The Dynamics of Buck’s “Woman Problem”

One of the biggest reasons why, despite what should be a national wave sweeping GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck to victory in a few weeks, the Colorado Senate race remains one of the most hotly contested in the nation, is the gap between Buck’s relative popularity among men and unpopularity with women. Recent polling illustrates this quite clearly, with a lopsided spread: Buck leads 52-37% with men over opponent Michael Bennet in a poll released by 9NEWS last week, but is trailing by five points or more with women. Combined with a persistent disparity between polls of “likely” voters as opposed to registered voters, and questions about the methods used to screen those “likely” voters, you have a situation where both sides see a plausible route to victory.

So, as many news stories have pointed to in recent weeks, Bennet’s campaign has targeted the key demographic of suburban women–both base Democrats and swing independent voters, to undermine polling models and win the election despite national trends. The message used with these voters, that Buck is too extreme, can’t be trusted to say what he believes, and supports policies that women will overwhelmingly find abhorrent, could also dislodge support for Buck from other swing voters who, while receptive to Republican framing on fiscal issues, recoil from intrusive conservative positions on social wedge stuff. If Democrats can make Buck’s positions–especially his pre-primary positions and subsequent reversals–on hot-button issues broadly understood, they can both hold Bennet’s lead among women and strongly motivate the Democratic base to vote on November 2nd.

The good news for Democrats is that, from anecdotes to the uncomfortable details, they’ve got a lot to work with in Ken Buck. It’s why a Buck primary victory was always the Democrats’ preference.

The first campaign that sought to raise Buck’s negatives among women voters was, of course, his primary opponent Jane Norton. The beginnings of that alienation come simply from being a male candidate engaging in vigorous debate with a woman–New York Senate candidate Rick Lazio learned this lesson back in the 2000 election, when his pushiness in debates against Hillary Clinton was perceived as creepy and sexist, and wound up hurting him. Buck never behaved as badly as Lazio did in a debate, but the lesson here is to be doubly careful of what you say: sexism runs deep in American culture, and women don’t miss the subtle signs of it.

Unfortunately for Buck, there was a terribly damaging moment of not-so-subtle sexism on the campaign trail, when Buck told a woman who asked why she should vote for him, “because I don’t wear high heels.” It’s been defended, feebly, as some kind of “retort” against a charge from Norton that Buck was not “man enough” to engage her directly. We can tell you that in focus groups and other research conducted by both sides, women don’t take it that way at all, and that defense doesn’t wash even when it’s “fully explained.” And it did hurt Buck in the primary–not quite enough to overcome the “Tea Party” wave behind him, but enough to make it closer.

With that incident as his lead-in, Buck’s performance post-primary in terms of motivating women to support him has been an unqualified disaster. Democrats knew last spring that there would be a price to pay for every GOP Colorado gubernatorial or U.S. Senate candidate having endorsed the “Personhood Amendment,” but for obvious reasons, the effect would have been different had Norton won the primary. That said, she probably would also have backed away from it as Buck did, albeit to less criticism.

As it happened, Buck’s hard-core expressed views on abortion–not even allowable in cases of rape or incest–combined with his support for an initiative that would even ban common forms of birth control left him in a horrible spot with women general election voters. Buck’s attempts to change the subject back to “what voters care about” wasn’t enough to overcome the revulsion the proper explanation of Buck’s views inspired in both women voters and social issue-averse independents, which inevitably forced Buck to flip-flop on key abortion-related policy positions he had previously campaigned on in the primary–including the “Personhood Amendment” itself.

The trouble is, Buck’s reversals on abortion issues came in the middle of flip-flops on a slew of issues that Buck had taken stands on during the primary, and that he had been captured on tape explicitly referencing at one time or another. At the same moment Buck was trying to reassure women voters that he doesn’t support banning The Pill, and wouldn’t be the guy who introduced a constitutional amendment overturning Roe v. Wade, both contrary to specific things he had said during the primary, he was also “Buckpedaling” on opposing the democratic election of Senators, a national sales tax, the Bush tax cuts, privatizing Social Security and Medicare

This is how unsteadiness on an individual issue reaches beyond a narrowly targeted audience, and becomes a trust problem. It’s what happened to GOP gubernatorial candidate “Both Ways Bob” Beauprez in 2006. The small problems aggregate–the 17th Amendment, by itself, is not going to turn out voters against Buck. A national sales tax, in and of itself, won’t matter either. Social Security and Medicare could be a little worse, but once you combine all of these, and unsteadiness on an issue like abortion for good measure? What you’ve got then is a candidate who voters can’t trust on any issue, who looks like he’ll say anything to get elected, and who women voters cannot place any faith in as he assures them that what he said before about their bodies isn’t true anymore.

