The Colorado Springs Gazette

Fort Collins GOP eyes boost in longshot bid


Colorado Republican Steve Laffey is confident his Herman Cain moment is coming.

Since launching the longest of longshot campaigns for the White House in February, the Fort Collins resident and former mayor of Cranston, R.I., has neither registered in the polls nor been in danger of qualifying for the primary debates sponsored by the the Republican National Committee.

Undaunted, Laffey is convinced that none of the leading GOP candidates — from former President Donald Trump, who has boasted a commanding lead in polls for months, to Trump detractors like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has struggled to break out of the single digits — have what it takes to win the presidency, even while acknowledging

that the Republican Party he once knew is long gone.

The voluble 61-year-old supervised the lucrative sale of a wealth management and capital market firm he ran before winning election 20 years ago as mayor of Cranston, a midsize Rhode Island city he says was headed toward ruin before he turned its finances around. After an unsuccessful run for a U.S. Senate seat in Rhode Island, Laffey moved his family to Larimer County in 2010 and ran for an open U.S. House seat in 2014 but finished last in the primary. He considered running for governor of Colorado in 2018, but when his daughter was diagnosed with cancer, he moved to Philadelphia for experimental treatment that proved successful.

An unabashed anti-trump fiscal conservative, Laffey says he’s the only candidate in any party with a strategy to fix America — he produced a documentary called “Fixing America,” featuring interviews with “everyday Americans” — and believes his campaign is on the verge of taking off.

If things go according to plan, Laffey’s breakthrough might echo the late Cain’s unlikely rise to Republican front-runner in 2011, though Laffey told Colorado Politics he learned from Cain how to avoid the mistakes that swiftly derailed the former Godfather’s Pizza executive’s candidacy.

“Here’s what it’s going to look like,” Laffey said during a recent, wide-ranging interview. “When someone like Chris Christie is known by all but polls at 2.7% in the national polls, he’s going nowhere. When Ron Desantis goes from 33% to 15% — no one’s ever made a comeback like that.” That’s where Cain comes in. “However, in 2011, go to Real Clear Politics — Herman Cain was at 0,” Laffey said. “And in September, due to a confluence of events — and by the way, he became a friend of mine and was a really good guy. But who knows why, I mean, he was at a straw poll in Florida and all of a sudden, there he is, right? So, we don’t know why. But I think it’s a confluence of events, of everybody getting their chance. And Herman, clearly, God rest his soul, was not ready for the international politics of it, and so forth, when he got his chance. And he told me what he did wrong, and so forth, when I met with him about this in Atlanta.”

Laffey said his background is bound to turn heads once he breaks into single digits in polls.

“So, I hope I get my chance, that people say, ‘Hey, you know what, there’s a guy — he went to Harvard Business School, he is a financial expert, he’s had none of his people get arrested, he’s never been accused of sexual assault — these are bare minimums, I’m sorry.”

Acknowledging that he lost consecutive races for senator and representative, Laffey said other politicians failed before they made it.

“(It) looks like this: When or if I get to 1% in the polls, or, say, 5% in New Hampshire, let’s just say — all of a sudden heads turn, because I’m not supposed to be there, and it’s going in the right direction. If I get to be 1% in the national polls, I’ll be at 3, and when I’m 3, the whole world will change for everybody, because I’m the only person who provides any solutions to fix this country, to enlarge the middle class and get people out of poverty. It’s on my website,”

It’s easy to run for president — Laffey is among more than three dozen Republican presidential candidates who reported raising or spending at least some money through the year’s second quarter. At last count, more than 500 candidates of all stripes have filed the necessary paperwork to establish presidential campaigns, including Democrats, Libertarians, independents and write-in candidates.

Laffey reported raising nearly $50,000 in contributions through June 30, on top of $110,000 he either gave or loaned his campaign. He finished the period with just over $100,000 on hand and has been campaigning heavily in early states Iowa and New Hampshire.

But don’t expect him to bend the knee to the RNC in order to land a spot in an upcoming debate.

The national GOP’S requirement that candidates promise to back the party’s eventual nominee is a deal-breaker, Laffey said.

“I never would have signed the pledge to endorse an unknown candidate, i.e., Donald Trump, and so the RNC has just hung itself on its own petard, whatever that phrase is,” Laffey said, mocking the notion that all the Republicans who appeared on stage in Milwaukee pledged to support Trump, even though Trump skipped the debate to sit for an interview with Tucker Carlson.

“Donald Trump is a narcissist, and my party better get its act together soon, because a narcissist does stuff like this,” Laffey said.

But Trump was far from the only candidate with issues, he said, adding that several second-tier candidates who paid premiums to attract donations in order to meet an RNC requirement might have broken federal election laws.

“When these type of people succumb to pressure like this — I don’t want to be president that bad,” he said. “That’s why I actually should be the president.”

As the only candidate from New England, Laffey said, that’s where he hopes to see his candidacy break out.

“That’s my plan, I stick to my plan, and that’s what I’m doing,” he said. “But if I don’t break out because I wasn’t willing to succumb to the pressure and sign a document like Chris Christie, and tell people I was lying about it, then so be it,” he said.

“That’s not who I am,” he added.

Laffey said he’s battling what he calls the “least-worst theory,” when voters settle for the least worst alternative rather than refusing to cast a ballot for an unacceptable candidate.

“They’re like, well, Trump’s ahead, I’m good with Trump, I want Trump to beat Biden,” he said, shaking his head. “Me, I never do the leastworst theory. I never voted for Trump.”

Laffey said he wrote in the name of his economic adviser in 2016 and wrote in his own name in 2020.

He expressed dismay that Trump appears to have gained support from Republican voters since facing indictments.

“We’ve never had someone this far ahead who’s getting stronger because he’s been indicted,” Laffey said, adding that he doesn’t know what has to happen before people start caring about the problems he’s diagnosed or the solutions he’s proposed.

Laffey said he also drew inspiration from another past presidential candidate who emerged from far back in the field, although unlike Cain, this one went on to win.

There’s a chance, he said, that the country could “look for something very new, the way they did in (1975) and found Jimmy Carter, who was, by the way, thought to be at 0% in November of ‘75 and was never going to win, because it was right for the times. From that moment on in November, people gravitated to Jimmy Carter because he was a kind, gentle man after Watergate, and a guy with no issues, other than whatever normal issues are, right?”

Laffey slowed his pace and nodded.

“And that’s what I hope happens here, and that’s what people should get out of this, that that can happen,” he said. “And if you don’t step into the arena one last time, like me — at least put the effort out to help save this country — you’d look back and say, ‘I should have done that.’”





The Gazette, Colorado Springs