Romanoff Destroys His Own Message, Image With Latest Ad

All campaigns (at least those that are really trying to win) eventually go negative in their advertising and messaging. Both candidates for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate have long since crossed into negative territory. On the Democratic side, Andrew Romanoff first crossed that threshold about 10 days ago, which in response prompted the first negative ad from Sen. Michael Bennet.

The definition of a negative ad is focusing on a perceived weakness of your opponent, as opposed to pointing out your positive aspects, and we’ve never had a problem with that. But Romanoff’s newest negative ad targeted at Bennet, which was ripped today by the major Denver newspaper, is different.

The ad, called “Greed” (embedded after the jump), says that while working for Phil Anschutz, Bennet “pushed companies into bankruptcy and looted a billion dollars.”

You read that right — Romanoff’s ad essentially says that Bennet intentionally bankrupted companies in order to steal money from them. That’s way beyond a negative ad because it’s factually wrong. And intentionally running inaccurate ads to smear your opponent — well, that’s a crap move that’s no better than Jane Norton using 9/11 imagery as a scare tactic. Nobody can say otherwise — not with a straight face, anyway.

Obviously, Romanoff is pulling out all of the stops in an effort to upset Bennet, but in doing so he has flushed down the toilet the primary message of his entire campaign: That he is a “different” politician who wants to be a Senator “for the rest of us.”

So long, “Regular Guy Andrew Who Won’t Go Negative.”

Hello, “Same Old Politician Who Will Say Anything In Order to Win.” Maybe it will get him a Primary victory, and maybe it won’t (we still think Bennet will ultimately win). But if it does…is it really worth the cost? Intentionally spreading egregious lies about someone in your own Party, just to win?  

McInnis, Norton Leading Respective Primaries?

Today “The Fix” provides its list of the 10 most interesting primary fights in the country, and Colorado’s Republicans made it into two of the top three!

Most interesting, however, is that “The Fix” notes that Scott McInnis leads Dan Maes by 15 points in the race for the Gubernatorial nomination, while Jane Norton may now be leading Ken Buck 45-40 in the Senate Primary:

3. Colorado governor (R, Aug. 10): What happens if you hold a primary and the party regulars don’t want either candidate to win? That’s what’s happening in Colorado at the moment with scandal-plagued Scott McInnis (plagiarism) and Dan Maes (campaign finance violations) battling it out. A survey shown to the Fix and conducted by a Republican pollster in the last few days put McInnis ahead by 15. If he manages to win the nomination, there will be a major push by establishment Republicans to push him out. But will McInnis go? (Previous ranking: N/A)…

1. Colorado Senate (R, Aug. 10): Just when Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck looked like he was going to pull off an upset against former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, he made a series of impolitic comments — the most potentially damaging of which was calling elements of the Tea Party “dumbasses”. A poll conducted by a major Republican firm looking in at the governor’s race in the last few days showed Norton ahead 45 percent to 40 percent, which suggests that Buck has incurred considerable political damage. (Previous ranking: 3)

Poll Has Romanoff Withing Striking Distance (But With Grain of Salt)

A group called “New Leadership Colorado” sent out a press release late this evening showing Democrat Andrew Romanoff within striking distance of Sen. Michael Bennet in the race for the Democratic nomination for Senate. “New Leadership Colorado” claims that it has no ties to either Romanoff or Bennet, but obviously their interests are with Romanoff (because there would be no other reason to announce this otherwise).

The automated phone survey shows Bennet leading Romanoff 44-40, with what they say is a margin of error of +/-3.6%. Given that every other head-to-head poll released to this point has shown Bennet with a double-digit lead, this is good news for Romanoff, right?

Maybe.

The polling and memo was done by a Democratic communications firm called Zata3, a name that should be familiar to many politicos for their robocalls, direct mail and other communications tools such as text messaging.

But what Zata3 does not normally do is polling. That doesn’t mean that they definitely don’t have these numbers correct, but they are not a polling firm. You hire Zata3 to do persuasion phone calls or text messaging — not polling — just like you wouldn’t normally hire a polling firm to do your direct mail (or for a real-world example, you wouldn’t go to a dry cleaner to buy a sandwich). This is no knock on Zata3, it’s just that it seems odd that you wouldn’t use a professional polling firm if you wanted real polling results.

