Colorado's Senate Race

[ Posted Thursday, August 12th, 2010 – 17:15 UTC ]

Colorado just held their primary election, and the results are in. On the Democratic side, Michael Bennet won the chance to run for a full term, beating out Andrew Romanoff in a race that had drawn national attention. On the Republican side, Tea Party candidate Ken Buck won the nomination, beating out Jane Norton.

On the surface, this looks like a victory for the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party over the establishment wing, who had backed Norton. On the Democratic side, the results are tougher to read, since Barack Obama backed Bennet, but former president Bill Clinton backed Romanoff. But still, most see this as a victory for the establishment wing of the Democrats.

But those are just the lessons of the primary. You could draw facile conclusions from them -- "Tea Party Ascendant, Progressive Defeated" -- but the real question is what it all means for the general election.

As in Florida, this isn't going to be so easy to read. Because of the presence of a third-party candidacy by Tom Tancredo, which will doubtlessly split the conservative vote (at least, that's what the polls indicate at this point). This may lead to a Democratic win in a state which could very easily have gone Republican.

That's counting a lot of chickens, almost three months out, though. Anything can happen in politics, and usually does. But, at the risk of steeping too deeply in conventional wisdom here, it seems like this may be part of an ongoing trend of Republican primary victories which appear to be hurting the party's chances for winning in the general election -- the one that really counts.

To date, four of the Tea Party victories have had this effect. In Florida, Charlie Crist may win as an independent, and may wind up caucusing with Democrats in the Senate after doing so. Crist is also in a three-way race, after being forced out of the Republican Party. In Nevada and Kentucky, Republicans are now in a much worse place than they should be at this point, because of nominating Sharron Angle and Rand Paul, both Tea Party favorites. And now, in Colorado, the Tea Party/Republican rift may deliver the Senate seat to the Democrat.

While the political story this week (at least among the Left) has been centered on a spat between the White House and Lefty cable hosts, the real news may be the widening rift in the Republican Party. Winning an insurrectionist victory against a party regular in the primaries may be satisfying as all get out, but if this leads to defeat in what really should be an easy pickup for the GOP, then what, precisely, have you won?

Call it the Ned Lamont lesson. Which, I realize, is overly generalized (since we haven't gotten to the actual general election, it's pretty hard to draw conclusions from it at this point). But at times, nominating someone seen as outside the mainstream of political thought can indeed backfire and produce results that are counter to what you are trying to accomplish.

Even after this year's election results are in, drawing conclusions of this type will likely lead to some erroneous conclusions. For instance, if Blanche Lincoln loses in Arkansas, this doesn't necessarily mean that Bill Halter would have won (if he had defeated her in the primary). It may just be the political climate in the state in this particular year. Any Democrat may have lost, in other words. And in Colorado, with the introduction of Tancredo's third-party bid, either Democrat may have had an equally good chance at winning (it works both ways, in other words).

But with third-party challengers splitting the votes, and with races where the polls showed (before the primaries) that an incumbent was extremely vulnerable (as in Nevada or Colorado), the lesson may be a bit clearer. Sometimes getting what you really hoped for in the primaries may prove to be self-defeating, come November.


-- Chris Weigant

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


7 Comments on “Colorado's Senate Race”

  1. [1] 
    Kevin wrote:

    Times like this I really miss the old HST Gonzo analysis(?) :D

  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:



  3. [3] 
    Kevin wrote:

    Michale, I'm shocked!!! Hunter S. Thompson...Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. Check it out of the library or pick up a copy at a used book store. You'll love it!! (I really thought a political junkie like yourself would have read it).

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:


    I am not really a political junkie.. I just play one on CW.COM :D



  5. [5] 
    Kevin wrote:


    I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way - Jessica Rabbit :D

  6. [6] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    This is a good time to start looking at Likely Voters polls a whole lot more closely than RV's, if last week's Missouri blowout is any indication of things to come, turnout-wise, Chris. I cite Missouri because people got to weigh in on the "mandate," i.e., that "socialistic" thingie that the majority of Americans never wanted yet got forced upon them, anyway. The majority of Americans across this country (who define Obama as a "socialist," let's also remember) still want that thing repealed. And it ain't the Democratic candidates out there who are promising to do that.

    Back to Missouri: a state that McCain won in 2008, but only just barely. Last week, Missouri had the highest turnout for a midterm primary in the state's history, with nearly twice as many Republicans as Dems turning out. The mandate was rejected 71% to 29%, and among the voters who rejected it, about 45,000 of them were Dems.

    Ergo, it hardly matters what "registered voters" tell pollsters they're gonna do if only a third to half of them are even gonna be getting off their couches.

    Check out these latest findings:

  7. [7] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    This is the kinda stuff that speaks volumes: "Just 26% of voters think Obama shares the same political views they have."

    The Democratic Party makes up 39% of the electorate. Yet only 26% of voters think Obama shares their political views. I smell "Reagan Democrats" in 2012. And the very first time I said that was when bluest-of-the-blue Massachusetts sent Senator 41 to Washington to stop Obama and the Democrats.

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