Like we said at the beginning, what this presents, in the next two critical weeks of framing, is an opening to ruin Buck with voters beyond the focus on women in the suburbs–but still driven by the messaging aimed at them. If Norton had won the primary, the applicability of all of this would be sharply reduced, and the Democrats would not have this wedge to open up more wedges with. Beyond the obvious affinity, Norton had less to reverse herself on from the primary overall than Buck did, if for no other reason than her sticking to vague boilerplate on the campaign trail. But the bottom line is the same–the disparity between men’s versus women’s support for Ken Buck would not exist with Norton, and this race would probably be over.

Epilogue: we’ve heard a rumor from several credible sources now about an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against Buck in his past record that could shortly be disclosed “October surprise” style.  We’ve been told that newspapers and at least one Denver television station are actively working this story. To be clear, the specific details of this have not been disclosed to us, even on background, except that it involves a complaint and a settlement. But we’re told it could further damagingly reinforce Buck’s problems with women voters.

Stay tuned, because what we have set out above, with or without any late-breaking scandals, is the battlefield on which the U.S. Senate race in Colorado this year will be won or lost.

67 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DavidThi808 says:

    Where Buck starts of with a strong advantage and it is eaten away up to election day. I think it’s partially that these are valid and compelling points. But it also appears that Buck doesn’t fight back on this either – which is weird.

    I wish the election was about how we should fix the economy. But hey, a win is a win…

  2. colawman says:

    Coloradopols continues a daily attempt to influence the Senate race in Colorado. What they fail to take into consideration is all reputable polls are showing Buck with a 4 to 8 point lead. Bennet is suffering from his past votes and rubberstamp support of Obama’s agenda which has led to 10 percent unemployment, Iran moving closer to nuclear weapons, the devaluation of the dollar, rising gold, and rising health care costs.  Not too impressive!  Clearly Americans are going to be tossing the Democrats out of control of the House of Representatives.  RCP now forecasts a loss of 9 seats in the senate for the inept Democrats.  Yep keep blasting Buck on silly issues while the country is being destroyed by Democrats such as Bennet.

  3. GOPwarrior says:

    Colorado Pols takes issues that voters don’t care about and try to insist they do. Voters want real change. The 17th Amendment has not been perfect. Voters know Buck wants to lower their taxes, arguments to the contrary are absurd. Buck appears to have reversed him TOWARD preserving the Bush tax relief, not away from it. And Buck wants Social Security and Medicare made sustainable, not destroyed.

    In response, Bennet demands we fixate on abortion. Let’s make sure every American who needs a job can get one. Then we can talk about abortion.

    Focus on the real issues, Colorado. Trust Buck.

    • SSG_Dan says:

      Oh, that’s right. The Bazillionaire owners of the Republican’t Party need another gift, so they’ve sent their message out via the Tea n Crumpets party that taxes are too high.

      We DON’T need another round of regulation slashing, donor-relief outsourcing and another fake war to try and prop up the GOP.

      You had your chance and you blew it.  

    • sxp151 says:

      What do you have against the 17th amendment? Because it let black people vote for Senate?

  4. bjwilson83 says:

    Bennet is losing, and they have to spin that away for their base. For anyone not quite convinced, let me clear up this facade.

    A) A national wave should be sweeping Buck to victory, but it’s not and the race is neck and neck. False. Buck is consistently up by 5 points and even does well with women in many polls despite Bennet’s attempts to lie about Buck’s stance on birth control, among other things.

    B) The disparity in the polls is due to the enthusiasm gap and will vanish as Dems get out the vote. False. Democrats are not enthusiastic about Bennet, as he seems to represent Wall St. more than the people.

