Long Road Back to the Middle for Buck

Today Politico examines a potential problem for Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck — an issue that we have said for a long time will be problematic for all GOP candidates for statewide office in 2010. The problem is that when you tack far to the right in order to please your base, you end up a long way from the middle, which is where you need to be to win a General Election:

He’s questioned the constitutionality of Social Security, toyed with phasing out the federal student loan program and spoken of lowering the wall that separates church and state.

Meet Ken Buck, the Colorado Republican Senate primary candidate who looks like the next Rand Paul or Sharron Angle – another tea-party-backed insurgent poised to upset the GOP establishment favorite.

Like Paul and Angle, whose post-nomination rollouts were notably rocky, the upstart Weld County district attorney carries with him similar made-for-cable-TV political baggage. And like those two, Buck’s more unconventional statements haven’t received a full vetting yet…

…Like Paul, who was pilloried for hedging on whether he would have voted for landmark civil-rights legislation, and Angle, who ended up fleeing a local television reporter who inquired about her plan for “transitioning” out of Social Security, Buck has delivered a series of sound bites that Democrats view as a treasure-trove of opposition hits.

At a March forum, he drew hearty applause after calling Social Security “horrible, bad policy” and questioning whether the federal government should be involved in administering it.

“I don’t know whether it’s constitutional or not; it is certainly a horrible policy,” Buck said. “The idea that the federal government should be running health care or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe. And that is that the private sector runs programs like that far better.”

During an appearance in May on a local radio program, Buck suggested that the government should not be in the business of providing student loans.

“Over time, we have to wean the American public off those,” he said.

On several occasions, he’s advocated for a closer relationship between God and government. Last fall, at a forum at Colorado Christian University, the Colorado Statesman reported that Buck “emphasized his conservative values, expressing his opposition to the principle of separating church and state.”

Throw in a call to scrap the Department of Education and Buck’s support for “birther” legislation in response to a minority that fears President Barack Obama isn’t an American citizen, and Democrats have the ingredients for a series of defining ads that could frame Buck on the fringe.

Ouch. Being compared to Rand Paul and Sharron Angle is not strong praise. To review, here’s a quick list of the problematic statements for Buck:

  • Social Security is bad

  • Government-funded student loans are bad

  • Elimate the Department of Education

  • President Obama may not be a citizen

  • Separation of church and state is bad
  • These positions may be swell in rallying support for a Republican Primary, but Buck is going to have some ‘splaining to do to the swing voters in Colorado who, time and time again, have shown their preference for the most moderate candidate.

    What’s At Stake in GOP Senate Primary? Only…Everything

    The news that Ken Buck has taken a commanding 53-37 lead in recent polling over Jane Norton in the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination was the big story over the weekend. We’re not surprised that Buck is leading Norton at this point in the race (though the 16-point margin is definitely a shock), and if that lead holds up through the Aug. 10 Primary, it could fundamentally alter the Republican Party in Colorado.

    A Norton loss would be devastating to two of the main GOP players in recent years: Dick Wadhams and Josh Penry. Wadhams has already been tied by Republicans to national efforts to clear the GOP field for Norton (hell, his new wife was a staffer for Norton’s campaign), and a Buck victory would not only be a repudiation of his leadership, but more importantly, the final stake into the heart of the idea of Wadhams as a strategic genius.

    As for Penry, one year ago he was perhaps the GOP’s top candidate for Governor and the oft-quoted Senate Minority Leader who was nationally praised as being among the next round of Republican leaders nationwide. Now? Penry is Norton’s “campaign manager” and primary spokesperson whose main contributions have been trying to pretend that Norton really isn’t losing and that mysteriously unavailable “other” polls actually have her ahead of Buck. Penry was the guy brought in to save the Norton brand, but whether it is his fault or not, the simple fact remains that Norton was in a better position before Penry came on board than she is now.

    There’s no question that a Buck victory over Norton in the GOP Primary would fundamentally alter the power structure among Colorado Republicans, but here’s another question: What happens if Buck wins the Primary but loses the General Election? This could be the worst thing that could happen to the Colorado Republican Party, because it would show that while the old way of doing things (via Wadhams and Penry) isn’t working…neither is the new way (Buck and the Tea Party).

    And then what?

    PPP Poll: Buck, Norton Tightening, Bennet Pulling Away

    A new poll out today from Public Policy Polling shows that Republicans Jane Norton and Ken Buck are headed for a close finish, while on the Democratic side, Sen. Michael Bennet is pulling away from Andrew Romanoff:

    Norton leads Buck 31-26.  When PPP looked at the race in March she had a 34-17 lead. Buck actually has the 34-30 advantage with conservatives but Norton continues to lead overall thanks to a 32-12 edge with moderates.

    Buck has seen his favorability improve from 21% to 32%, while Norton’s has dropped from 41% to 34%.  It’s clearly a two candidate race at this point with none of the other contenders getting more than 5%…

    …On the Democratic side Michael Bennet has widened his lead over Andrew Romanoff to 46-31 after being ahead just 40-34 on the previous poll.  Bennet is doing well across the ideological spectrum, holding double digit leads with liberals, moderates, and conservatives alike.

    “In Colorado the Democratic primary was supposed to be competitive and the GOP one a foregone conclusion,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling.  “But it seems like the opposite of that is happening. Bennet has expanded his lead while Buck and Norton are headed for a close one.”

    More on this poll in roguestaffer’s diary

    Pols Poll 3: U.S. Senate (Republicans)

    The last version of this poll was several months ago, so let’s do it again.

    As always, please vote based on what you think will happen, not on who you would vote for or which candidate you support personally. Think of it this way: If you had to bet the deed to your house, who would you pick?

