McInnis Isn’t Going Anywhere, But What About Maes?

Earlier we pointed you to a Politico story about former State Senator and former GOP Senate candidate Tom Wiens trying to throw his hat into the ring for Governor, should Republicans figure out a way to replace either Scott McInnis or Dan Maes on the ballot.

From what we’ve heard lately from top Republicans, however, there is probably no scenario whereby McInnis drops out of the race if he wins the Primary on Tuesday. Why not? The reasons are pretty simple:

First off, Republicans have nothing to offer in exchange for McInnis exiting the race. McInnis is so politically damaged, both within his Party and among Democrats and Unaffiliated voters, that this is his last chance to run for higher office. Dick Wadhams can’t say, “Pull out of the race, and we’ll promise to support you for (fill in the blank) in 2012 or 2014.” McInnis can’t run again; he knows it, Republicans know it, donors know it, everyone knows it. If you look at it from McInnis’ perspective, the only real political option he has is to stay in the race for Governor and hope for some sort of miracle that sweeps him to victory.

McInnis’ contract with the law firm of Hogan & Hartson is about up (or has already expired). Because of his plagiarism scandals, the general aura of mistrust that surrounds him, and (as we hear it) a not particularly stellar last couple of years with the law firm, McInnis doesn’t have any place to land if he pulls out of the race for Governor (not that he really needs it, since McInnis has a good degree of personal wealth). So, again, he might as well keep going.

The only rationale that would potentially convince McInnis to leave the race would be the old “do it for the good of the Party” speech, but that doesn’t work, either. For one thing, McInnis has never been considered a guy who is overly interested about doing what’s right for the Republican Party. And with Tom Tancredo’s entrance into the race on the American Constitution Party ticket, you can’t really argue that a McInnis replacement would be any more likely to win the seat anyway.

So McInnis is almost certainly going to stay in the race for Governor should he win the GOP Primary, but what about Dan Maes? Some of the rationales mentioned above would probably be pretty enticing for Maes. Even if he makes it out of the Primary, he’s clearly not going to win the General Election because he’s proven to be too inexperienced as a campaigner and a little too nutty when he opens his mouth. But Republicans could perhaps convince Maes that there is a future for him in elected office…just not now.

Maes also seems to need a job, since his business acumen hasn’t generated much wealth and he’s been using his campaign funds to (ahem) pay for mileage in dubiously large increments. If Republicans could offer him some sort of paid Party position, and/or promise to support him for another (more realistic) race down the line, we’d have to think that Maes would at least seriously consider the offer.

But that brings us back to Tancredo again. With Tancredo in the race, does any of this even matter? If Republicans can’t convince Tancredo to withdraw, then they could resurrect zombie Ronald Reagan for three months and they still couldn’t find enough votes to beat Democrat John Hickenlooper.

Republicans are definitely not going to convince McInnis to pull out of the Governor’s race if he wins the Primary, but they might be able to convince Maes to step aside. Either way, it’s hard to see how any of this keeps Hickenlooper out of the Governor’s Mansion.

Who Do You Think Is More Likely to Withdraw from the GOP Field?

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Bennet Reports $2.6 Million Cash on Hand

The campaign of Sen. Michael Bennet has announced a cash on hand total of $2.6 million, or about $2 million more than both Republicans Jane Norton and Ken Buck have reported. The campaign of Democrat Andrew Romanoff is not releasing fundraising reports itself, which means that we may have to wait at least a week to find out what the Democratic challenger raised in Q2.

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?

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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…


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?


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.


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.

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:


Michael Bennet (D): $4.8 million

Jane Norton (R): $1.1 million

Tom Wiens (R): $728k

Andrew Romanoff (D): $630k

Ken Buck (R): $537k


Jack Conway (D): $2.3 million

Trey Greyson (R): $1.7 million

Rand Paul (R): $1.7 million

Dan Mongiardo (D): $1.47 million


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…


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.


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.

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:


Jane Norton: 21%

Andrew Romanoff: 17%

Michael Bennet: 16%

Ken Buck: 12%

Tom Wiens: 11%


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.