We wondered when we first got the press release at 6:17 PM why anyone would release something this potentially helpful so late in the day; normally you would never send something to the press this late because it would almost certainly get buried and not make it on the news. But perhaps that was the point — to put it out late enough that news outlets wouldn’t have time to really check into the data and the “pollster.”

Full press release after the jump.

A new Zata3 poll commissioned by New Leadership in Colorado shows former Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff surging to nearly within the margin of error against Senator Michael Bennet.  The survey of 800 likely and somewhat likely Democratic primary voters shows Bennett with 44% and Romanoff with 40% and 16% still undecided with two weeks until election day.  The margin of error is +/- 3.6%.

A copy of the polling memo is attached hereto.

***For questions about the survey, please contact the polling firm:  Brad

Chism, Zata3 – 202.386.6024****

New Leadership in Colorado is an independen committee with no ties with either Romanoff or Bennet.

Disclaimer:

Paid for by New Leadership in Colorado.  Not authorized by any candidate or candidates committee.  New Leadership in Colorado is responsible for the content of this advertising.

Romanoff Fundraising Numbers

The Q2 fundraising numbers for Democrat Andrew Romanoff are out. Romanoff raised $619,814 in Q2, spent $657,454 and now has $464,340 cash on hand (compared to $2.6 million COH for Sen. Michael Bennet).

These are decent fundraising numbers for Q2 for Romanoff, but his low cash on hand figure is no doubt why the campaign was refusing to release numbers on its own. From what we hear, Romanoff has spent at least $300,000 on television, which means he’s going to be spending every cent as he raises it from here on out (considering that he’ll still need money for office space, staff salaries, etc.) And while Romanoff’s Q2 haul was good by his own historical standards, it’s probably not enough to get him the kind of TV time he needs to defeat Bennet.

Newspaper Endorsements Begin

Newspapers from around the state have begun rolling out their endorsements of candidates in advance of the Aug. 10 Primary. We’ll be keeping track of these endorsements after the jump (and please help out in the comments section).

How important are these endorsements? That depends entirely on what you do with them; newspaper endorsements are only as useful as a campaign makes them out to be. Endorsements from a variety of larger-name newspapers can look good on a TV or radio ad, for example, and can help give the impression that a candidate has support from across the state. Obviously, this kind of strategy is more important for an underdog candidate, but even a frontrunner can benefit from this kind of “third-party validation.” Outside of a campaign using the endorsement in paid media, these endorsements have little impact.

Now, on to the endorsements…

Newspaper* Endorsement List for U.S. Senate Primary

*Note that we are only listing daily newspapers or large weeklies — we’re not going to try to keep track of small community newspapers.

DEMOCRATS

Michael Bennet

  • The Durango Herald

  • The main Denver newspaper (rhymes with “toast”)

    Andrew Romanoff

  • The Colorado Springs Independent
  • REPUBLICANS

    Jane Norton

  • The Durango Herald

  • The main Denver newspaper (rhymes with “toast”)
  • Ken Buck

  • The Colorado Springs Independent explicitly did not “endorse” Buck, but “recommended” him over Norton
  • 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.

    Norton: “You’d Think Ken [Buck] Would Be Man Enough to Do it Himself”

    We’d say the gloves have officially come off in the Republican race for the U.S. Senate. Jane Norton has started running a commercial attacking Ken Buck over the special-interest ads that have been running against her. “You’d think Ken would be man enough to do it himself,” she says.

    Meanwhile, a YouTube video showing that Buck’s campaign may have had prior knowledge of some of these third-party ads (which, of course, would be illegal if there was any sort of coordination involved) has popped up.

    Tancredo’s Crazy! No, He’s Not! He’s Sort of Right! Wait, What?

    UPDATE: Ready for another twist? Fox 31’s Eli Stokols:

    In a new audio recording obtained by FOX 31, Buck is discussing the Tancredo firestorm roughly a day later, on Friday, and said, “I can’t believe that guy opened his mouth.”

    Listen here.

    It’s a seemingly reasonable reaction, given that Tancredo completely stole the headlines following Buck’s Thursday rally with South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint; and it aligns with Buck’s initial response to the media when, moments after Thursday’s rally ended, he told a group of reporters, “I think there are a lot of threats to the White House and I don’t think the man in the White House is the greatest threat to this country at all.”