    Who Will be the Republican Nominee for U.S. Senate?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

    Penry’s Actual Job Revealed

    We didn’t get a chance to get to this when word came out late Friday, so here it is today.

    Republican Senate candidate Jane Norton dumped her spokesperson on Friday. As Curtis Hubbard notes in “The Spot“:

    That means Nate Strauch – who previously worked for the Colorado Attorney General’s office and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association – is gone, and deputy campaign manager Cinamon Watson takes on additional duties.

    The move is not surprising in the wake of the arrival of Josh Penry as Norton’s news campaign manager. Penry came on board earlier this month promising a meaner and leaner campaign operation…[Pols emphasis]

    …Strauch is the first flak casualty on the Republican side of this year’s Senate races, but Democrat Andrew Romanoff’s campaign has gone through them like Josh McDaniels through quarterbacks.

     

    We agree that this news isn’t surprising, but for a different reason than listed above. As we noted when Penry was first announced as Norton’s new “campaign manager,” the real reason Penry was brought on to the campaign was to serve as the spokesperson and the new face of the operation, thus making poor Nate Strauch redundant.  

    Oh Irony, How Do We Love Thee?

    There’s a nice little story at The Denver Post blog “The Spot” today about Republican Senate candidate Jane Norton adopting a dog she came across on the campaign trail. The story makes for a neat little tidbit for the Norton campaign…until Norton decides to talk about it:

    Norton got the call on Monday that Akaya had no home. She called her husband and asked if it was OK to keep it. They already have a Blue Heeler named Yazzi – also a rescued pooch.

    “He asked how big it was,” said Norton, tensing her shoulders a bit. “I told him 120 pounds … He’s on a business trip so maybe by the time he gets back he’ll get used to it.”

    Ron McGuffee brought Akaya to Denver Wednesday night and Norton was united with her new Western Slope friend.

    She is thinking about renaming him, maybe Kemp after former vice presidential hopeful Jack Kemp. [Pols emphasis] Or Monte – after Montrose County.

    Look, Jack Kemp is certainly a respectable politician, but we got a chuckle out of the idea that Norton would name a dog after the 1996 running mate of Republican Presidential candidate Bob Dole, who, of course, lost the Election to Bill Clinton in a race that was never really in danger of being close. Nothing quite inspires confidence among Republicans like the name Jack Kemp!  

    So…What’s Going on With Norton’s Campaign?

    It’s taken us a few hours to sit back and digest the strange news that Republican Senate candidate Jane Norton has dropped her former campaign manager, Norm Cummings, and replaced him with Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry. As we think more about this move, there are a few things that become pretty obvious:

    1. Norton’s campaign is clearly very worried about something. You just don’t make this move unless you have serious concerns about the direction of your campaign. Activist Republicans were not happy that Norton decided to petition onto the ballot and forego the caucus process, so that could be a reason. Or perhaps it’s the “anti-establishment” momentum of fellow Republican Ken Buck. Or maybe the growing financial disparity between Sen. Michael Bennet and, well, everyone else has the campaign nervous about its chances at winning in November.

    Most likely, it’s a combination of things, but all point to the same conclusion: Norton and her advisors think a major change is needed NOW. If this isn’t a panic move, it’s damn close to one.

    2. Josh Penry is not really going to be managing the campaign. This is no disrespect to Penry, but overseeing a massive statewide campaign is a particular skill; you can’t just pluck some well-known legislator out of the Capitol and hand them the wheel to a multi-million dollar effort. Being a candidate and being a manager are distinctly different skills, and it’s more likely that someone else is still going to be calling all the shots for Norton while Penry’s role is really as more of a spokesman/message consultant/PR stunt.

    In fact, it was a different announcement, buried in The Denver Post blog entry, that is probably more important than the Penry news:

    Also helping the campaign is Rich Beeson, who is coming on board as a general consultant. Beeson worked on U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s win in Massachussetts earlier this year.

    3. So who is really calling the shots for Norton? Well-traveled GOP consultant Shari Williams had originally been chosen to shepherd Norton through the caucus process, but that obviously isn’t happening any longer. From what we understand, the true “manager” of the campaign remains husband Mike Norton, who will no doubt still have the final word, no matter what Beeson or Penry have to say.

    The bottom line here is that the Norton campaign is most definitely in some form of disarray, and the Beeson-Penry changes signal something closer to a “panic” than just a general malaise. These are significant changes to make to a campaign that was long considered to be the frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

    Big Line Updated

    The Big Line has been updated now that Democrat Andrew Romanoff’s fundraising numbers for Q1 have been reported.

    The biggest changes are on The Line are for Senate, Attorney General and CD-4…

    SENATE LINE

    This race has really come down to three people now: Sen. Michael Bennet for the Democrats and Jane Norton and Ken Buck on the Republican side.

    Bennet is raising as much money, if not more, as anyone else in the country and has already put four ads up on television. Democrat Andrew Romanoff had a weak Q1 in fundraising, but more importantly, he only added about $23,000 to his total warchest after spending most of the $385,000 he raised.

    Romanoff is just out of time now. He’s got $500k in the bank, but most of that will be spent on general campaign operations in the next 3-4 months. That means that he needs to raise at least a million dollars in the next three months to be able to afford a strong TV presence opposite Bennet. Even the staunchest Romanoff supporter can’t be optimistic about the chances of that happening.

    As for the Republicans, Norton is the only one of the three candidates who is raising real money. Buck is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside interest group money running ads on his behalf, so that has to be factored into his total ability to raise his profile. Tom Wiens, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to raise much money from people not named Tom Wiens, and he’s going to have to make a decision in the next month or two about what to do with the $500k he has “loaned” to his campaign; does he stay in the race and spend that cash, or pull out and refund his loan to himself?

