Republicans have lately been dropping in and out of the U.S. Senate race like it’s a student council seat, so we thought it time to take a new look at what’s what now that we’re past the 12 month mark until the primary.
TOP OF THE LINE
Former Lt. Governor Jane Norton
Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck
It’s been more than a decade since Colorado last had a female candidate running for a top job (Governor or U.S. Senate), and that gives Norton a big advantage because it makes her interesting. Political campaigns are about telling stories, and the best stories are the ones you haven’t heard before. Norton also has a good background to run on, has deep financial connections, and she’ll cut an attractive image on television.
That doesn’t mean that Norton is without question marks, however. Norton has been mentioned as a potential candidate for everything from Governor to Congress in the last decade, but she always took a pass on what seemed at the time to be good opportunities. Was she just waiting for the right moment, and felt that 2010 was finally that time? Or is running for office something she really doesn’t feel in her gut? Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet has had two monster fundraising quarters, and it’s going to take a lot of effort to be able to catch up to him.
As for Buck, he’s been working hard and was the only GOP candidate to raise any kind of legitimate money in the first fundraising period. He’s sufficiently conservative enough (and probably too far to the right, for a general election, frankly) to win a primary, but what’s the best-case scenario here? This was Buck’s nomination to lose until the GOP found someone better, which may have just happened with Norton. While Buck has been putting in the shoe leather and doing his damndest to make a real run at this, his ceiling just isn’t that high. Buck is what he is, but can he ever be more than that?
Former State Sen. Tom Wiens
When Wiens resigned from the Senate a few years ago, the working assumption was that he was going to devote himself full-time to a run for Governor. At the time, Wiens had the credentials and the personal wealth to make a strong bid in 2010, but a lot has changed in less than two years. For one thing, Wiens is widely rumored to be having personal financial troubles, which makes it tough to run statewide for dogcatcher. Wiens has also been off the grid for a little too long now; when he first resigned, he could have moved quickly into an exploratory campaign for Governor and kept his name ID and conservative credentials at the forefront of voter’s minds. But now?
If everything lined up right, we think Wiens could be a potentially tough candidate. But it doesn’t look like anything is lining up correctly at this point, and we have real doubts that Wiens will even be an official candidate three months from now.
NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME
Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier
It made sense for Frazier to take a shot here-it really did. With no obvious candidate on the GOP side and a little-known incumbent, this was as good a year as there has ever been for an unknown candidate to emerge from nowhere. For a time Frazier had even managed to generate a good deal of excitement among a group of Republicans, but then reality hit. In his first full fundraising quarter, Frazier went out and laid an egg, raising a paltry $140k (compared to $330k for Buck and $1.2 million for Bennet). And that was that.
Frazier’s campaign isn’t completely dead, but it’s definitely on life-support. His only real chance at winning the nomination was to come out strong and show people that he really had what it took to be a statewide player despite a tiny resume. When he didn’t do that, top GOP supporters started looking elsewhere.
Someone who was just an Aurora city council member should never have even been considered for the U.S. Senate, and there was no harm in trying to seize the moment. But that moment has definitely passed, and with Norton’s entry into the race, there really isn’t room for Frazier anymore.
And please, don’t mention that Frazier has done well in straw polls. Nobody cares.
CLEVE TIDWELL DIVISION
Businessman Cleve Tidwell