    …Norton’s decision to stick up for Tancredo, who has endorsed Buck and harshly criticized Norton and her campaign, underscores how this primary continues to be battle to demonstrate the most strident conservative credentials possible.

    That dynamic is largely responsible for Buck’s recent momentum; and it may explain why, on Saturday, Buck himself took a notably different stance on Tancredo’s remarks while speaking at the Conservative Western Summit.

    The fallout from former Rep. Tom Tancredo’s crazy comments at a rally for GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck continues, with the rhetoric becoming less and less comprehensible by the day. Politico has more on the story today (most of which you’ve already seen here):

    Buck quickly distanced himself from the comments, and a YouTube video showed that the Republican primary hopeful did not applaud Tancredo’s remarks. “I love Tom, but I don’t always agree with him. I don’t agree that the greatest threat to the country is the man in the Oval Office,” Buck said, noting that Tancredo “tends to exaggerate sometimes.”

    The Colorado Democratic Party still hammered Buck by association, and state party Chairwoman Pat Waak said in a statement: “No one should give Ken Buck a pass on the extreme and shocking statements of his good friend Tom Tancredo.”

    But it was former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the favored Senate candidate of national Republicans who has been nudged to the right by Buck’s feisty campaign, who jumped to Tancredo’s defense.

    “There was a real measure of truth in what Tancredo said,” Norton wrote on her Facebook page. “Obama is spending this country into bankruptcy. [Joint Chiefs Chairman] Admiral Mullen said our debt is a greater threat than terrorism. It’s time to end the culture of political correctness. Obama’s brand of big government is a threat to America.”

    Norton’s decision to stick up for Tancredo, who has endorsed Buck and openly criticized Norton’s campaign, shows how completely the Republican Senate primary has become a battle for the hardest-line conservative credentials.

    We’ve discussed for some time on this website how the Republican primary for Senate may end up driving the winner so far to the right that it will be difficult for either Buck or Jane Norton to tack back to the center in time for the General Election. But the way things are going now, it’s not right vs. left vs. center that we’ll be discussing, but rather, which candidate can at least be coherent?

    Through a spokesman, Buck said he looked forward to a debate that puts not just President Obama, but the whole Democratic Party’s views on debt, energy, Israel and more in the spotlight.

    “If Obama leaves office, you turn on your TV and you hear the following, ‘I Joseph Biden do solemnly swear.’ The threat continues because then Nancy Pelosi is in office, Harry Reid is in office, Barney Frank is in office and the liberal progressives continue marching down that path,” Buck said.

    Yeah, you said…wait, what are you talking about?

    If I Pretend I Don’t Remember, It Will Go Away

    The conservative blog RedState, which is backing Republican Ken Buck for Senate, takes a look at the same “I’ve never been a lobbyist” claims from Jane Norton  that have long since been debunked:

    Recently Jane Norton gave an interview to the Colorado Statesman. There is this curious exchange in it:

       CS: Did you used to work for AARP?

       JN: I did, I did.

       CS: What did you do for them?

       JN: I was – gosh, what was my title? Oh, that was so long ago. I’m sorry, can I get back with you on that? I can’t even remember what it was.

       CS: I don’t think it’s on your bio. Is there any reason for that?

       JN: No, no.

    Curious, ain’t it. She doesn’t remember and it is not in her bio.

    Well, how about we go through the wayback time machine and see what we can uncover.

    Redstate goes on to cite numerous past news articles, which we’ve also noted before, that show Norton was indeed a lobbyist for AARP. This ol’ horse has been out of the barn for so long that you couldn’t even find it to put it back; Norton would be better off just telling people that she worked for AARP and use it to get support from senior citizen voters rather than comically pretending that she can’t remember.

    DeMint Coming to Colorado for Buck

    From Eli Stokols at KDVR:

    South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, a Tea Party idol and aspiring conservative kingmaker, is coming to Colorado next week to rally supporters on behalf of Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck.

    Buck’s campaign confirmed Wednesday that plans have been finalized for a rally that will take place next Thursday, July 8, with the final details still being worked out.