    ATTORNEY GENERAL

    A few weeks ago incumbent Republican John Suthers looked like a lock for re-election. But then he went and got involved in the health care reform lawsuit, and as a result he now has a serious Democratic challenger in Boulder County D.A. Stan Garnett. Suthers is as dull a politician as you will find, and Garnett has the ability to raise a lot of money in a very short time. At the very least, this race is now a tossup.

    CD-4

    Republican Cory Gardner had a good Q1 in fundraising, and the rest of the GOP field seems to have disintegrated. Gardner surely can’t wait for the legislative session to end so that he can stop having to take so many absences to head off to fundraise elsewhere. Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey had another strong fundraising quarter and continues to do just about everything right. This race is going to get tighter, but we still give Markey the edge.

    Spend It If You’ve Got It

    According to “Hotline” (subscription required), Sen. Michael Bennet had one of the hottest burn rates in the country in Q1:

    Spent Most In 1stQ

    McMahon ($4.82M), McCAIN ($3.06M), LINCOLN ($2.00M), Rubio ($1.83M), Fiorina ($1.66M), Lowden ($1.58M), Binnie ($1.54M), BENNET ($1.31M) [Pols emphasis], REID ($1.03M), Toomey ($1.03M)

    Ordinarily we’d tell a cautionary tale about spending so much money so early in a race, but like anything else involving fundraising, a burn rate is all relative compared to what’s happening with your opponents.

    Bennet spent more money in Q1 than anyone else in the race (except for Jane Norton) has raised in total. That’s the luxury you have when you put in the time and effort required for raising money. Bennet still has about $3 million more in his warchest than anyone else; hell, you could add up the cash on hand amounts of the other four candidates combined and still not come close to what Bennet has in the bank.

    Bennet’s burn rate is so high in large part because he’s already gone up on TV with three different commercials, so he’s not exactly pulling a Scott Gessler and pissing it all away (although Bennet’s commercials haven’t exactly been genius-level, either).

    Bennet’s fundraising has afforded his campaign the luxury of being on TV when the rest of the field has to be saving every dollar for July, and that is part of a point we have been making here for months: It’s not necessary for the other candidates to raise more money than Bennet in order to beat him, but they still need to stay in the general vicinity. And that hasn’t happened just yet.

    Wiens Raises $100k, Gives Self $100k

    Republican Senate candidate Tom Wiens reported a weak Q1 fundraising number of $100,931, which doesn’t include a $98,000 contribution from his biggest donor, Tom Wiens.

    But whether he raises it or gives it to himself, the money does all spend the same; Wiens has more than $540k cash on hand, which keeps him (barely) in the game with rivals Ken Buck and Jane Norton.

    Denver Post: Buck No Longer a “Long-Shot”

    As The Denver Post reports today, Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck is the talk of the (GOP) town:

    Ken Buck, once thought to be a dead-in-the-water Republican U.S. Senate candidate with laughable fundraising totals and little establishment GOP support, has surged to life in a matter of days thanks to a handful of prominent endorsements pulling in big cash and – more important – national distinction.

    With almost $600,000 in a television advertising campaign from the Virginia-based Americans for Job Security, a nod Wednesday from conservative lion Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and his straw-poll win at the state party’s March caucuses, Buck is suddenly the candidate that party chatterboxes are talking about.

    The Weld County district attorney’s renaissance has brought the national spotlight to the Colorado Republican Senate primary, which had been viewed as former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton versus a band of underfunded unknowns.

    Now, Colorado finds itself alongside Florida, Kentucky and Arizona, where long-shot Senate candidates bolstered by Tea Party voters and far-right connections have surged into contention, challenging more established Republicans such as Sen. John McCain and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

    Sounds great, but here’s the rub:

    Financial support – directly or indirectly – will bolster Buck’s bid, which thus far has been able to raise little money outside of large donations from employees of Greeley-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and its family members.

    Buck raised a paltry $40,000 in the final three months of 2009 and may have raised only a fraction of what Norton did in the first quarter of this year. (First-quarter fundraising totals will be reported today. Buck’s campaign refused to say how much he had Wednesday. Norton raised $816,000 in the first quarter.)

    Buck certainly has the momentum in the Republican Primary, but the question still remains about the money. Can he raise the money to have a large TV presence in July and August, or will outside interest groups continue to dump big money into third-party ads promoting him? Because no matter how much momentum he has now, none of this will matter unless his mug is all over TV when Jane Norton is doing the same thing.

    Sen. Jim DeMint Will Endorse Ken Buck

    Republican Senate candidate Jane Norton’s bad day just keeps getting worse. From Politico:

    POLITICO has learned that Buck will get another lift Wednesday when he’s expected to earn the endorsement of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) during a conference call with reporters and bloggers. DeMint has established himself as a prolific fundraiser for candidates who share his conservative principles. And his seal of approval can also lend greater legitimacy to a candidate like Buck, who trails Norton in the critical barometers of campaign funds and name identification.

    Norton Going Petition Route: Bennet Made Me Do It!

    UPDATE: Okay, this is weird. Norton confirms, and blames…Sen. Michael Bennet? From a press release (full release after the jump):

    In the wake of a decision by appointed Senator Michael Bennet to begin gathering petitions to secure his place on the Democrat primary ballot, US Senate candidate Jane Norton will turn her focus to meeting with party activists and disaffected voters from across the political spectrum as her campaign begins a grassroots petition drive.

    Uh, what in the hell does Bennet collecting petitions have to do with Norton collecting petitions? As we said below, there’s nothing wrong with collecting petitions (if you have the resources to do it), because it helps you develop a bigger list of potential supporters.

    But there is a major difference here. Norton is bypassing the Convention process altogether now, while Bennet is not; he’s just doing both.

