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Tags: Ken Buck

Colorado’s Senate Race Just Got a Lot More Interesting



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Also in today’s Jolt:

Colorado’s Senate Race Just Got a Lot More Interesting

This is not a guarantee that Senator Mark Udall (D., Colo.) will be defeated in November. But it is good news.

Weld District Attorney Ken Buck and Rep. Cory Gardner are swapping races.

Buck said Wednesday he will drop his bid for U.S. Senate and instead pursue the 4th Congressional District seat, which represents Weld County.

Gardner, a Republican who currently represents the 4th, will run for U.S. Senate, Buck said.

“I have talked with Cory Gardner and feel that he would be a strong candidate for the United States Senate to beat Mark Udall,” Buck said. “I made the decision to step down and endorse Cory for that job. I was running against Mark Udall because I think this country needed to change directions, and I still think the country needs to change directions, and I think Cory gives us the best chance to get that done.”

The field is cleared:

State Rep. and United States Senate candidate Amy Stephens confirmed with The Gazette on Wednesday evening what had been rumored throughout the day. She will remove herself from the U.S. Senate race and throw her support behind U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner in a campaign that will pit a Republican nominee against Sen. Mark Udall, a Boulder Democrat born to a powerful political dynasty.

“Cory is Colorado’s great unifier,” said Stephens, of Monument. “He is liked in so many circles — right, left, moderate, you name it. He is Colorado’s beloved son and at the end of the day he is the candidate who can take on Mark Udall and make this happen. If we want to avoid a single-payer health system, we need Cory to win.”

As the Colorado Springs Gazette notes:

Colorado Republicans must never forget this selfless decision by Stephens, who could have posed a formidable threat to the incumbent Democrat. We seldom see politicians place the interests of a party or a political philosophy ahead of the self interest of winning a higher political office.

Buck’s not a bad candidate, but he had a golden opportunity against appointed Senator Michael Bennet back in 2010 and fell just short, 46.4 percent to 48.1 percent in what was a near-ideal issue environment for the GOP. His mouth got him in trouble with an ill-regarded off-the-cuff comment that voters should support him over his female primary opponent, Jane Norton, “because I do not wear high heels” — the kind of statement easily exploited in attack ads. By shifting to the House race in Gardner’s R+11 district, he becomes, barring some massive implosion, Congressman-elect Ken Buck.

Cory Gardner is a top-tier candidate. You may recall him grilling witnesses about some of the more inane “got coverage?” ads running in his state. Back in 2010, Gardner was one of the “young guns” and considered one of the GOP’s best shots to pick up a seat, running against Betsy Markey. Markey outspent Gardner by $1.2 million . . . and lost, 41 percent to 52 percent. He’s young and polished and has solid conservative credentials but is also capable of articulating that message in a way that doesn’t alienate the soccer moms.

Mark Udall isn’t toast — yet — but his year just got a whole lot tougher.

Dave Weigel:

Previously, I’d thought that Ed Gillespie’s run in Virginia was the ultimate Republican bet on the power of Obamacare to win elections this year. Gardner’s usurped that title. He’s giving up a safe seat to challenge a Democrat, Mark Udall, who’s carved out a good profile for himself (especially on NSA issues) in a state that went Democratic in 2008, 2010*, and 2012. Udall even felt safe enough to vote for Manchin-Toomey; months later, conservative activists successfully recalled two Colorado state senators who voted for gun control.

Cory Gardner, now hunting for a Senate seat.

UPDATE: Taylor Budowich, executive director of the Tea Party Express, writes in to remind me that Cory Gardner, lifetime ACU rating 86.7, has a challenger in State Senator Owen Hill, adding, “some back-room deal making won’t stop his momentum… with Ken Buck out of the race there is a clear Tea Party vs hand-picked establishment matchup.”

Tags: Cory Gardner , Ken Buck , Mark Udall , Amy Stephens

Can Tea Party Candidates Win Statewide in Swing States?



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At some point, the question of GOP statewide candidates and the Tea Party style will have to be hashed out; Jonah touches on this a bit in the Corner in discussing Pete Spiliakos’s concept of “RightWorld Provincial.”

When Sharron Angle was in the Nevada state legislature, she was the most conservative lawmaker in the state. Nevada is not a deeply conservative state; with Bush winning it twice and Obama winning it once, and a split Senate and House delegation, it is a classic “purple” state. It is exceptionally rare to see purple states electing the most conservative lawmaker in the state to statewide office. In this light, Angle and her team are to be saluted for doing as well as they did.

