Top 10 Stories of 2015 #5: Everybody (and Nobody) Wants to Run for U.S. Senate

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) attempts to count the number of Republican Senate candidates with two hands.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) attempts to count the number of Republican Senate candidates with two hands.

Robert Blaha; George Brauchler; Ken Buck; Bill Cadman; Cynthia Coffman; Mike Coffman; Dan Domenico; Ryan Frazier; Darryl Glenn; Jack Graham; Jon Keyser; Peggy Littleton; Greg Lopez; Tim Neville; Ellen Roberts; Greg Robinson; Don Rosier; Mark Scheffel; Justin Smith; Scott Tipton.

That’s 20 names, just off the top of our head, of Republicans who made some manner of noise about running for U.S. Senate in 2016. The names in bold are those who have either declared their intentions to run or have very recently gone public with the proposition. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but we were exhausted by the very thought of trying to look up every single Republican who was somehow connected to the U.S. Senate race.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) likes to say that Sen. Michael Bennett is the most endangered Democratic incumbent in 2016, pointing to generic heads-up matchups tested in polls throughout 2015. What these polls show, in a nutshell, is that Bennet could have a competitive re-election race if — and that’s a big “if” — he was facing a strong Republican challenger on the ballot in November (and if the election were held at the time each particular poll was actually conducted).

Here’s the rub: If Bennet is so seemingly beatable in 2016, then why are Republicans having so much trouble finding a candidate to rally behind?

First of all, any poll conducted more than year out from Election Day — in any race — is relatively useless. The average voter isn’t paying much attention to Michael Bennet just yet, and they certainly have little familiarity with the likes of Greg Lopez or Don Rozier.

The other piece of this story that Republicans fail to mention is that Bennet is considered the most endangered Democratic Senate incumbent in large part because he is the only Democratic incumbent running in a swing state in 2016. With Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada choosing to retire rather than seek another term in office, Bennet is the list of endangered Democratic incumbents. It’s a useful fact if spun correctly, but the big Republican talking point on Bennet isn’t nearly as compelling as it sounds.

Sen. Cory Gardner, left, poses for an awkward photo with state Sen. Tim Neville

Sen. Cory Gardner, left, poses for an awkward photo with state Sen. Tim Neville

When you consider all of the rumors and news about the 2016 Senate race that floated out in 2015, one name stands above the rest: Tim Neville. The far-right conservative state senator started to dip his toe in the U.S. Senate field late last summer, and on Tuesday he formally kicked off his 2016 bid with a strong focus on social issues such as abortion and gun rights. Neville will have massive support from grassroots Republican activists, the Tea Party, anti-choice groups, and big gun lobbies such as the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) — all of which makes him nearly unbeatable in the June Republican Primary.

What makes Neville such an important figure in 2016? It is not clear that he could defeat Bennet in a General Election given his out-of-the-mainstream beliefs on abortion, gay marriage, and gun safety…but it is also difficult to see how Neville could possibly lose a Republican Primary to put his name on the ballot opposite Bennet. Any Republican candidate considering a 2016 Senate bid needs to first decide if they can beat Neville among the Republican base, and whether that campaign would need to avoid the caucus process out of fear that Neville would capture so many delegates that it would stop his challengers cold.

As of this writing, the NRSC thinks it has its best candidate in freshman state Rep. Jon Keyser. Washington Republicans are trying to push Keyser as their candidate because they like how he matches up against Bennet in a General Election. It is quite likely, however, that Keyser will never even make it to the General Election ballot because of Neville’s growing presence. In short, Washington Republicans want Colorado Republicans to get behind a Senate candidate who probably can’t win the GOP nomination in the first place.

Good luck with all that.


11 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Socialisticat says:

    When everyone is a candidate for Senate, is anyone a candidate for Senate?

    I'm waiting to see a campaign flyer from Thurston showing him with a giant check from TransCanada, a dozen awards from the NSA for "Contributions to the Destruction of Privacy in America," and pissing oil onto a pile of DPS students breaking their piggy banks to get change to pay DPS debts, with the caption "Living Large in DC, Bitches!"

    I'd still expect him to win over these clowns by 10 points.

    • BlueCat says:

      More likely to see a campaign flier showing him taking exactly the same stands as your beloved (or at least far more acceptable) and nearly identical on the issues Obama. 

      • Socialisticat says:

        Feel free to criticize what I say, as its certainly worthy of it, but FFS stop imputing a "love of Obama" to me.  I've repeatedly told you that I disagree with the president on every stance he's taken that I think Bennet is wrong on.  If Obama ran for president today, his support for the TPP, for the destruction of privacy, his failure to even put a single payer system on the table, his continued use of assassination as a political tool, and other stances would prevent me from voting for him.

        • FrankUnderwood says:

          Ready for Hillary?


          Exactly which table was Obama supposed to bring single payer option to? The table of Congressional Republicans who just voted to repeal the “market based” solution known as ACA? Very realistic…

          • Socialisticat says:

            It's painful to me on an almost daily basis.  She's stated some positions that I hope are sincere, even if I don't think they're sufficient.  I'm about 60% willing to give her a chance. To be honest, I'm also excited to have a female president and think that's pretty powerful.

            If the Snowden revelations about the drone program, and the extent of illegal spying being done had come out before Obama's second term, I would have sat that one out, too.

          • Socialisticat says:

            At the time both the Senate and House held Democratic majorities.  I think it unlikely that those would have held to implement a single payer system, but I think the bill was worth bringing forward for debate and a vote.  I don't recall that happening.  I think some fights are important to have, even if you lose, so that people can become informed as a result of the discussion.

            “I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program.” (applause) “I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”

            – Barack Obama, 2003

          • BlueCat says:

            Frank, I agree with SCat that single payer should have been on the table. Not because it had a snowball's chance in hell but because rule one of bargaining 101 is that both sides ask for more than they know they have any chance of getting and work inward from there.

            Not having single payer on the table automatically made any kind of public option the extreme and therefore throw away position. I still believe mandate without public option  is essentially serving us to the greedy, amoral, private insurers on a silver platter. Not only did public option get thrown away before any bargaining began (though Pelosi got it in the House) but Team Obama, deluded into their kumbaya cham offensive to get just a few Rs on their side, offered Rs about 90% of what they wanted as a starting bargaining position and then gave more. Who does that?  

            And it didn't win them a single R because as they had already vowed before Obama was even inaugurated, they weren't going to give him any level of victory. Period. When push came to shove every R, including the most moderate, toed the line.

            So from the very beginning Dems felt thrown under the bus, relations between him and his Dem congress deteriorated as he continually tried uselessly to charm Rs and blamed extremists on both sides for the gridlock when Dems were in reality offering all kinds of compromise and Rs were 100% responsible for said gridlock. Relations with those who could have been strong allies got chillier and chillier so he couldn't even rally his own side. No wonder 2010 was such a disaster.

            It took Obama a good six years to finally learn what he should have learned after his first 6 weeks. The one thing SCat and I can agree on is not being charter members of the Obama Worshippers Fan Club. Where we differ is that I don't think Bennet's any worse than Obama and I think both of them are much to be preferred over any R.

      • FrankUnderwood says:

        At least S-cat is consistent I  criticizing both Obama and Thurston unlike some who can trash one and love the other.

  2. bullshit! says:

    Keyser is a placeholder. As long as Democrats don't eat their own this year, this race is not a top tier like 2010 was.

  3. SixPointBull says:

    Neville is shorter than Cory Gardner? How is this possible?

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