    —–

    As The Colorado Statesman reports:

    Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck may find it a little lonely at his party’s state assembly on May 22. Former state Sen. Tom Wiens from Castle Rock, one of the three major candidates in the race, announced at the end of March that he’ll bypass the more traditional caucus-assembly route for ballot access and instead petition on.

    Now comes word that Jane Norton, who tied with Buck with roughly 37 percent in a straw poll taken March 16 at GOP precinct caucuses, may follow suit and use the petition method herself.

    The Norton campaign did not respond to requests for comment from The Colorado Statesman. But a source from a company that collects signatures for candidates in Colorado says the Norton campaign was presented with a proposal not too long ago and appeared receptive to the idea…

    …To gain access through the petition route, a candidate needs 1,500 verifiable signatures from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts. The deadline is May 27. If Norton wants to hire petition circulators, she certainly has the money. Norton reported collecting more than $800,000 in the first quarter of this year.

    UPDATE: Reporting Wednesday confirms that following Republican caucus rules, Norton cannot simultaneously gather petitions for the August primary ballot and participate in the caucus process. We don’t remember when the last time this was an issue, probably during the Holtzman vs Beauprez primary in 2006, but it’s liable to matter quite a bit more this time. We’ve stricken a sentence below, as this rule does make Norton’s decision more consequential.

    The key question here is whether Norton would bypass the assembly process entirely and not participate, because if she’s going to do both then this isn’t a huge deal. We’ve always believed that Party insiders on both sides make too much out of a candidate’s decision to petition onto the ballot; frankly, it makes a lot of sense for a campaign to gather petitions, whether they need them for ballot access or not, because it allows you to build a nice list of potential supporters for the August primary and beyond.

    If true, this story says more about the growing strength of Ken Buck than it does about Norton, though the big question for Buck is still all about money. None of this will matter much unless Buck can raise enough money to have a solid presence on television.

    In the wake of a decision by appointed Senator Michael Bennet to begin gathering petitions to secure his place on the Democrat primary ballot, US Senate candidate Jane Norton will turn her focus to meeting with party activists and disaffected voters from across the political spectrum as her campaign begins a grassroots petition drive.

    “Every election is different, and this one is certainly different. We’re living in unique, historical times. Business as usual will not do as a way to conduct this campaign. This election for me has always been about focusing on the issues and unseating Michael Bennet,” commented Norton. “After much careful deliberation, I have decided we cannot afford to give the appointed Senator a two-month head start.  Our freedom is under attack, and that is why I need to take the fight as soon as possible to the Democrats, Michael Bennet, and Barack Obama to take back Colorado’s senate seat for the people of Colorado and help take back our government for the American people.

    “This is not a decision I have made lightly. I have participated in our precinct and convention process my whole life, and I remain respectful of these institutions. I admire the enthusiasm of the many party leaders who devote their efforts to promoting participation, including the 9,622 grassroots Republicans who honored me with their support in the caucus straw poll. The convention remains a vital part of Colorado’s political process, but the next six weeks are far too important to spend campaigning solely to a small bloc of voters.

    “So I will begin campaigning full-time for the primary today. I am blessed with a strong grassroots campaign organization in all 64 Colorado counties, and we will use that network to collect petition signatures, recruit new volunteers, expand our organization, and continue to bring our message of limited government to all corners of the state.

    “The appointed Senator’s decision to gather petitions will give him an opportunity to campaign on a broad public stage over the next six weeks, and that’s an advantage I will not cede to him. I will spend the next six weeks campaigning on the issues to the several hundred thousand Coloradans who will vote in the Republican primary, not to mention thousands of other unaffiliated and Democrat voters who are sick and tired of business as usual in Washington.

    “I’m Jane Norton, the daughter of a Marine who fought in one of the toughest battles of World War II.  I learned from him that freedom is worth fighting for. I cannot wait another day while the special interests in Washington and mysterious donors attack me with millions of dollars flooding Colorado’s airwaves. We have to stand up and begin the fight now to take Colorado’s senate seat back from Washington insiders and lifelong public office holders.

    “I can’t wait to mix it up with Harry Reid and the Good Ol’ Boys in Washington. And I can’t wait to engage in the primary contest. But the primary is a means to an end, and the ultimate end is to beat Michael Bennet and restore common sense, responsible fiscal leadership, and conservative values to the Senate. And that’s exactly what we will do.”

    Numerous Colorado Conservative leaders responded to the announcement:

    “Jane Norton was there with me at the state convention in 2002, 2004, and 2006 and I have every confidence she would perform admirably at the state convention this year. But each election is different, and clearly Michael Bennet’s decision to petition on has changed the game. This is a smart move that gives Republicans the best shot at victory in November.” – Governor Bill Owens

    “Jane Norton is the right candidate in this race. She’s had my full support from the beginning, and that support continues today and on into November.” – Senator Hank Brown

    “As a proud Tea Partier I have three words: Go Jane, Go! I’m excited to begin collecting signatures for Jane to prepare for the August primary and the next step in unseating Governor Ritter’s appointed Senator.” – Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland

    “Jane Norton will make a terrific United States Senator.  People have responded to her principles, integrity and passion with tremendous grassroots support.  She has the resources to win in November, and this step puts her closer to that goal.” – Former state treasurer Mark Hillman

    Show Colorado the Money!

    Around the country, political analysts will be paying close attention to the Q1 fundraising reports for the 36 U.S. Senate races. Colorado is one of the 8-10 seats around the country placed in the “toss-up” category (depending on the pundit), and as such there are many eyes upon our fair state.

