hansen has been overhauling the party’s playbook in Colorado. The state has become more urban and diverse in recent years, while a swirl of hot-button issues—including immigration, gay marriage, hydraulic fracturing, marijuana legalization and gun control—demand political dexterity.

The changes are a response to a string of bleak election cycles for Colorado Republicans. In 2010, GOP infighting helped Democratic Gov. John W. Hickenlooper coast to victory—in addition to Mr. Bennet’s win that year. And in 2012, President Barack Obama carried the state over Mitt Romney by more than five percentage points, after beating John McCain by nearly twice as much in 2008.

Click here to read more.