How Long Can Buck and Romanoff Keep the Lights On?

When fundraising numbers for Colorado’s U.S. Senate candidates were all announced earlier this week, it continued a rabid conversation about what individual reporting numbers mean for each campaign. Less discussed, but no less important, is whether or not each campaign is raising enough money just to keep the lights on.

As we’ve said before, fundraising reports are normally a reliable indicator of potential electoral success, because most large donors (people that give at least $500 to a candidate) write checks to the candidate that they believe is most likely to win.

But the other reason that fundraising is so important is for very fundamental purposes: You need a lot of money to both support a statewide campaign and to get your mug on television. It’s no secret that the candidate who does best on TV is often the candidate who ends up winning the election, so an effective campaign has to be able to pay for its day-to-day operations while also saving as much as possible (70-80% is a general rule of thumb) for television.

Obviously, a U.S. Senate race is a costly affair. In 2008, Democrat Mark Udall outspent Republican Bob Schaffer $11.7 million to $7.4 million. Now that the fundraising reports for the 2010 batch of Senate candidates are available, we thought it would make sense to look at just how much money they are going to need just to fund their campaign. The answers tell us a lot about which candidates are in a position to win, and which are just treading water right now.

In 2008, neither Udall nor Schaffer had a primary to worry about, yet both spent significant amounts of money in the first three months of the year on general campaign operations (staff, travel, office space, phones, copies, etc.) Here’s how those numbers stack up:

2008 U.S. Senate Race

Campaign Expenditures for Q1 (Jan. – March)

Mark Udall: $824,828

Bob Schaffer: $361,400

The 2004 election is a little more difficult to compare. Because incumbent Sen. Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell didn’t announce his retirement until March 2004, there isn’t any Q1 data from that year to compare. But take a look at the expenditures from the first report on the Republican side, which featured an expensive primary between Schaffer and Pete Coors:

2004 U.S. Senate Race (GOP Primary)

Campaign Expenditures for Q2 (April – June)

Pete Coors: $813,541

Bob Schaffer: $457,296

Now, back to 2010. Of the current field of candidates, only Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Jane Norton have cracked the $1 million mark in fundraising, and only those two candidates are currently raising enough money each quarter to allow them to both cover expenses and save for television (we don’t include Tom Wiens because he’s only had one quarter of ahem, fundraising). Here are the current “cash on hand” numbers for each candidate:

Michael Bennet (D): $3,482,581

Jane Norton (R): $595,563

Tom Wiens (R): $540,132

Andrew Romanoff (D): $480,000

Ken Buck (R): $276,000

Recent history shows that it costs at least $400,000 per quarter at this point to keep a strong campaign operation running. History also shows that if you don’t have a strong television buy, you can’t win; TV is still the most effective way to reach the large number of voters you need to win either a primary or a general election.

Given those two realities, it’s hard to see how Romanoff and Buck will be able to win their respective party’s nominations if they don’t significantly increase their campaign coffers, either through fundraising or self-funding. Unfortunately for both candidates, they have likely exhausted the low-hanging fundraising fruit at this point; most candidates have their strongest fundraising quarters early in their candidacies because the first people they call for money are the most likely to donate.

Both candidates have already brought in relatively highly-paid staff (Walt Klein for Buck and Celinda Lake, Joe Trippi, etc. for Romanoff), and both candidates have to staff up heavily now in order to do well at the caucuses. They are both going to have to spend a lot of money in the next few months, but neither is raising enough cash to do more than just cover those bills. And in Buck’s case, he’s not even raising enough to do that.

Look, we’re not saying that Romanoff and Buck won’t or can’t win in August — a lot can change in the next few months. But as it stands right now, the numbers don’t lie. When you combine their fundraising pace with both the money they need to spend on their campaign and the need to squirrel away funds for TV, there’s just no way that each campaign can stay in the black financially.