Was Ken Buck too conservative for Colorado? Perhaps; it too is a classic purple state: won by Bush twice and Obama once, two Democratic senators, Democratic governor, divided House delegation. Republicans dominated the state’s politics in the first half of the past decade; Democrats, the second half.

Carly Fiorina’s defeat in California, by a wider margin than many expected, proves that sometimes you can have an “establishment” candidate who stumbles and falls, too. We can argue whether Dino Rossi or Linda McMahon fit the definition of “Tea Party” candidates, and acknowledge that the Tea Parties explicitly seek to build a better and more principled political movement, not just a winning one.

But if Republicans want to win Senate seats, they need their primary voters to have a sense of how conservative a candidate they can nominate and still win. In Kentucky, you can nominate a Rand Paul. In Utah, you can replace a Bob Bennett with a Mike Lee and still win handily. In South Carolina, Republicans will be able to nominate someone much more conservative than Lindsey Graham in 2014.

But in other states, particularly the blue Northeast and West Coast, Republicans are probably not going to win statewide races with candidates who stir the hearts of Tea Partiers. (Remember, Chris Christie was allegedly the “establishment moderate” in the New Jersey governor’s primary.)

You can sense where this is headed, right?

Delaware is a dark-blue state. It scores D+7 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index, it has a Democratic governor who won by 36 points and another Democratic senator who won by 50 points in 2006, and Democrats control the state senate and state house. The last Republican besides Mike Castle to win a big statewide race was Bill Roth in 1994; the last Republican besides Mike Castle to win the governorship was Pete du Pont in 1980.

If somebody wants to argue that Mike Castle was too much of a squish for them to support, that’s fine — I can’t begrudge someone making cap-and-trade their line in the sand — but what was particularly troubling during the whole primary fight was the number of conservatives, including some I really admire and respect, pretending that a conservative firebrand had a serious possibility of being elected in this state. Even in a big Republican wave year, Christine O’Donnell never had a chance. Out of respect for her and her supporters (and my readers who were big fans of her), I didn’t beat this drum during the general election. But now that the votes have been cast and counted, and the result is a 16-point margin of victory for Coons, it is time to look clearly at political realities.

O’Donnell had a few shining moments as a candidate, and got a raw deal in much of the coverage. But in the end, this state’s current electorate would never elect the kind of Republican who would score . . . oh, 80 to 100 in the ACU ratings, as O’Donnell almost certainly would. The realistic options were either the guy with the lifetime 52 ACU rating (Castle) or the guy who will probably have the 10 ACU rating (Senator-elect Coons).

In 2012, Republicans will need challengers for Senate races in Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, and California, as well as friendlier territory. In these blue states, perhaps they will discover a staunch conservative who can win over independents by sheer charisma. (I support human cloning of Marco Rubio.) But more likely, for a Republican to win in these states, they’ll need a challenger who can emphasize some Tea Party points while still strongly appealing to independents and deviating from the party line periodically. The template would seem to be Scott Brown or Chris Christie, but perhaps Paul LePage, the new Republican governor of Maine, is another example . . .

UPDATE: One of my readers, a Republican in Delaware who’s plugged into state GOP circles, offers these thoughts:

My assessment is that only three states in the nation did not experience some benefit of the “wave” on Tuesday – California, Hawaii, and Delaware.  Even New York picked up unanticipated congressional seats and out-performed in other congressional races; and clearly without any help from the top of the ticket.  The two congressional losses in Connecticut were a disappointment, but as of this writing, the GOP candidate for Governor may yet win.  So the states and regions varied from a ripple to a tsunami.

[Note from Jim: Massachusetts readers are probably lamenting that they feel on par with California, Hawaii, and Delaware.]

