The modest decline in the Republicans’ chances today is a result of new polling in two states. The first is Colorado, where two new polls, from Public Policy Polling and SurveyUSA, each show the exact same result, with the Republican, Ken Buck, and the Democrat, Michael Bennet, tied at 47 percent each. Colorado had appeared to slightly favor Mr. Buck for most of the cycle, with his winning chances peaking at 79 percent in our Sept. 30 update. Since then, however, he has endured some decline after a series of minor gaffes, with polls suggesting that Mr. Bennet may have improved his standing among female voters. We now project Colorado’s Senate race to be the closest in the country — slightly closer than others like <a href=”http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/25/g-o-p-senate-odds-slip-on-colorado-west-virginia-polls/Nevada or West Virginia. Mr. Buck is now an 0.4-point favorite, according to the model, and his chances of winning are 54 percent.
•If it stays that close, the race could go into overtime with recounts.
•The latest poll from Public Policy Polling shows another tie, at 47 all:
Bennet’s hanging in there pretty well given his status as an unpopular incumbent. At 51%, a majority of voters in the state disapprove of the job he’s done since being appointed last year to only 40% who approve of him. Usually you’d be dead in the water with those kinds of numbers as an incumbent but he lucked out when Republicans nominated an unappealing candidate of their own. 49% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Ken Buck to only 44% who see him favorably.
Buck’s unpopularity is a major factor with the voters remaining undecided in the race. It’s a group that by most measures should hand Buck a narrow victory in the end: 45% are Republicans while only 11% are Democrats. They’re supporting Tom Tancredo 53-23 over John Hickenlooper in the Governor’s race. 73% of them disapprove of the job Barack Obama’s doing to only 7% who give him good marks. But they also have a very dim view of Buck at 59% seeing him unfavorably and only 13% in a positive light. Those voters have to decide between the competing impulses of disliking Democrats but also disliking Buck and that could be the ultimate determiner of who wins this contest.
In contrast to most races across the country Bennet is benefiting from a considerably more unified party than Buck, taking 92% of Democrats while his opponent is getting only 84% of Republicans. Buck keeps the race tied despite that because there are more Republicans than Democrats in the likely voter pool this year and because he has a 46-44 advantage with independents.
•The race has tightened in part because of the crop of negative ads that have hit Buck over the past few weeks, like this one from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees:
•Bennet has lent himself an additional $500,000 for last-minute TV ad buys.
•Last Tuesday saw $3.6 million spent in Colorado on the Senate race–$2,500 per minute:
It’s no fluke that Colorado was the top target of outside spenders last Tuesday. Despite the national attention devoted to other races — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s tight re-election battle in nearby Nevada, for example — the $20.8 million of outside money that has poured into Colorado in this cycle is tops in the nation.
Colorado is a bit of a political laboratory, offering a rare combination of a tight race, a significant share of persuadable voters, reasonably priced advertising and candidates who need the money, according to campaign finance experts.
“We’re just looking at who needs help, what does it cost to help them and can we actually make a difference,” said an operative who controls money for an outside group that has spent a good chunk of money in Colorado. “If you look at a race like Nevada, there’s so much going on there and the impressions of the candidates are kind of fixed and it’s hard to move the dial. Colorado was a place that needed help but it was also a place that could be impacted, where there were a lot of undecided voters.”
Forti’s group, American Crossroads, led the Colorado spending binge last Tuesday by laying out a little bit more than $1 million to reach voters through television and direct mail. Senate Democrats put $1 million behind television advertising against Republican Ken Buck, and Republicans paid $787,429 for media that day. Other groups in play included Focus on the Family’s PAC, which spent $62,100 on a radio ad and NARAL Pro-Choice America, which rented lists for $191.24.
•Sen. Jim DeMint has chipped in $871,000 for Buck.