    Many observers see Q1 as a make-or-break fundraising period for Democrat Andrew Romanoff and Republicans Ken Buck and Tom Wiens. But how much money should they be expected to raise in order to still have a chance to win in August or November? And how are Colorado’s candidates doing in their fundraising in comparison to other states?

    We compared Colorado’s fundraising numbers with those of similar states, and what we found is surprising: Most of Colorado’s Senate candidates are raising just a fraction of what candidates in other states are pulling down.

    For this purpose, we took a look at the 9 states around the country that have a similar number of Congressional members (a roundabout way of saying that these states are similar in size). Here are those 9 states with either 6, 7 or 8 Members of Congress: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

    Of those 9 states, one does not have a Senate race in 2010 (Minnesota), and 6 are considered by most national pundits to be safe seats (Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, Maryland, South Carolina and Wisconsin). That leaves us with two other similarly-sized states with “competitive” Senate races in which to compare: Kentucky and Louisiana.

    Here’s how the fundraising numbers compare through the end of 2009, since most Q1 reports are not yet available. The numbers listed below represent total amounts raised through Dec. 31, 2009:

    COLORADO

    Michael Bennet (D): $4.8 million

    Jane Norton (R): $1.1 million

    Tom Wiens (R): $728k

    Andrew Romanoff (D): $630k

    Ken Buck (R): $537k

    KENTUCKY

    Jack Conway (D): $2.3 million

    Trey Greyson (R): $1.7 million

    Rand Paul (R): $1.7 million

    Dan Mongiardo (D): $1.47 million

    LOUISIANA

    David Vitter (R): $4.5 million

    Charles Melancon (D): $1.96 million




    As you can see, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet has outraised everyone in this comparison, and among other Colorado candidates, only Republican Jane Norton is anywhere close to what the other candidates have been able to collect. Romanoff, Buck and Wiens aren’t even in the same ballpark.

    In other words, there’s going to be no way for Romanoff, Buck or Wiens to sugarcoat a poor Q1 of fundraising. Raising $300-400k just isn’t going to cut it at this point in the race. Frankly, we’d say that anything significantly short of Norton’s $816,000 in Q1 is going to have the fat lady warming up her lungs. If Romanoff, Buck or Wiens fail to raise at least $750,000 in Q1, they won’t even be close to what other Senate candidates around the country had already raised before January.

    As we’ve said before, in politics money begets more money because most major donors save their checks for the candidates most likely to win. It’s almost impossible to recover financially from a poor fundraising performance after April 1, because it’s so hard to convince people to write a big check when so few others have done so. And as we’ve said over and over again, without solid fundraising, you can’t get on TV. And if you can’t get on TV in a major statewide race, you cannot win. Period.

    Buck to Run as Tea Party; Romanoff Considering Switch, Too?

    In a strange turn of events in a U.S. Senate race that has been particularly interesting this year, Republican Ken Buck has announced that he will change his Party affiliation to run for Senate under the “Tea Party” banner.

    Buck had a surprisingly strong effort in the GOP caucuses last month, but apparently his campaign’s internal numbers showed that he was strongest with Tea Party supporters and not as solid with traditional Republican voters. Worried that he might not be able to win a Primary with Republicans Jane Norton and Tom Wiens in the race, Buck’s chief strategist Walt Klein made the decision to switch Party affiliations from “Republican” to “Tea Party.”

    According to a statement issued late last night, Buck sounds excited about the move:

    “The Tea Party movement has re-energized conservatives in Colorado, and I am proud to place my name under their banner as the first official “Tea Party” Party candidate in our great state. I know it sounds weird to say ‘Tea Party Party,’ but it’s not as strange as some of things that Democrats have done to turn our great nation into a Socialist utopia.”

    The only hangup thus far in Buck’s plans appears to be the fact that the “Tea Party” in Colorado isn’t an actual political entity. But Klein insists that they will be able to rectify that problem in plenty of time for the Secretary of State to print ballots in September.

    In related news, we hear that Democrat Andrew Romanoff, faced with the daunting task of catching Sen. Michael Bennet in fundraising, is seriously considering a party switch of his own. Romanoff will not make the same last-minute mistake that Rep. Kathleen Curry made earlier this year; in switching her affiliation from Democrat to Independent, Curry made it impossible for her to win re-election unless she garners the most votes as a “write-in” candidate.

    Romanoff spokesman Dean Toda says that the campaign is considering a number of options for ballot access, including switching to the “American Constitution Party,” the “Whigs” or perhaps even the “Tories.” Said Toda in a statement released this morning:

    “Whether Andrew Romanoff is on the ballot as a Democrat, a Whig or a Torie makes no difference. He is still the only candidate who is not accepting PAC money, and he still is the most popular U.S. Senate candidate on both Facebook and MySpace.”

    Full press releases from both Buck and Romanoff after the jump.

    April Fools!

    Check out our April Fools post from last year for more nonsense.

    Hold the Confetti, Really

    There are two very different narratives taking shape in the wake of last Tuesday’s Democratic caucuses–one is what we’re seeing repeated quite a bit in national press, the story of candidate Andrew Romanoff’s “stunning victory” over appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, which dovetails nicely with the story of Ken Buck’s surprisingly strong finish in GOP Senate preference polls. We don’t begrudge out-of-state reporters for oversimplifying what happened in Colorado this week for the purposes of fitting the whole thing into one paragraph or TV news clip, c’est la vie.

    But the other narrative, which we think much more accurately reflects the process in Colorado and the state of this race generally, was reported by the Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels today:

    Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff declared victory for the little guy in Tuesday night’s caucuses, saying “Main Street won, Wall Street lost,” but among the pundit class, the results were viewed differently.

