A fascinating pair of Senate primaries is on tap for tomorrow in Colorado where, apparently for the first time in decades, both parties have Senate races that are neck-and-neck.
On the Democratic side, hard-charging Andrew Romanoff has pulled close to Michael Bennet, the less-than-inspiring incumbent who was appointed to the Senate and whose name has never appeared on a ballot before. The White House attempted to keep Romanoff out of the race by dangling a presidential appointment, as it did with Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania. Like Sestak, Romanoff has turned this to his advantage by casting himself all-the-more plausibly as an outsider in year when that’s often the thing to be. Unfortunately for Romanoff, as weak as Bennet may be, he is not a long-time Republican, as Arlen Specter was.
A Romanoff victory would be another win for Bill Clinton. He has campaigned vigorously for Romanoff, who backed Hillary in 2008. Obama backs Bennet, whose path he attempted to clear by inducing Romanoff to step aside.
A poll released today has Bennet ahead 49-43, a lead that exceeds the margin of error. For what little it’s worth, I wouldn’t be surprised if the race is closer than that, especially in light of a late-breaking story that Bennet, as Superintendent of the Denver schools, mishandled investments for that school system. The story broke after many votes had been cast under Colorado’s early voting system. But one report indicated that Romanoff had the edge in early voting.
On the Republican side, the insurgent candidate is Ken Buck. Last month, he held a double-digit lead over his opponent, Jane Norton, the former lieutenant governor of Colorado. However, several gaffes by Buck have helped Norton climb back into contention. According to a poll released today, Norton leads 45-43, which is a statistical dead heat.
Buck’s worst gaffe occurred when he said that voters should elect him “because I do not wear high heels.” After that one, he’s probably lucky to be effectively even with Norton.
The biggest substantive difference between Buck and Norton is probably Afghanistan. Norton is a strong backer of the war; Buck is against nation building and says our current strategy is correct only “for a short period of time.”
This past weekend, Norton doubled-down on the “establishment” and on the war by bringing in John McCain to campaign for her. Earlier this year, I would have considered this move highly questionable. But McCain has a substantial lead in his primary in neighboring Arizona, so it’s understandable, perhaps, that Norton would call on him for help. We should know by tomorrow at around this time whether Norton made the right call.
Whichever way these two races go, they should provide additional insight into the kind of political year this is. And whichever way they go, the successful Republican candidate will, I think, be favored over his or her Democratic opponent.
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