Elena Schneider of Politico has a new story up this afternoon about the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) turning its short attention span to 34-year-old freshman State Rep. Jon Keyser as the newest bright shiny object in a quest to defeat incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) in 2016.
— Elena Schneider (@ec_schneider) December 10, 2015
Of course, Colorado Pols readers have known for awhile that Keyser and the NRSC have been flirting with each other over a potential 2016 candidacy. Schneider’s story today is behind the Politico Pro paywall, but here’s a few highlights:
Months after getting turned down by Rep. Mike Coffman and Aurora theater shooting prosecutor George Brauchler, national Republicans believe they have found a viable Colorado Senate challenger following a series of quiet recruitment meetings in Washington and Colorado.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has set its sights on state Rep. Jon Keyser, a 34-year-old attorney and decorated combat veteran in Iraq and Afghanistan with a young, made-for-TV family and a bio perfectly tailored for a national security election.
Sources familiar with Keyser’s thinking say the state legislator is leaning toward a run. They also say that even though Keyser didn’t go looking for the opportunity, the stars have aligned in his favor.
You could say that the stars have aligned in Keyser’s favor…but only if we’re talking about those glow-in-the-dark stars that you can stick on your bedroom ceiling. Being known as “the NRSC’s candidate” has historically been a kiss of death for Republicans, because GOP voters in Colorado don’t take kindly to Washington D.C. folks trying to select a candidate for them. Not that the NRSC hasn’t been trying to do this for months now:
Following Brauchler’s decision not to run early this fall, Republicans went hunting for other potential candidates, including Doug Robinson (Mitt Romney’s nephew and a managing director of the audit and tax consultancy KPMG) and Rep. Scott Tipton. Both are still considering a bid.
Yet even as they courted others, Republicans kept circling back to Keyser, whom Sen. Cory Gardner’s team had connected with the NRSC.
The NRSC wanted Mike Coffman, but couldn’t convince him to run. Then the NRSC wanted George Brauchler — who was also being shepherded around by Sen. Cory Gardner — until Brauchler pulled his name from consideration. Now the NRSC reportedly wants Jon Keyser — and Keyser may even want them back — but by now Keyser would be the third Republican candidate from Jefferson County alone if he enters the race. At one point, the NRSC was even rumored to be looking at former Aurora city council member Ryan Frazier, though Frazier seems to have joined the fray on his own terms. We don’t know if the NRSC also wanted Greg Robinson or Scott Tipton; hell, they still might be pushing for another name.
What the NRSC really wants is someone — anyone — who can run a viable campaign against Bennet in 2016. Polling numbers seem to indicate Bennet is vulnerable, though the GOP would need an actual human being on the ballot in order to win in November. Republicans have lots of human beings who are now running for U.S. Senate, and it seems a bit late to try to wedge Keyser into that clown car.
We can understand the idea behind Jon Keyser — when all else fails, recruit someone who looks good on camera and then try to “invent” him as a legitimate Senate candidate — but Keyser is just another log on the fire at this point. We still don’t see how Keyser (or anyone else, for that matter) could defeat state Sen. Tim Neville (R-Jefferson County) in a Republican Primary. Remember that Neville supporters such as the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) already don’t like Keyser because of how former Rep. Cheri Gerou strategically timed her own announcement that she wouldn’t run for re-election so that Keyser would have an easier road through a GOP Primary.
Oh, and there’s always Dan Caplis (just kidding).