As to Delaware, as I feared, Christine O’Donnell not only lost badly to Coons, she precipitated a down-ballot disaster for the GOP, an outcome that would never have occurred with Castle running for, and likely winning, the U.S. Senate seat.  O’Donnell claimed on Tuesday night that she forever changed the Republican Party in Delaware and she is right: she has put the GOP on life support, transitioning Delaware from dark blue to navy blue.  O’Donnell’s negative coattails were as follows:  State Senator Colin Bonini, a genuine conservative running for state Treasurer, had counted on Castle being at the top of the ticket – as did all House and Senate challengers throughout the state.  Bonini lost 51-49.  Our GOP state auditor, Tom Wagner, barely held on by 0.5 percent and may yet face a recount.  In the State House of Representatives, the GOP needed a net gain of 5 sets to flip the chamber back to the GOP (held by the Ds 24-17).  The GOP had held the House chamber since Pete du Pont’s days as Governor until the Obama-Biden landslide of 2008.  Instead of gaining seats on Tuesday, the GOP lost additional seats, giving the House a liberal veto-proof majority over a Democratic governor.  GOP challengers in Brandywine Hundred, the most Republican suburbs of New Castle County, went down to defeat in two races that were deemed an easy flip.  In one seat held by a freshman GOP House member won in a special election in December 2008 in a slightly more challenging suburban district, this GOP incumbent was defeated in the Democratic tide.  In other areas of New Castle County, polished and well-recruited GOP challengers in the Newark and Middletown suburbs lost by 2-1 or worse.  In Kent County, a Democratic member arrested for DUI in mid-October, who was expected to lose by partisans on both sides, was re-elected.

The GOP base obviously had its issues with Mike Castle, culminating with the congressman’s cap-and-trade vote in 2009, but this was the wrong moment to punish Castle: cutting off their nose to spite their face.  Not only were the in-state consequences horrifying, Delaware threw away a senator who would have been #1 in seniority among the freshman class, given his 9 terms in the House, his former governorship, and his immediate swearing-in to fill the Biden vacancy.  In addition to losing a GOP seat in the United States Senate and giving the Delaware GOP some badly-needed life to continue a rebuilding process, we are left with ashes.  We burned down the village to save it.  Moreover, Castle was only going to serve the remaining 4 years of the Biden vacancy and then retire.  At least the GOP would have had the opportunity to groom a successor from a growing conservative bench.  We now have nothing – zip, zero, nada.

That is not to say that Castle wasn’t warned of what was coming: according to the Weekly Standard, NRSC officials pleaded with Castle to get back to his base, take off the $600 suits, and win the GOP primary fair and square.  He had more than adequate warning, with conservative victories on the march from Nevada to Colorado to Alaska – just weeks before the late Delaware primary.  If Fred Barnes is correct, Castle refused the advice of the NRSC and badly mishandled the O’Donnell threat.

However, in the final analysis I do not understand the logic of demanding ideological purity when the choices are as follows: a near-guaranteed win for someone who agrees with you 60% of the time; or taking a long-shot risk with someone who agrees with you 100% of the time.  Instead we got, perhaps for life, a new senator who agrees with us zero percent of the time.  Castle has been wrong on environmental issues for years.  So be it.  You take the good with the bad in this business.  Cap-and-trade wasn’t going to be enacted with a GOP Senate majority in any case.  We accomplish nothing if we are out of power.  Moreover, Castle wanted to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, cut spending, repeal and replace Obamacare, and strengthen national defense.  This is a good start for me.  Senator-elect Coons shares none of these objectives.

I am not pleased or impressed with Palin’s track record this cycle: she has proven that she cannot carry water in her own state; and she, Levin, Hannity and DeMint made a serious miscalculation in Delaware.  Palin’s lame explanation that Castle would not have necessarily won the seat and that it was “worth a shot” is not only wrong, but it further demonstrates that she is not worthy of being the GOP standard bearer in 2012.  Everyone recognizes that the Tea Party movement has been a tremendous asset to the GOP and that the two institutions can work together to rebuild a center-right coalition for the foreseeable future.  But the Tea Party types must recognize that there are limits to which an electorate will move in blue states, and that you must nominate, in Bill Buckley’s theorem, the most electable conservative. 

And, ultimately, candidate quality counts – particularly to independent voters.  O’Donnell, Buck, and Angle were not ready for prime-time and the scrutiny that accompanies conservative candidates in races of this magnitude.  Is this fair to GOP conservatives? No.  But it is reality.

Tags: Christine O'Donnell , Ken Buck , Mike Castle , Sharron Angle

I Think the Colorado Polls Are Trying to Tell Us Something.



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It’s not too late for Republican Ken Buck to fumble this, but Colorado’s incumbent Democratic senator Michael Bennet has been remarkably consistent in his polling in October: 45, 45, 45, 45, 46.

There have been exceptions to the “incumbent rule” from time to time, but if Bennet remains at 45 percent in the final polls, I’ll have a hard time seeing him jumping to a majority on Election Day.

Also, in a year and political environment like this one , how many genuinely undecided but certain-to-vote voters are still out there?

Tags: Ken Buck , Michael Bennet

A Great Ken Buck Ad That Cannot Be Ignored



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A reader writes in, raving about this ad for GOP Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck, and I concur. It’s a basic, simple message that I think hits the sweet spot of appealing to conservatives and independents simultaneously.