If Romanoff and Wiens can’t maintain a balance for heavy television advertising, then there is absolutely no way they can win in August. Buck is getting some help from outside interest groups, and perhaps Romanoff will get some outside help as well, but you can’t rely on those groups for your only televised outreach to voters; those ads should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

This fundraising quarter could, and should, be the most critical period for both campaigns. If Romanoff and Buck don’t significantly increase their warchests, there’s not going to be a happy ending for this story. Buck and Romanoff will probably stay in the race until the bitter end, but at this pace, they won’t be doing much when the end comes.

Big Numbers for Wiens, Not for Buck

As The Denver Post reports today, Colorado’s candidates for U.S. Senate will report vastly different results from the Q4 fundraising period:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet raised more than $1.1 million last quarter, nearly 3 1/2 times more than his Democratic opponent, Andrew Romanoff.

On the Republican side for the U.S. Senate seat, Jane Norton collected more than $550,000.

The campaign for Tom Wiens, the newest Republican candidate for the Senate, said it raised more than $725,000 but declined to give any details or say how much of the money came from the candidate…

…On the Republican side, Norton’s donations last quarter were nearly 14 times more than those of Ken Buck, whose campaign netted about $40,000, according to federal filings…

…Wiens’ campaign did not elaborate on the $725,000 besides saying it had about $550,000 on hand. Detailed contribution records for the period are not yet available.

“Those are the only two figures I have,” said campaign spokesman John Ransom.

Walt Klein, adviser to Buck’s campaign, said the low totals were the result of the splash Norton made when she entered the race last fall.

“It was a disappointment but not one that was unexpected,” Klein said. The campaign has more than $276,000 on hand.

Wiens has said before that he is prepared to put $500k into his own campaign, so it will be interesting to see how much of the $725,000 his campaign is reporting having raised came from the candidate himself. But whether Wiens dipped into his own bank account, raised the money or had it delivered by a magical fairy, $725,000 is still a lot of money. This result pretty much can’t help but put a few dents in Jane Norton’s ‘aura of inevitability.’

The biggest news from Q4 on the Republican side is the anemic $40,000 raised by Buck, whose spokesman termed it “a disappointment.” We wouldn’t call it a disappointment so much as a “disaster,” since most of Colorado’s congressional candidates pulled in much more than that in Q4.

While Buck does have the support of outside groups, we hear that Republicans who are supportive of Buck as a candidate are now starting to encourage him to run in CD-4. If Buck can only net $40,000 in a quarter, then he’s not ready to be a candidate for U.S. Senate, although he has shown the chops to be a strong candidate for another office.

Given the fact that Republican Cory Gardner continues to make stupid mistakes and has been weak to this point in his campaign against Democrat Betsy Markey, it’s no surprise that many Republicans view Buck as a better choice for that seat anyway. Buck has a natural base in Greeley, which is a major population center in the district, and his relatively weak fundraising would be less of an issue in a congressional race than a Senate primary with two big money opponents. Democrats would probably prefer that Buck stay in the Senate primary and make Wiens and Jane Norton spend every last penny that they raise, but we can’t disagree that it would make sense for a lot of reasons for Buck to switch gears.

Pols Poll 2: U.S. Senate (Republicans)

As we’ve done in other election years, we regularly poll our readers on various races to gauge changing perceptions. These obviously aren’t scientific polls, but they do help to show how the perception of various candidates are changing. We’ll conduct these polls each month and then show the results to see how the winds are shifting.

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?

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Pols Poll: U.S. Senate (Republicans)

With less than a year until the 2010 primaries, it’s time to start the annual Colorado Pols Polls.

As we’ve done in other election years, we regularly poll our readers on various races to gauge changing perceptions. These obviously aren’t scientific polls, but they do help to show how the perception of various candidates are changing. We’ll conduct these polls each month and then show the results to see how the winds are shifting (click to see the Democratic poll).

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?

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Wiens Heading Toward Run for U.S. Senate?

Former State Senator Tom Wiens is apparently moving towards taking a shot at the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

When Wiens announced that he wouldn’t run again for the State Senate last year, it was widely believed that he was clearing his plate to make a run for Governor in 2010. That never materialized, of course, and since then we’ve heard repeated rumors that all was not well with Wiens’ personal financial situation–as indicated as well by a Denver Post story last week.  