    By barely cracking 50 percent among the people perceived as his base, Romanoff has a tough row to hoe to compete with Michael Bennet, his $3.7 million in the bank and deep support from the Obama administration, said political consultants Steve Welchert, a Democrat, and Katy Atkinson, a Republican…

    Democrats at their caucuses had only one major contested race, the matchup between Romanoff and Bennet, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate in January 2009. Romanoff received 50 percent to Bennet’s 41 percent.

    “We just saw the strongest day Romanoff is likely to have,” Welchert said. “The fact that the spread is 10 points evaporates when you’re going to be outspent 10-to-1.”

    Atkinson said she had expected Romanoff to top Bennet, but by a wider margin.

    With irony that few readers will miss, Romanoff’s biggest defender in Bartels’ story is none other than Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams:

    “Are you kidding me?” Wadhams said. “With all respect to my good friend Katy, Romanoff didn’t even get into the race until September, and President Obama just came here and campaigned for Bennet.”

    We have a little bit of news to add to this parlor-game debate, which is really just a debate about impressions of impressions ahead of the parts of the primary process that matter: but impressions being the game today, you might be interested in knowing that Romanoff has dropped below the much-balleyhooed 50% threshold in the latest updated caucus preference poll results. As of 12:50PM MDT, Romanoff is sitting at 49.96%–unlike sale prices in the grocery store, a few cents off doesn’t actually make this number more appealing.

    Joking aside, our view hasn’t changed: Romanoff didn’t beat Bennet by enough of a margin to make Tuesday’s caucus preference poll “conclusive” either way, and that means Romanoff did not perform well enough to meaningfully affect the same long odds he faced before the caucuses.

    Steve Welchert is stating the simple facts of the matter above when he talks about Romanoff being outspent 10-1 in the coming months, and that is all that’s going to matter when it comes to reaching thousands of primary voters instead of hundreds of ardent party-activist caucusgoers. The same thing holds true for Buck on the Republican side; his victory on Tuesday is certainly significant, but if he has another $40,000 quarter of fundraising, none of this will make any difference come August. As we’ve said over and over, the voters who will decide the primary are not all that different than the voters who will decide the general election. They’re not that interested and not well-informed, so it’s going to take a lot of mail, radio, and especially television to get those votes–none of which you can buy with contrived moral rectitude.

    Caucus Winners and Losers

    The preference poll results from last night are now in, and although this is only round one in a long process that still must wind through counties and state assemblies, here’s how we see the results:

    On the Democrats’ side, we can’t really declare either Sen. Michael Bennet or Andrew Romanoff to be a “Winner” or a “Loser” from last night. Romanoff didn’t beat Bennet by a significant margin, so little has changed in this race in the last 24 hours. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot to discuss on the Republican side, so let’s get to it…

    WINNERS

    Ken Buck

    As we wrote yesterday, Buck’s campaign for the Republican nomination in the U.S. Senate race obviously had a good feel for the likely results given that his manager was actually raising expectations rather than lowering them. Buck did just slightly better than Jane Norton (37.86% to 37.74%), but this is still a huge victory for the Weld County District Attorney because it shattered the idea of Norton as a clear frontrunner.

    Norton spent a lot of money on TV ads leading up to the caucus, and she still couldn’t even get to 40%. She’s now going to have to continue to spend money through the state assembly in order to hold on to her delegates and stem Buck’s momentum. Buck still has to show he can raise money after a pathetic Q4 that saw him raise just $40k, but the momentum is now on his side.

    Dan Maes

    Lost in the discussion over the U.S. Senate race was the fact that the unknown, poorly-funded Maes managed to pull nearly 40% in a preference poll for Governor. This is more an indictment of frontrunner Scott McInnis than a sign of strength for Maes, but nevertheless this is a big victory for a guy that nobody had even heard of a year ago.

    LOSERS

    Scott McInnis

    If the results from last night’s preference polling holds through the state assembly, McInnis is going to have to really campaign to make sure he makes it out of a gubernatorial primary. Challenger Dan Maes has been a thorn in his side for a few months, but most people (including us) wouldn’t have expected Maes to actually be on the ballot in August. Maes likely couldn’t have afforded to petition on to the ballot, but now it looks like he might make it on through the caucus process, which is a massive blow to McInnis’ hopes of beating Democrat John Hickenlooper in November. McInnis will now have to expend real time and resources in the primary — neither of which he can afford to use up before a general election battle with Hick.

    Jane Norton

    We covered this in our discussion of Ken Buck above. The image of Norton as GOP frontrunner has been smashed, and she’s going to have to really ratchet up the fundraising (and the spending) in order to make sure she gets through the primary.

    Tom Wiens

    By picking up just 16% of the votes, Wiens came in a distant third to Buck and Norton in the GOP Senate polls and needs to go the petition route to make sure he makes it onto the ballot. Given that most of Wiens’ warchest comes from his own bank account, he’s got a decision to make. Does he spend the money to gather the necessary petition signatures and continue his campaign? Or does he take the caucus results as a sign that he might not have the support to win a primary? We don’t think Wiens is out of the running by any means — not with Norton’s poor performance and Buck’s meager finances — but last night was definitely a “fork in the road” moment for him.

    Who is the Biggest Winner from Caucus Night?

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    The Caucus Spin: Who REALLY Has the Most at Stake?

    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.

    Jane Norton Still Spending Her Time Out in Left Field

    And starting again out in left field…Jane Norrrr-tonnnn.

    We’ve expressed amazement in this space before at Republican Senate candidate Jane Norton’s apparent message strategy we dubbed “Out of Left Field” Norton. And we’ve said before that it sucks to be Norton’s spokesperson. You never know what Norton is going to say, or when she might say it, and more often than not, she’s not saying something good.

    Well, it’s happened again. A new video is now online in which Norton tells a Republican Party forum in Colorado Springs that “with regard to Social Security, it has turned into a ponzi scheme.”