    C) The Democrat message is that Buck is too extreme, can’t be trusted to say what he believes, and supports policies that women will overwhelmingly find abhorrent. True. But since the message is false, it won’t win him any support from swing voters who value honesty.

    D) A Ken Buck victory was always the Democrat preference. False. Jane Norton was the weaker candidate. Folks like David from the 808 routinely suggested Buck would be harder to beat.

    I grow tired of reading this drivel. But one last thing – Pols should ban itself by its own rules: floating negative rumors about a candidate without proof in order to falsely malign them is supposed to be against the terms of use.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      You, sir, have no idea how long everyone in the room has been waiting for you to say that. I am pleased to read that even the indefatigable shill has a breaking point.

      I’m just getting warmed up, Beej! How much do you know about the Democratic field program? We’re going to take this whole thing away from you and Nate Silver is NOT going to see it coming. Have a great Lord’s Day!

      • bjwilson83 says:

        Calm down though, I’ll still be around. I just won’t waste as much time on the drivel and instead I’ll focus on the good stuff (if there’s anything left).

        I know that the Democratic field program is going to do its darnedest to support Obama’s failed agenda. That’s where I come in – counteracting it.

        • Sir Robin says:

          You are delusional, with a strong dose of over-inflated ego. To think you work on the public’s dime.

        • Colorado Pols says:

          We’re taking the extraordinary step of reporting comments that were deleted because of an enormous image that broke the formatting for our post. Please try to avoid doing this if possible, you can add a ‘width=”200″‘ (or something reasonable like that) to reduce the size of an image to an appropriate size. Thanks, just trying to keep a clean house.

          *[new]  Undermining America with ignorance falsehoods and

          propaganda is all that you do, bj.

          Obamas policies have not “Failed”. in fact they are working.

          “It’s Official: More Private Sector Jobs Created In 2010 Than During Entire Bush Years.”

          (big enough for ya)

          Now bj I could debate you as to why… we might even agree… but you are so polluted with tea bag republican propaganda and misinformation. it is pointless to even attempt a rational discussion with you.

          You could be faced with stark reality and still insist on the warped conservative view… you really should get laid more.

          “Fake but accurate!” ~GOPwarrior “infrastructure,whatever that is.” ~bjwilson83

          Bennet votes with Pelosi- Obama 95%+~Libertard (and republicans vote NO 100%)  

          by: Froward69 @ Sun Oct 10, 2010 at 18:10:26 PM MDT

          *[new] The fact that private sector is consistently increasing is great news

          The fact that it remains under 100K/month means we’re still falling deeper in the hole percentage-wise. But still, I did not realize that private sector growth has been consistent and that is a good sign.

          Colorado Ballot Amendments a fair and balanced look.

          by: DavidThi808 @ Sun Oct 10, 2010 at 18:34:35 PM MDT

          *[new] I don’t sleep around like you Fro.

          Lol, your fake graph is not convincing. We have LOST jobs, not gained jobs since Obama became president. What’s that unemployment number again?

          “Go f*** yourself.” – Voyageur, FPE

          As the Republican wave election approaches, watch for Voyageur to become more and more unhinged.

          by: bjwilson83 @ Sun Oct 10, 2010 at 18:40:58 PM MDT

          *[new] We lost jobs under Bush

          We’re gaining them under Obama.

          If you were getting any, perhaps you’d be more clearheaded.

          Best to kill them early instead of letting them possibly need food stamps.

          –marilou, 2010

          by: Ralphie @ Sun Oct 10, 2010 at 18:43:35 PM MDT

    • Ralphie says:

      if women would just pay attention to him like we do.

      Alas, they don’t, so he has to spend his time here instead of getting laid.

  5. wagtheblog says:

    This story is very credible.  Apparently, there was a settlement and the case involved harassment complaints by two women.  The news media is probably clearing the story with legal to ensure no problems in reporting (as well as confirming sources). Buck is a misogynist, plain and simple.  

  6. Laughing Boy says:

    Pols has now descended into the territory that used to be reserved for people that were banned from here.

    • Colorado Pols says:

      We stand behind everything we post and always have, we obviously cannot do the same for unsourced material some anonymous person tries to post here.

      We’ll take banning ourselves under advisement though, thanks.

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