We’re not surprised that other Republicans are now looking at the U.S. Senate race after less than inspiring early runs (and fundraising) by Weld County D.A. Ken Buck and Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier.

If Wiens is in a good personal financial position to make a serious run for U.S. Senate, he shouldn’t have much trouble moving to the top of the GOP list. Buck is the favorite at this point, and barring a huge fundraising turnaround in Q3, Frazier’s campaign is pretty well D.O.A., so there is a definite opening on the Republican side for a candidate with better name ID and a stronger background like Wiens. In a Senate race that should be more competitive than it appears thus far, perhaps it was only a matter of time until a more realistic GOP candidate came along. Whether or not that candidate is Wiens remains to be seen.

Wiens Won’t Run for Re-Election

Republican Sen. Tom Wiens (SD-4, Castle Rock) has apparently decided not to run for re-election, informing Republicans of his decision in a letter dated yesterday. Wiens has been rumored to be looking at running for governor in 2010, and he may be considering a full-time campaign for that office instead.

SD-4 is not a competitive seat (Wiens won with nearly 70% of the vote in 2004), but it will likely set up an interesting Republican primary in a district centered in the Castle Rock area.

BREAKING: Tom Wiens Won’t Run for CD-6

State Sen. Tom Wiens has decided that he will not run for congress in CD-6.

Wiens would have been a top challenger for the Republican nomination, but he is also up for re-election in the senate and had to decide whether to put all his chips on the table. He apparently decided against a congressional run and will run for re-election instead. Wiens’ decision not to run is certainly a surprise, since he had talked openly for months that he would be a likely candidate.

The press release is here.

Tancredo’s Out; What’s Next?

UPDATE: Rep. David Balmer is already out. He posted a comment below to that effect.

Now that Rep. Tom Tancredo has offically announced his plans to not run for re-election in CD-6, what’s next? Or, more accurately, who is next?

We’ve updated The Big Line, but expect to see a lot of changes in the coming months. Republican voters outnumber Democrats by a 2-to-1 margin in CD-6, which is nearly the same margin as the GOP leads in CD-5. While CD-6 isn’t nearly as naturally conservative as CD-5, it is one of the richest congressional districts in the entire country and the GOP candidate will have a decisive advantage in the general election. This is also a huge GOP prize, because the winner will likely hold the seat for as long as they want (or at least until redistricting).

With no known or obvious Democrats to consider at this point, here’s an early look at the potential candidates on the Republican side:

  • State Sen. Tom Wiens
  • State Sen. Ted Harvey
    These two are in the top tier, because both have been preparing for a CD-6 run for months. Wiens has more personal money to draw from, but Harvey’s Senate district takes up most of CD-6 already. Harvey is one of the more conservative members of the state legislature and will likely seek to establish himself quickly as the most conservative of the Republican candidates.

  • Wil Armstrong
    Armstrong has been making noise about running for a long time, and if he does, he’ll trade heavily on the name of his father: Former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong. But would that be enough to get him through a primary? That probably depends on how many candidates ultimately enter the race; the more the merrier for Armstrong.

  • Secretary of State Mike Coffman
    Coffman really wants to run for something more prestigious than SOS, but he’s in a tough spot here because the State Republican Party really doesn’t want him to leave. Republicans will likely hold onto this seat because of the huge voter registration advantage, so they don’t need Coffman to run. If Coffman did run for CD-6 and won, then he would have to give up his SOS seat…which would promptly be filled by Gov. Bill Ritter, who would select a Democrat as the next SOS. Republicans don’t want to give up one seat for another seat that they should already be able to keep, but ultimately that may not stop Coffman; this is probably too good of an opportunity for him to pass up.

  • House Minority Leader David Balmer
    Balmer would like to move up, but the field may be too crowded for him. Still, don’t discount Balmer’s fundraising ability; if he could get some good financial commitments to run, he might take the leap.

  • Jane Norton
    The former Lt. Governor is always rumored to be running for something, and this would be as good an opportunity as anything.

  • Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer
    Tauer may not live in the district, but that doesn’t really matter (ask Bob Beauprez about that).