Littwin: Ken Buck wants to assure you he won’t implode
In case you misunderstood back in 2010 when Ken Buck ran for senator and lost the women’s vote to Michael Bennet by approximately 90 points, he wants you to know — now that he’s running for the Senate again — that he is actually very much pro-woman.
Make that very much pro-women. All women. Even the one running against him. And, of course, his wife. And especially — for you young women — his daughter.
In the six-candidate Denver Post Senate debate Tuesday night, Ken Buck said he was a much better candidate this time around, and, in this one showing, he was clearly the class of the field, although Amy Stephens, a woman, was clearly better than everyone else.
Buck set out to do a couple of things. He established his Tea Party cred. Asked to name his favorite senator, he went with, yes, Ted Cruz, everyone’s favorite shutdown senator. And when asked to name Mark Udall’s biggest mistake, Buck, who usually isn’t so hard-edged, said, “I think his biggest mistake was getting involved in public life,” as if Udall and his family haven’t been at the center of public life in the West for generations. This line may came back to haunt Buck. Of course, he’s used to that.
And Buck then went on to blame Udall for pretty much all that was wrong with the country and called out his “disservice.” Strangely, Buck — and nearly everyone else on the stage — attacked Udall on the National Security Agency, where Udall has been one of the Obama administration’s foremost critics. It was the Karl Rove approach — attack the guy where he’s strongest.
But mostly for Buck, it was about women. (What I mean is, he mentioned his daughter Kaitlin about a dozen times. He didn’t mention his son Cody at all. Because, I guess, Cody is not, you know, a woman.)
In 2010, you’ll recall that Bennet’s campaign against Buck was all about high heels and buyer’s remorse and personhood and opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest. In 2014, Buck hasn’t actually changed any of his views, but he is trying for a different look, and so he has put out his “Ken Cares” web videos to show that — you got it — Ken cares.
And in the debate — a lively affair, even though only three of the six candidates are what Scott Gessler would call “legitimate” — every question that Buck could make about women, he did.
What was the biggest mistake in his life?
Buying guns for his wife and daughter. “It fundamentally changed our relationship,” he said. “I’m a much more polite husband now …” Ha, ha? OK, maybe it sounds like a sexist joke to you, but it is about women.
And what does he think about the Amycare controversy dogging his opponent, Amy Stephens, who voted for Colorado to set up its own Obamacare exchange because, she argues, it would obviously be better than having a federal government exchange?
Respectfully, he said, he disagrees with her. But, “I respect Amy a lot.” Not only that. “If you look at Amy’s career, you will see a person who has stood up for Republican values time and time again.”
It sounded like a nomination speech. I kept looking at Stephens to see if she was rolling her eyes, but she managed not to. Women, huh?
And what does Buck say in his closing statement?
Bingo. “I am the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Kaitlin, and I have to tell you something, folks. I asked her what this election cycle was about and she told me it was about freedom.” And what kind of freedom? “My daughter,” he said, doesn’t want the NSA spying on her. “My daughter” wants freedom from regulations. “My daughter” wants to fill out taxes on a postcard. My daughter. My daughter. My daughter. Freedom. My daughter.
Will that get him the women’s vote? Well, it has to work better than last time.
Last time, of course is what haunts Buck. The toughest question of the night was not the Amycare question — one that Stephens had been dodging — but a question to Buck about his “game-changing” Meet the Press debate with Bennet. That’s the one in which Buck compared gays to alcoholics and never recovered. Stephens would say that his performance cost Republicans all down the line that year.
But Buck was ready this time. He admitted that he was unready for the question about gays and blew it. He said his campaign wouldn’t “implode” this time, not that he thought it imploded last time, although you can make your own call.
“I lost in the closest U.S. Senate race in the country,” he said. “And I also lost by the smallest margin of any Republican candidate in a presidential, Senate or gubernatorial election in the last 10 years in Colorado. So, to say it was game-changing, I don’t think is fair. The Republican gubernatorial candidate that year got 11 percent of the vote. It’s hardly fair to look at me and say that I lost to Michael Bennet in a game-changing manner.”
It is a fair point. Dan Maes was the true disaster in 2010. But, of course, if any women disagree, Buck might have to reconsider.
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