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Buck’s Senate Run 2.0: Second Verse Same as the First?

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Ken Buck during the 2010 Senate race. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

Ken Buck during the 2010 Senate race. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

When Ken Buck announced this week that he intends to run for the U.S. Senate, many couldn’t help to think back upon Buck’s failed run in 2010 against Michael Bennet.

Buck had the political wind at his back during the run. However, Bennet’s campaign of using Buck’s own comments against him effectively turned many moderate women voters against him. Buck ended up losing a race to a person who had never run for any office before by two points.

If Buck wins the Republican nomination in 2014, his opponent, Sen. Mark Udall, will be someone with much more election experience, but the political wind should still be at Buck’s back.

But beyond the opponent, what else will be different for Buck for Senate 2.0?

For starters, let’s look at his potential primary opponents. While State Senators Owen Hill and Randy Baumgardner have announced their intentions to run, one higher profile opponent has yet to formally announce. Many believe that former State House Minority leader Amy Stephens may jump into the race as well. If she does, this will complicate things for Buck much more than Jane Norton, his 2010 primary opponent, ever did.

In Amy Stephens, Buck will face a more conservative Republican than he did in Jane Norton, and as a woman, Stephens addresses a major concern from previous races for Republicans, namely attracting votes from moderate women voters. She brings her own baggage on health care issues with Republicans, but she’s far from the moderate that Buck faced in Jane Norton.

But even if Stephens doesn’t enter the 2014 race, the new challenges for Buck continue.

In the general election, any Democrat is going to face an uphill battle in 2014 since any midterm elections for a second term Democratic President creates a difficult political environment.

However, Mark Udall, Buck’s potential general election opponent, is currently on the right side of an issue that is very important to many voters, but especially to moderate libertarian leaning voters.

When the NSA domestic spying story broke, Udall was one of the elected leaders in Washington yelling the loudest that the program was wrong. Whether or not he has done enough to work against it really doesn’t matter. Being on the right side of this issue gives him a major advantage in the 2014 election against any opponent.

Finally, the biggest difference in Ken Buck’s second Senate run will be the impact of the Tea Party on his campaign. In 2010, the Tea Party was at their zenith in popularity and influence. He won a competitive primary against Jane Norton due to the support he garnered from Tea Party voters.

But by the time the general election came around, support from the Tea Party became a double edged sword. The same positions that helped cement support from the Tea Party became very effective campaign ads against Buck by the Bennet campaign. Buck cannot abandon his Tea Party support, but they cannot dictate his platform this time around.

Buck’s second run for U.S. Senate places him in a more competitive primary and against a more seasoned incumbent. But Buck is still the highest profile Republican in the race, and if he can redefine himself and truly become a new version of the candidate we met in 2010, he may have a solid shot at winning the nomination and securing the most funding in his potential run against Udall.

After that, it will be up to him to change the end of the story.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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