As Politico reports today, the spin is in full effect on the eve of tonight’s caucuses. Read some of the quotes after the jump, including our take on who really has the most at stake in the race for U.S. Senate…including a potential glimpse into the results.
…history shows that a victory in the first step of Colorado’s complicated election process only occasionally translates into success in the primary. Over the past four decades, just three statewide candidates who have captured the backing of the state assembly through the caucus process went on to become their party’s nominee.
Former Sen. Ken Salazar and Tom Strickland – the last two Democratic Senate nominees in Colorado who faced contested primaries – both lost the caucuses…
…”The caucus and the assembly process is the most favorable turf possible for Speaker Romanoff. If he can’t win convincingly on Tuesday, it’s very hard to see where he goes from there,” Bennet campaign manager Craig Hughes said.
“I’d consider it a victory if Romanoff is competitive against Bennet, who has exploited all the advantages of incumbency and has the support of the Washington establishment from the White House on down,” Romanoff spokesman Dean Toda said. “Against those odds, if Romanoff gets 50 plus 1, it would send a powerful signal.”
The Republican front-runner is also bracing for a competitive caucus night. While former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton has an advantage in fundraising and polls, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck is poised to pull off an upset.
Over the weekend, Buck won the endorsement of one of Colorado’s largest tea party organizations, Hear Us Now!
“Ken and the campaign feel very good going in,” Buck adviser Walt Klein said. “Norton is supposed to be the front-runner, but I think Ken Buck is going to give her a run for her money. I think he’s going to be competitive, and that’s all he has to do to build on the momentum. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ken won by a small margin and Jane finished second,” he said. [Pols emphasis]
Klein predicted that from 50,000 to 60,000 Republicans will participate, a number that would be higher than average, but that still represents just a sliver of the electorate.
Norton’s campaign, which has already spent nearly $260,000 on television advertisements, appeared to downplay the caucus as just one part of a long primary process.
“The straw poll is a sideshow to the real purpose of tomorrow night: electing delegates to begin the nominating process. We’re not taking anything for granted, and an unscientific straw poll isn’t going to change our strategy one bit,” Norton spokesman Nate Strauch said.
We’ve highlighted what is definitely the most interesting quote we’ve seen to date about the caucuses. The spin game is all about lowering expectations for your candidate and raising them for your opponent, which is why the quote from Republican Ken Buck’s advisor, Walt Klein, is so interesting. You don’t say something like what Klein said unless you are fairly confident about the likely results, so we’re guessing that Buck’s campaign has counted the votes and sees good things in their guy’s future tonight.
If Buck wins the caucus, that will certainly give him some momentum, but at the end of the day he still needs to do much, much better at raising money (after a measly $40k in Q4 2009) if he is going to have a chance in August. Tonight isn’t as meaningful for Norton, unless she really bombs, because her campaign has always been more focused on a broader section of voters. We’re most interested in seeing the results for Tom Wiens, who was the last of the three Republicans to enter this race. Wiens isn’t well known among GOP primary voters, but what kind of support will he garner among the more active caucus-goer Republicans?
As for the Democratic side, it’s no secret — no matter the spin — that this is a huge night for Andrew Romanoff. For months he and his supporters have talked about all the things that Romanoff did for Democrats while in the state legislature, and about how all the county chairs supported him for the Senate appointment in late 2008. Romanoff’s team can’t lower expectations at this point because they’ve already spent six months explaining why the kind of people who will attend the caucus are exactly the kind of people who want him in the Senate. By his own spin, Romanoff is supposed to be the most popular of the two Democrats among activist Democrats; he set this night up to be important by his own message.
With that said, there’s only two real scenarios that matter on the Democratic side:
1. Romanoff holds Bennet under the 30% threshold to qualify for the ballot
2. Bennet beats Romanoff by more than 5 points in a low-turnout caucus
Under the first scenario, Romanoff would have real momentum coming out of the caucus and might be able to use that to raise significant money. Romanoff could say that he can beat Bennet without the same kind of resources, and a sitting Senator would have to explain how he couldn’t even get his name on the ballot through his own base.
Under scenario #2, Romanoff would have to explain why the one base of voters he has always talked about is not in his corner. If this happens, then it’s really hard to see how Romanoff can end up winning the primary. His road to victory, until this point, was that a committed base of Democrats would carry him over the line in a low-turnout primary; without that committed base, how do you map out a new winning strategy?
Now, if neither of these two scenarios take place, then nothing really changes tomorrow. It doesn’t really tell us anything if Romanoff wins 60-40, because that’s what his supporters have always led people to believe — that activist Democrats like him better. There’s nothing new there.
Likewise, what do we learn if either candidate wins a close ballot in a high-turnout caucus? We have been led to believe that Romanoff supporters are activist Democrats who will turn out to help him. We have been led to believe that Bennet’s ties to President Obama and his organizing network will really help the Senator. In a close race with a strong turnout, both of these things remain true.
There’s a good possibility that tonight will have a significant effect on the outcome of the Republican and Democratic primaries. There’s also a good possibility that tonight will end up meaning very little. Thus the mystery that is the caucus system in Colorado.