“We protested when the government ran up trillions of dollars of debt. We sent e-mails when they nationalized health care. We asked them to get off the backs of small business so we could create jobs. We pleaded with our government to secure our border. And you know what? They heard us, and yet they ignored us. And folks, on Nov. 2, they will ignore us no more.”

Tags: Ken Buck , Michael Bennet

In Colorado, NRSC Hits Bennet on the Stimulus



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The NRSC goes up on the air in Colorado, with this ad set to run “statewide.”

I guess you could say the NRSC is letting Coloradans know incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet kept one of his promises.

Tags: Ken Buck , Michael Bennet

In Colorado, Buck Leads Bennet by 5



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I keep hearing that the Colorado primaries turned out great for Democrats. Sure, the governor’s race looks like a pretty easy win at this point, but that was pretty much baked in the cake before primary day; both Dan Maes and Scott McInnis were bloodied — mostly self-inflicted wounds, mind you — before the primary votes were cast.

In the Senate race, incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet trails in the latest Rasmussen poll by 5 and has trailed Buck in hypothetical matchups most of the year. And Buck hasn’t even started mocking Bennet for trying to run against Washington as an incumbent senator.

Tags: Ken Buck , Michael Bennet

Some Rocky Campaigns Up in Those Rocky Mountains



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Daddy duties interfered with the usual late-night primary-results blogging, but you guys had Battle 10 on the case.

You think you’re having a rough morning? Colorado Democrat Andrew Romanoff sold his house in Denver in order to finance a late round of ads in his Senate primary . . . only to finish with 46 percent. He’s single, so there’s no awkward breakfast conversation with a Mrs. Romanoff this morning.

Appointed incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet wins, so he can continue to run against Washington. He will take on Ken Buck, who won a hard-fought race against Jane Norton. I expect the Bennet campaign will do everything it can to make this race about one issue: high heels. Fairly or not, Buck off-the-cuff seemed to insinuate that “I don’t wear high heels” was a reason to vote for him, and the Democrats will make sure that comment gets before every woman in Colorado. (One other complication from that remark? Men tend to like women who wear high heels!) Having said that, Bennet enters the general election with a job-approval rating in the sterling mid-30s.

Scott McInnis and Dan Maes battled relentlessly in an exceptionally hard-fought contest to not be the GOP gubernatorial nominee, but in the end, Maes’s suggestion that a Denver bike program represented a United Nations plot — and willingness to go on MSNBC to discuss the idea before an incredulous anchor! — just wasn’t enough when matched up against McInnis’s admission that he used part of a judge’s work for a series of essays on water rights that the gubernatorial candidate published without crediting it, a mistake he called unacceptable and inexcusable, but also unintentional. (Initially blaming the staff was a nice touch.) As you probably guessed, Maes will be an underdog against the Democratic nominee, Denver mayor Hickenlooper.

Tags: Dan Maes , John Hickenlooper , Ken Buck , Michael Bennet , Scott McInnis

Imagine What He Would Say About a Birther in High Heels



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Ken Buck has had a pretty rough streak lately. First, he attempts to draw a distinction with GOP Senate primary rival Jane Norton by saying he doesn’t wear high heels; now he has managed to irk both sides on the Obama birth-certificate issue.

He said, “On an audio tape obtained by The Denver Post, Buck was caught muttering ‘will you tell those dumba—s at the Tea Party to stop asking questions about birth certificates while I’m on the camera?’ outside a June 11 event in Crowley.”

Some might not like that phrase. On the other hand, there’s not much obfuscation. Of course, from the way he phrased it, it’s easy to think he’s using the term “Tea Party” and Birthers synonymously. Notice the AP headline: “Colo. candidate regrets slam against tea party.”

Now Buck is apologizing for using that word, which is now, inevitably, going to be seen as an apology to the Birthers.

Tags: Jane Norton , Ken Buck

A Colorado Attack Ad, Sharp as a Stilletto



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This ad, for Colorado GOP Senate candidate Jane Norton against her primary opponent Ken Buck, is pretty eye-opening:

Apparently Buck’s “high heels” comment is in response to an earlier Norton ad where she said people would expect him to be “man enough” to run attack ads himself; instead, outside groups are running anti-Norton ads.

I’m not sure that her “man enough” comment or his “high heels” comment serve either speaker well.

And I’d note that, at least according to urban legend, high heels never stopped J. Edgar Hoover from being an effective law-enforcement administrator.