    “We’re thrilled to have Sen. DeMint visit Colorado,” said Buck’s spokesman, Owen Loftus. “Sen. DeMint is a respected grassroots leader, who if fighting the establishment to fix Washington. Ken is honored to have his endorsement and support.”

    DeMint endorsed Buck in April, calling him “an authentic conservative.” It was the latest in a series of moves by DeMint to buck the Republican Party establishment by siding with insurgent candidates over GOP incumbents.

    Buck, Norton Trade Barbs in First Debate

    As The Colorado Springs Independent reports:

    Ken Buck had more and louder supporters, Jane Norton fired a few grenades that didn’t really detonate, and about 400 people inside Stargazers Theatre and Event Center probably went home with no apparent change in their outlooks after the two Colorado Republicans running for the U.S. Senate engaged in a 90-minute debate Tuesday night.

    At times the atmosphere felt more like a Tea Party rally, with both candidates doing their best to appeal to the outer edges of the state Republican party. Buck said he would support missile strikes against Iran’s potential nuclear facilities. Norton stated that Social Security and Medicare are on a “glide path that’s unsustainable.” Both said they would support a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget and following the guidelines of the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

    One of the night’s biggest ovations actually went to a non-participant, Tea Party and Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, who attended solely as a spectator.

    All in all, from reports we’ve read and heard, the debate seemed fairly tame — which is odd, given that recent polling has Jane Norton trailing significantly behind Ken Buck. Norton’s going to have to get aggressive pretty soon if she’s going to turn Buck’s momentum.

     

    Buck/Norton Debate Tonight: Is Buck the Front-Runner Now?

    As Republican Senate hopefuls Ken Buck and Jane Norton prep for their first major debate tonight in Colorado Springs, the primary race looks a lot different than many (including us) would have expected six months ago. As KDVR reports, Buck is now being viewed as the candidate to beat on August 10:

    Like grassroots-backed conservatives running in primaries in other states, Ken Buck has become the apparent front-runner in Colorado’s GOP Senate primary.

    After a strong showing at the GOP state assembly in May, Buck now leads former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton, according to a recent Denver Post poll. Norton, however, has countered with her own poll showing her ahead.

    But, Buck, who continues to benefit from the outside support of a group called “Americans for Job Security” that’s already spent $1 million on TV ads running on his behalf, is the candidate everyone is going after. And conventional wisdom says — neither the mainstream media nor the opposing party spends a whole lot of time scrutinizing and, in the Democrats case, attacking the candidate who’s behind.

    What say you, Polsters? Vote after the jump.

    Is Ken Buck Now the Frontrunner in the GOP Senate Primary?

    View Results

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    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.

    The Real Problem with Buck’s Prosecutor Scandal

    We wrote yesterday that Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck was doing a good job in managing the scandal that has emerged surrounding his time as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the 1990s. But just because Buck is handling the scandal well — we’ve always said it’s best to just come out and do the “mea culpa” from the beginning — that doesn’t mean that this isn’t going to be significantly damaging down the line.

    The DSCC sent out a press release today with the title “New Report Raises Serious Questions of Ken Buck’s Record as a Federal Prosecutor.” We’ll let you take a look at their angle of attack first, before we tell you what we think is the bigger problem for Buck:

    Surging in the polls against his establishment Republican opponent Jane Norton, Ken Buck may have just hit a major stumbling block thanks to a front-page Denver Post article which calls into question his judgment, ethics, and competence.  In 2000, as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Buck refused to prosecute two pawn and gun dealers who he knew through Republican Party circles.  The brothers operated a pawnshop which sold cheap handguns, sometimes illegally.  

    When the U.S. Attorney then decided to go forward with the case, Buck was reprimanded for interfering in the case by privately trashing the government’s felony case to the defense lawyers representing the gun dealers.  The U.S. Attorney called Buck’s actions a “reckless disregard of your obligation to keep client information confidential,” and issued Buck a letter of reprimand, which according to sources in the Department of Justice is “unusual.”  Buck two months later took a private sector job and was forced into taking ethics classes.          

    The story doesn’t end there though.  According to the Denver Post, one of the brothers has contributed at least $700 to Buck’s Senate campaign.