    Why on earth would Norton say this? There are some 600,000 Coloradans on Social Security, with hundreds of thousands more hoping to be able to cash in sometime soon. Norton might even have a valid point in here somewhere about Social Security needing an overhaul, but you don’t compare it to a ponzi scheme!

    By talking so critically about Social Security, Norton gives the impression to a lot of voters (which will no doubt be clarified in an attack ad down the line) that she does not support Social Security. And that’s not a good idea. We all know that Senior Citizens might forget to put in their teeth, but they never forget to vote; and you absolutely don’t want to come across as unsympathetic to one of their primary concerns.

    Norton’s statement would be bad enough if it were just a one-time thing, but if you are a Republican who views her as your best shot at winning back a Senate seat, you’ve got to be concerned about Norton’s complete lack of message discipline and apparent willingness to say anything, anytime. In the last two months alone, Norton has served up a half-dozen or so giant meatballs for her opponents — Republicans and Democrats alike — to use against her later. This is not what you would expect to see from the supposed GOP “frontrunner” in a U.S. Senate race.  

    McInnis Out-Crazies Norton? ‘Eliminate’ STATE Education Department?

    We, along with the Denver Post and various other amused parties, have talked quite a bit about GOP Senate candidate Jane Norton’s call to ‘abolish’ the federal Department of Education. The Post’s examination of the issue last December found that Norton was pretty distantly behind the times with this Reagan-era canned prescription for “reform,” and it’s not a talking point we expect to see repeated much once her Tea Party-centric primary is over.

    Somebody really ought to get that message to gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis though, and check in on what McInnis is actually talking about–state versus federal departments for one thing, since there’s a difference. Here he is speaking extemporaneously at a Tea Party/912 Movement candidate forum last month:

    A transcript, in case you found it tough to hear:

    Katie Kafer: Are there any Colorado agencies, boards or commissions you would eliminate and why?

    Scott McInnis: You could look at the Department of Education. You could also merge the Division or Wildlife, perhaps with — not Wildlife —  but the Department of Agriculture with the Department of Natural Resources and some other mergers.

    So, it’s one thing to talk idly about eliminating the federal Department of Education, with its arguably more remote and indirect role. It’s quite another thing to talk about eliminating the state Department of Education, which is much more directly involved with the day-to-day administration of Colorado schools, teacher accreditation, standards and testing, and other core functions. Suggesting we eliminate the state Department of Ed is…well, it’s totally ridiculous and unworkable, and crazier by several orders of magnitude than what Norton was lampooned for suggesting.

    We’ll say it again: this is not some cutesy budget cutting gimmick; this is like suggesting that we eliminate the Colorado Department of Transportation, which as we all (should) know, would mean that roads would not be fixed, maintained or plowed. It’s completely unserious on its face.

    In fact, it’s far enough over the top that it makes us wonder if he didn’t understand the question–but the moderator clearly did refer to “Colorado agencies,” and the other government departments McInnis mentioned are definitely state-based. Therefore, we have no choice but to conclude that eliminating the Colorado Department of Education really is what he said he would do as Governor.

    We have no doubt that sweeping statements about ‘eliminating’ evil government departments at every level go over well at a Tea Party campaign forum, after all the percentage of homeschoolers in that room almost certainly was well above mean–but this feels a lot like one of those moments they looked back on with Bob Beauprez after his seventeen-point loss in 2006, and began to realize when it was that voters stopped taking him seriously.

    Don’t Try This Strategy at Home, Kids

    Colorado has had it’s share of non-media savvy candidates and campaigns over the years, with Republican Senate candidate Jane Norton’s campaign leading the way in 2010 where screwing up the earned media side is concerned. But for all the mistakes of candidates like Norton and “Master of the Terrible PressAli Hasan, nobody has quite gotten bad media relations down to a science like California Republican Meg Whitman’s gubernatorial campaign. As “The Fix” explains:

    Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman has faced a steady drumbeat of criticism from her Republican primary opponent — state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner — for ducking debates and non-choreographed media appearances in her run for the California governorship.

    Yesterday at an event in Oakland, Whitman handed Poizner considerable fodder to make that case — refusing to take questions and then watching as reporters were moved out of the room and some sort of blockade was put in place so the cameras couldn’t shoot film of Whitman standing around. (You must watch the video [below]; it is b-r-u-t-a-l.)

    Of the back and forth, San Fransciso Chronicle veteran political reporter Carla Marinucci wrote:

    “Veteran reporters, who included KTVU’s Randy Shandobil and KPIX’s Hank Plante, were among the crowd that wasn’t amused. Question: is Whitman a candidate for governor, or a museum piece to be ‘watched’ by reporters?”

    Ouch.

    As “The Fix” says, you’ve got to watch the video, which is embedded after the jump. It’s just…plain…weird. Why (why?) would you intentionally antagonize the media like this? Can you guess which state’s media is now going to go out of its way to investigate every little tip they receive about Whitman?

    Caucus Prediction Time: Republicans

    It’s time to cast those votes on the caucus process. Click below to vote, and remember: As always, we want to know your best educated guess.

    Since the caucus process will last for a few months, predicting a winner will be tough to do. How much does it hurt Jane Norton if she doesn’t do well at the caucus? Does a poor performance basically end Ken Buck’s campaign? What about Tom Wiens?

    So vote below, and then offer your comments on what the caucus process means for the candidates. We’ll offer our opinion later in the week.

    Who Has the Most to Lose at Next Tuesday's Caucus?

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    New Rasmussen Polling on Senate Race

    Rasmussen Reports is out with new poll numbers on Colorado’s U.S. Senate race.

