To help clear the field, the party invoked a formal process under what's known as "Rule 11." Dating back to at least the mid-1990s but little-known among many of the GOP rank and file, Rule 11 allows the national party to abandon its traditional neutral stance and back a candidate long before a primary vote.
It required the signature of the state party chairman and Colorado's two national Republican committeemen. Of the three who made the decision to back Schaffer, one — because he holds a seat on the National Republican Committee — was Bob Schaffer.
So this is a story that's both party-centered and candidate-centered - Schaffer is taking advantage of a party rule to help himself. Apparently, Schaffer wouldn't enter the race unless he was pretty much guaranteed a primary-less ride. The Democrats don't have such institutional rules, but the state party chair is clearing the field anyway:
When Democrat Mark Benner recently suggested he would challenge U.S. Rep. Mark Udall of Eldorado Springs for a chance at the Senate seat, state party chairwoman Pat Waak began a series of discussions with Benner "about other ways to get the issues he is interested in out there."This isn't a new situation. There's been surprisingly little intraparty competition for some very competitive seats in the past few years. Bill Ritter was virtually unopposed by other Democrats in last year's gubernatorial race, and the GOP establishment managed to shut down Marc Holtzman's challenge to Bob Beauprez in that race. Both parties rallied around their more moderate candidates in the '04 Senate race (Salazar and Coors), despite the more ideologically pure candidates (Miles and Schaffer) winning in the caucuses.
How did Colorado's parties suddenly get so strong? And how come the presidential race is comparatively so chaotic?