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It's the highways, stupid. Transportation should determine who wins the Colorado governor's race in 2018.

Early stages of the contest became more interesting Monday when credible sources confirmed U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter would drop from the Democratic field Tuesday.

Perlmutter's withdrawal creates new challenges for Republicans, who were counting on a primary bloodbath between Perlmutter and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis. Only three days prior, Republican strategist Roger Hudson expressed delight on Denver Channel 12 at the prospect of an ugly primary among the two leading Democrats.

Hudson hoped Polis would drag Perlmutter far to the left. One would survive, badly injured by a primary slugfest.

"Jared Polis is the new Bernie Sanders," Hudson told host Jon Caldara, chairman of the center-right Independence Institute. "I think it's awesome for us."

Hudson predicted Polis or Perlmutter would find himself so far out left the voters of rural Colorado would rally for a Republican like how voters throughout the country got behind Donald Trump. He said the Democratic Party chair should have demanded the men decide "one of you, not both of you."

Maybe Democrats watch Republican advisers on Friday night TV.

Polis, a self-made businessman, can appear pro-business and can self-fund by tapping hundreds of millions in personal wealth. He has a base of multiple special interest coalitions, including environmentalists.

With Perlmutter likely gone, Democrats have five declared candidates and one obvious front-runner in Polis. Republicans have seven declared, others likely to join and no clear front-runner. Each party is loaded with self-funding multi-millionaires, making fundraising an unusually low-ranking factor.

Going forward, expect Democrats to quickly narrow their field. They are too politically savvy to risk a contentious primary. Why Polis? He brings a sprouting "conservatives for Polis" millennial social media trend and a high ranking by the libertarian-friendly House Liberty Caucus. He is the amiable father of adopted kids and a folksy celebrity who wears bow ties on polo shirts.

Meanwhile, expect a Republican nominee who's bleeding, stumbling and crying for Adrian Balboa on the primary stage. That's the typical scene, and a major reason why Coloradans have elected Democrats as four of the past five governors.

Colorado elections are won in the middle, by attracting the million-plus unaffiliated voters who outnumber Democrats and Republicans. Typically, these contests weigh heavily on personality, image and charm.

Without star quality on the ticket, Republicans need an issue-centric race.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Legislature have failed Coloradans for years, over-funding special-interest Medicaid residents and dwelling on minutia. Hard-working taxpayers are left with dangerous highways and bridges. They are told nothing can be done. They'll have to wait.

Each party would benefit by quickly deciding on one candidate who can most passionately articulate a logical, affordable plan for leading a swift solution to the transportation crisis.

Somebody, from either party, come forward with a pledge to solve the problem that undermines us all. It is far past time to fix the damn roads.

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