John Andrews

(Denver) A few days before Rick Santorum upset Mitt Romney in the Colorado caucuses, he made a campaign stop at Colorado Christian University, where I work. As it was ending, several students asked the former senator if he would Tebow with them. The picture with all of them on a knee, heads bowed, is my favorite 2012 political image so far. Rick has got game.

I wonder, though, if the feisty Pennsylvanian’s political fortunes here are headed into the same kind of fade as the young Floridian’s football fortunes – and if so, maybe it’s for the best. (In Santorum’s case, that is; this is not one more column about ex-Bronco Tim Tebow.)

My state's caucuses on Feb. 7, you see, were just a beauty contest. A binding vote on delegate selection for the RNC in Tampa won’t occur until Republicans from across Colorado convene at the DU Ritchie Center on April 13 and 14. On that Friday, seven congressional-district assemblies will elect three delegates each. The GOP state assembly will elect another 12 delegates on Saturday.

Will the result be different when the Santorum and Romney campaigns, along with those of Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, battle it out from scratch for Colorado's 33 pledged delegates over the next couple of weeks? Longshot contenders Gingrich and Paul may show up to make their case in person, party officials say; but Romney and Santorum, the favorites, have given no indication as yet.

If you think it’s just a family feud among the Republicans, a tribe you wouldn’t join on a bet, think again. You may not be interested in politics at all – but politics is interested in you. These are not ordinary times.

The United States is headed for a fiscal crackup, our national security is at risk, and the institutions that made us a world leader in the last century are looking shaky as this century begins. Three of every five Americans in a recent poll expressed no approval of President Obama’s job performance. He’ll remain in power until 2017, however, unless the opposition puts up a strong challenger whom voters can trust.

This is where party politics are all-important, however distasteful you may find them. The only meaningful opposition to Barack Obama and his failed policies, the only counter-force that has legs and a voice and a team on the field – like it or not – is the Republican party. Hence the GOP nominating contest at DU in April and eventually at Tampa in August matters to the whole country, not just to us partisans.

John Andrews

John Andrews is former president of the Colorado Senate and the author of "Responsibility Reborn: A Citizen's Guide to the Next American Century"