Tags: Jane Norton , Ken Buck

An Unexpected Pair: Norton and . . . Santorum?



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In Colorado’s GOP Senate primary, Ken Buck is trying to position himself as the conservative outsider against Jane Norton.

Norton’s bringing out a pretty big name to vouch for her conservatism:

On Friday, July 23, former Senator and conservative icon Rick Santorum (R-PA) will come to Colorado to campaign with conservative U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton. The two will host events in Denver and Colorado Springs. 

“No one fought harder against the big government, liberal agenda over the last decade than Rick Santorum,” said Norton. “It’s a fight I promise to carry to the U.S. Senate, and I’m honored to have the support of Senator Santorum.”

Tags: Jane Norton , Ken Buck , Rick Santorum

Norton Tries to Make a Mountain Out of Buck’s Molehill



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I realize primary politics isn’t beanbag, but in Colorado’s GOP Senate primary, Jane Norton appears to have crossed a line in an ad she’s running against Ken Buck.

After the Columbine school shootings, a new U.S. Attorney in Colorado named Ted Strickland wanted to crack down hard on gun sellers, and focused on an old ATF investigation of a pawn shop in Aurora. Unfortunately for him, at least 15 career prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office, including Ken Buck, deemed the evidence of violations of firearms laws weak and unlikely to result in conviction. Every one had already seen the evidence and declined to prosecute, but Strickland brought in two new like-minded attorneys, and they began assembling a case.

Around this time, Ken Buck clearly did something he shouldn’t. Before the grand jury met or any indictments were issued, a lawyer for the pawn-shop owners called him up and Buck expressed his low opinion of the case against the owners. The defense attorney then sought to invoke Buck’s skeptical comments in court in his defense.

There are times when there is nothing ethically problematic about prosecutors and defense attorneys talking about potential cases, but this wasn’t one of them. Buck was given a letter of reprimand and instructed to attend ethics class. Buck has expressed regret over the decision. But that hardly makes him a bad prosecutor, or a bad guy. Strickland’s successor, then–U.S. Attorney John Suthers, wrote in the reprimand, “I have chosen not to impose any more serious consequences on the basis of my determination that your conduct was not intentional, my review of mitigating information you have presented and in consideration of your previous records as an (Assistant U.S. Attorney), as Senior Litigation Counsel and as Chief of the Criminal Division. This incident appears to be an aberration in your professional career.”

Oh, by the way, Ken Buck and the other career prosecutors appear to have been correct in their assessment that it was a weak case; the penalty imposed on the pawn-shop owners is almost comically minimal: “Two years after the original felony indictment, Greg Golyansky pleaded guilty to a paperwork misdemeanor and was sentenced to a day of probation. The charges against Leonid Golyansky and Dmitriy Baravik were dropped.”

A two-year battle to impose one day of probation: your tax dollars at work!

For this, a radio ad for Norton calls Buck “a government lawyer who doesn’t follow the rules” and declares he “left office under a cloud.” Come on. If this is his biggest mistake in years and years of work as a prosecutor, he’s exemplary.

Tags: Jane Norton , Ken Buck

‘Washington Is a Cesspool.’



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Americans for Job Security, an independent pro-business group, is spending six figures to air this commercial on broadcast and cable across the state of Colorado, praising GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck:

There was a time in America where the opening line “Washington is a cesspool” would have turned heads.

Tags: Ken Buck

Perhaps the Buck Doesn’t Stop in Colorado, but Goes All the Way to
the Senate



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The ground seems to be shifting in Colorado:

Ken Buck holds a large lead over Republican primary opponent Jane Norton in the race for Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat, a Denver Post/9News poll shows. Buck, the Weld County prosecutor buoyed by outside TV buys and Tea Party sentiment, leads former Lt. Gov. Norton 53 percent to 37 percent among likely Republican primary voters, according to poll results. Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet appears to be riding rich TV spending and incumbent media attention, staying well ahead of former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff’s insurgent campaign. Bennet beats Romanoff 53 percent to 36 percent among likely voters. The primaries are Aug. 10. 

The poll also finds that:

either Democrat has an uphill fight in a state where sentiment has turned strongly against the Obama administration. Both Bennet and Romanoff would lose to either Buck or Norton, according to the poll, though some of the results are within the margin of error. Between the current front-runners, Buck would take 46 percent of the general vote in November, and Bennet 43 percent. (The margin of error on that question was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for both candidates.)

Tags: Andrew Romanoff , Jane Norton , Ken Buck , Michael Bennet

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