    As we’ve said over and over, head-to-head polling (of general election voters) matching up candidates from different parties is virtually meaningless at this point in the race. Probably 95% of voters aren’t paying any attention whatsoever right now, so polling today is basically asking people their opinions about two people they don’t know anything about. Matchup numbers today will look completely different in three months once the candidates start advertising heavily — that’s when these numbers will tell us something meaningful.

    For example, this poll shows that Republican Ken Buck would beat both Democrats Michael Bennet and Andrew Romanoff in a head-to-head race. But as you’ll see below, basically only 22% of voters even know anything about Buck. What this really means is that “unknown Republican” beats “unknown Democrat,” but given the recent anti-incumbent trends, we already knew that.

    The only numbers worth looking at this early in a race, which Rasmussen acknowledges, are those that show “very favorable” and “very unfavorable” ratings; in order to have a “very” favorable or unfavorable opinion of someone, you probably know something about them. With that in mind, here are the “very” favorable/unfavorable numbers:

    VERY FAVORABLE

    Jane Norton: 21%

    Andrew Romanoff: 17%

    Michael Bennet: 16%

    Ken Buck: 12%

    Tom Wiens: 11%

    VERY UN-FAVORABLE

    Ken Buck: 10%

    Tom Wiens: 11%

    Andrew Romanoff: 19%

    Jane Norton: 21%

    Michael Bennet: 26%

    What does this mean? It looks like a pretty clean slate all around. Nobody’s “very unfavorables” are too bad (and nobody has great favorables, either) which says that there isn’t a huge hurdle for any candidate to overcome. Back in 2005, then-Rep. Bob Beauprez had very high unfavorable ratings more than a year before the election for governor, which portended an uphill climb for Beauprez; for obvious reasons, it’s hard to get people to change a negative opinion about you.

    Without seeing detailed results, it’s hard to know how much of Bennet’s unfavorables are because of him personally or because of a negative attitude towards incumbents generally. The most interesting number is Norton’s 21% “very unfavorable” rating; do people dislike Jane Norton, or do they dislike some other Norton? There must be some “Norton confusion” here, because when you add up both numbers, she is as well known as the incumbent Sen. Bennet. Elsewhere, we don’t see anything noteworthy about Romanoff’s numbers, good or bad, and Wiens and Buck remain a mystery to voters.

    A Whole Shitload of Nortons

    Interesting article in Politico yesterday, where Republican Senate candidate Tom Wiens makes the case that the only reason Jane Norton has any name ID is because there are no fewer than five other Colorado Nortons who are prominent politicos:

    Besides the Senate candidate, there’s Jane Norton’s husband, Tom, a former U.S. attorney; former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who served as state attorney general; former state Senate President Tom Norton; and University of Northern Colorado President Kay Norton.

    They’re not all related, but that doesn’t mean the many Nortons don’t benefit from one another’s prominence.

    “In Colorado, there’s an unbelievable amount of people involved in GOP politics named Norton,” Wiens, a former state senator, told POLITICO in an interview. “I would imagine that when they’re asked, I think a lot of people would say they’d probably vote for a Norton, no matter who the Norton is.”

    We agree with Wiens argument that Norton’s name ID isn’t entirely her own, and it’s a subject we’ve brought up before in discussing her candidacy. We’d be more interested to know, however, if the last name “Norton” is actually more of a hindrance than a help.

    For example, Gale Norton, the former Colorado Attorney General and later Interior Secretary being investigated for making side deals with oil companies, is probably not the Norton that Jane’s campaign would want voters to recall. We’ve no doubt that more than one voter thinks Jane is really Gale, but that’s probably not a good thing. Or is it, with the thought being that Gale is still well-known and her legal troubles are not?

    What do you think? Vote below…

    Does Jane Norton Benefit from Other Nortons?

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    Jane “Out of Left Field” Norton?

    You can say one thing for Republican Jane Norton: She certainly doesn’t shy away from answering questions.

    Ever since Norton entered the race for U.S. Senate, she has made her opinion known on all sorts of issues, which has included some answers that are, well, odd.

    According to The Fort Morgan Times, Norton was at it again recently while talking with voters at a coffee shop:

    Norton said a national sales tax is an option, along with a flat tax, but it would mean overturning the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and she does not trust what Congress might do in that circumstance.

    Perhaps a simplified flat tax with exemptions only for mortgages and charity would work, Norton said.

    A flat tax? Really? When was the last time you heard a serious candidate for something like U.S. Senate talk about a “flat tax?”

    Republicans have a tough problem in Colorado. They have to try to placate the Tea Party and other far-right interests in order to make it through a primary, while also trying to remain somewhat moderate in order to win a general election. Norton faces that same problem, but she’s handling it in a very strange way: By just sort of saying whatever she feels like saying.

    Whether it’s abolishing the Department of Education, saying the Federal government “has no role in health care,” or almost casually giving approval to a “flat tax” when someone else brings it up, Norton is creating a quotation trail that makes her look like she’s all over the place on issues. At the rate she’s going, her opponents will be able to create some great ads showing Norton saying out-of-left-field things at every turn.

    We haven’t seen anything like this in quite a while in Colorado. You really never know what Norton is going to say next, and we’re starting to wonder if she even really knows what she’s saying. It’s almost as if she just vomits out an opinion on whatever pops into her head.

    And the way this is all happening is fascinating to watch; every week or so, Norton shows up in another small town in Colorado and inevitably offers up some completely random opinion on something. This is the kind of thing that you expect no-hope candidates like Cleve Tidwell to do, but not what you expect from the person generally considered to be the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. It really is…weird.

    We’re curious, and frankly, a little excited at the prospect of seeing Norton in a live debate. If she can’t keep track of what she’s saying now, a debate is going to make her head explode (or at least her campaign manager’s head).