    “Coloradans already knew that extremist Ken Buck was outside the mainstream on a host of issues, but now it appears that his ethics and judgment are in serious jeopardy as well,” said DSCC National Press Secretary Deirdre Murphy.  “After being sternly reprimanded for ‘reckless disregard of obligation,’ Ken Buck left his job as a federal prosecutor in a dark ethical cloud.  This incident calls into serious question Buck’s ability to serve in public office and maintain any semblance of public trust.”

    The DSCC seems to think that the “ethics” angle is the best way to get at Buck here, but that’s not why we think he’s in trouble. We said yesterday that we think this will have little effect on Buck winning the GOP primary, but it could be a major problem in a General Election because it cripples the message that Buck is a “tough on crime” candidate.

    The greatest advantage for a candidate like Buck who comes from a law enforcement background is that they can put forth an image of “tough crime fighter” that plays well across every demographic. It’s the same benefit that applies to candidates who served in the military or are former police officers or firefighters; no “messenger” polls higher than a law enforcement figure in a “who do you trust more” kind of question.

    Thus, what kills Buck in regards to this scandal is not the ethics question, but the image that he was soft on crime and helped a defense attorney protect criminals. That is what will ultimately be devastating for Buck, because any time he tries to project his “good guy fighting bad guys” image, Democrats can just bring this up and say that he got pushed out of the U.S. Attorney’s office for helping criminals. And they don’t even have to make it a partisan angle, since it was a REPUBLICAN U.S. Attorney (John Suthers) who wrote the letter of reprimand.

    Perception is everything in politics, and that’s a really, really easy story to sell in TV ads — a story that completely takes away Buck’s biggest natural advantage over his Democratic opponent.

    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

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    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.

    Buck Doesn’t Bring Home The…Um…Bucks

    Republican Ken Buck’s campaign for U.S. Senate has apparently released fundraising figures, and while they aren’t as bad as his pathetic $40,000 in the last quarter of 2009, they ain’t good, either.

    Buck announced total receipts of $218,791, which includes a $100,000 loan to the campaign. In other words, Buck raised about $119,000 in Q1. To put that in comparison, former Senate candidate and current GOP challenger in CD-7, Ryan Frazier, raised $230,000 in Q1.

    Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet raised almost 14 times more money in Q1 than Buck. GOP Challenger Jane Norton’s $816,000 in Q1 is a good eight times more than what Buck raised.

    Not only are these terrible numbers for a U.S. Senate candidate, but Buck’s low fundraising totals are really going to start shining a spotlight on the outside interest groups running ads for Buck and how much coordination might be going on with his campaign. As Norton’s spokesperson said earlier this week:

    Americans for Job Security is a 501 c(6), which doesn’t have to provide individual donor lists – something decried among some Democrats and Republicans as a non-transparent way to heavily influence a campaign…

    …”Ken Buck has shown absolutely no ability to earn financial support, instead relying on more than $1.1 million in attack ads bought by out-of-state interest groups,” he said in an email. “This is campaign finance abuse at its worse, and Ken Buck’s sanction has moved from implied to explicit with his gleeful embrace of 527 cash from Washington special interests.”

     

    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.

    More On DeMint/Buck Endorsement

    From “The Fix“:

    South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint (R) threw his endorsement behind Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck (R) in the Colorado Senate race, the latest in a series of moves by DeMint to buck the Republican Party establishment in contested primaries.

    DeMint called Buck “an authentic conservative” who has “rapidly gained momentum” in his primary fight against former lieutenant governor Jane Norton among others.

    DeMint’s endorsement comes roughly 24 hours after Americans for Job Security, a conservative independent group, began running ads touting Buck, and following a Norton announcement that she would forgo the state convention — where Buck had emerged as a clear favorite — and instead would petition her way onto the ballot.

    DeMint’s endorsement of Buck marks the fifth time he has backed a Senate candidate via his Senate Conservatives Fund PAC this cycle. His past endorsements include: former representative Pat Toomey (Pa.), former state House speaker Marco Rubio (Fla.), state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (Calif.) and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams (Texas). Only Toomey was running uncontested when DeMint waded in; the other four — including Buck — faced candidates with varying levels of support from the party establishment. (Williams’ bid ended the day Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced she would not resign from the Senate after losing a gubernatorial primary last month.)

    “Senator DeMint is helping strong conservative candidates around the country who have been overlooked by the Washington establishment,” explained Matt Hoskins, an aide to DeMint.

    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.