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‘Moderate’ Colo. GOP Chair Ryan Call hosts dinner with Rick Santorum

In the heated race for Colorado Republican Party chair last month, GOP legal counsel Ryan Call won in an unexpectedly lopsided first-round vote. High-profile party figures like Attorney General John Suthers and state Senator Shawn Mitchell said they endorsed Call because he was the kind of down-the-middle conservative the party needed to attract moderate and independent voters. On Wednesday, Call hosted his first major Party function. No middle-of-the-road affair, this event took place almost entirely on the right-side shoulder. It was a fundraiser luncheon featuring controversial Pennsylvania politician Rick Santorum, who seized on the occasion to warn Colorado Republicans that President Obama was going to disappear their country and draw them further from God because his Democrat plan was to get them hooked on entitlements.

Ernest Luning at the Colorado Statesman captured the tone of the event.

In a speech full of dark warnings, Santrum told the crowd that, given the lukewarm gains made by Republicans here in the last election, he wasn’t sure what to expect:

“This was a state that didn’t go quite the way we hoped — it wasn’t just Colorado, it was everything west of the Mississippi,” he said. “Would I come into a group that was sort of flat and not energized, or would the fire still be burning?” He said he was happy to see the state GOP’s enthusiasm because, he said, this is a serious time. “You’re going to be in the center of it — you’re one of those purple states that can swing either way … the core of who America is, is hanging in the balance,” he said.

[H]e said [Democrats] are attempting to engineer “a fundamental shift,” and could turn the country into a European-style socialist state… if they aren’t checked.

“If we do not win this election and ‘Obamacare’ goes into effect, America as you know it, as you were given it by your parents and grandparents — America will be gone forever,” he said. “That’s what I believe is at stake. America as you know it will be gone… once the government has control over your life, over your health, it’s almost impossible to get it back, almost impossible to get freedom back.”

[...]

“Barack Obama decided to plow forward on health care reform, against all the polls, against the will of the people going against them, Barack Obama doubled down, ignored high unemployment, doing anything about the economy, ignored and focused like a laser beam on trying to get this health care bill passed. Why?” Santorum asked. “Why would you do anything like that?”

The answer… is that Democratic leaders knew that Americans love entitlements and that, by turning health care into an entitlement, the die would be cast. “Once we get them hooked on this entitlement, they will never let it go,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi believed…

That’s what outraged Santorum and helped pull him back into the political arena, he said.

“Think about how they view you,” he told the crowd of Republicans. “They view you no different than the drug dealer views the little kid in the school yard. They want to get you hooked, they want to get you dependent. They want to get you relying upon them for your wellbeing. And once they’ve satisfied you, giving them that drug, that narcotic, then you’ll be reliant on them and, by the way, you’ll also be less than what God created you to be.”

The crowd thundered applause. Santorum talked about statistical proof of American exceptionalism — arguing that life expectancy didn’t increase for thousands of years until America was founded, and then it doubled in 200 years — but kept returning to the importance of next year’s election.

This is how Lynn Bartels at the Denver Post wrote about the election of Ryan Call as party chair.

Suthers said Call knows the importance of fielding candidates who can attract unaffiliated voters and converts.

“We must do what it takes to expand our party, not just purify our party,” Suthers said.

Mitchell got big laughs and some “ooohs” with his remarks.

“Being a conservative and being a good leader is not enough for some people,” he said. “They want to measure your principles by how harshly you criticize the people that you disagree with you.

“There’s a technical term for that political strategy: stupid.”

The comments of young Republican Kelly Maher celebrating the election of Call as a signal that the party would be moving in a different, less polarizing direction seem naive if not ironic, given Santorum’s remarks Wednesday and his long track record as a top anti-gay U.S. politician:

“I think [Call's victory] is a big win for young people in our party,” she said. “I think it’s absolutely critical that we attract and engage a new generation.”

The Rick Santorums of the party aren’t likely to energize a lot of Colorado’s young Republicans.

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