Friday, August 05, 2016

Race of the Day- Colorado U.S. Senate

94 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

Michael Bennet has certainly had his share of luck. In 2009, the Democrat, who had never sought elective office before, was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill a vacancy. He did not come across as a traditional politician, and for a time, was the underdog in his own party's primary in 2010, for a full six year term, but he prevailed there. Then, he was facing the prospects of going up against a national Republican tide in the general election, and seemed to be highly vulnerable, but his Republican opponent committed some major gaffes down the homestretch, and was seen as out of the mainstream. That allowed Bennet to narrowly win election to the Senate in his own right, with just a plurality of the vote.

Becoming more accustomed to the Beltway, Bennet took up the difficult task of leading the Senate Democrats' campaign committee in the 2014 midterms. He raised a lot of money for the party, but saw Republicans win almost every battleground contest, on their way to taking a majority away from the Democrats. One of those losses on Bennet's watch was his state of Colorado, which at one point looked fairly secure for Democrats.

Considering the Republican success in the Centennial State, Bennet started the 2016 cycle as potentially the most vulnerable member of that party to seek reelection. However, luck and timing has worked to Bennet's advantage again. High-profile Republicans declined to make the race against the very well-funded incumbent, and the state is now not looking like it will get major attention in the Presidential race. Several Republicans took on the challenge of trying to run against Bennet, who now firmly has the party behind him, but the winner of the GOP primary was probably the weakest general election candidate in the field.

Colorado has a somewhat complicated system of caucuses and conventions and petition gathering, which leads to various ways to get on the ballot. Throughout this process, various Republicans were looked at as being the person the party would ultimately turn to against the incumbent, but things did not work out nearly as smoothly as they did in 2014. In the June primary, the win went, fairly solidly to Darryl Glenn, an African-American conservative who is a retired Air Force officer, as well as an El Paso County Commissioner. Glenn won with strong support from Tea Party activists, but raised very little money for his campaign, relying on volunteers. Until recently, he did not even have a complete campaign website.

Four other candidates finished behind Glenn in the primary, and it seems to me that all of them might have been in a better position to appeal to swing voters in Colorado against Bennet. In order of finish they were businessman Jack Graham, who was once the Athletic Director for the Colorado State Rams, then Robert Blaha, another businessman, former State Representative Jon Keyser, who had establishment backing, but had to deal with challenges to his nominating petitions. The last place finisher was Ryan Frazier, who like Glenn is also black. He served as an Aurora City Councilman and lost a Congressional race, in a Democrat leaning district, after having initially jumping into the 2010 Senate race.

Glenn prevailed with 38 percent of the vote, despite the lack of a professional campaign infrastructure, but with the endorsements of numerous conservative radio figures, as well as politicians such as Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin. He had a somewhat prominent speaking role at the Republican National Convention and endorsed Donald Trump, although the Colorado delegation, mostly loyal to Ted Cruz, was not completely on board with the top of the ticket. Glenn has definitely gained a reputation for fiery political rhetoric, which his supporters are loving, such as when he recently talked about wanting to see Hillary Clinton in an orange prison jumpsuit. He also had to confirm that he was arrested for assault against his father in 1983, when the candidate was 18. While he claims to not remember all details of the report, he explained that he grew up in a violent home, and was protecting his mother. To me, it sounds similar to the kind of incident involving his stepfather that Bill Clinton once advertised.

Some early polling has shown Bennet with a lead, but not by a blowout margin. Glenn is an interesting candidate, but might ultimately prove to be too controversial. Bennet is definitely the more low-key of the two but will have a massive cash advantage, and that might ultimate be what prevents this from being a top tier race. As in 2010, Bennet has gotten some good luck with the Colorado GOP's choice of an opponent.

Glenn campaign link:

Senate races predicted thus far: 2 D (1 Safe, 1 Likely), 4 R (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Leans)
Overall predicted thus far: 38 D, 34 R


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