Colorado’s Buck wages proxy do-over campaign in Wisconsin

Colorado’s Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck has joined the national campaign to support Wisconsin Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Neumann. In a Monday email blast (pdf), Buck stressed that control of the Senate could well turn on this single race. That’s the same thing analysts said about the race Ken Buck lost in 2010 to Michael Bennet in Colorado.

“In 2010, conservatives across America sent a message to Washington that enough was enough, that it was time to stop the spending and massive deficits,” Buck writes, setting the stage for his campaign contribution ask. “I’m going to do everything in my power this year to help put real conservatives in the Senate…

By “real conservative” Buck means a conservative of the tea party variety, which is how Buck was sold to voters in 2010.

“[Neumann] is running against an establishment Republican who actually supported ObamaCare. In fact, President Obama thanked Neumann’s opponent for his help in getting Obamacare passed! To top it all off, once Mark wins the Primary, he will face the most liberal Democrat in the country. That’s why I am writing you today. Mark is the definition of a conservative fighter…

“Control of the entire Senate could hinge on this race in Wisconsin. We need to make sure that a conservative like Mark Neumann wins this seat back and sends Harry Reid back to the minority where he belongs.”

Tea party favorite Buck defeated former Lieutenant Governor and Republican establishment candidate Jane Norton in the 2010 primary, pulling down key endorsements from tea party icons RedState blog founder Erick Erickson and South Carolina U.S. Senator Jim DeMint. Buck’s insurgent “outsider” candidacy bolstered the narrative that grassroots conservatives were remaking Republican party dynamics and setting a new agenda.

As general election voters tuned in to his far-right views and the steam began whistling out of his campaign, however, and when he lost to low-key then-recently-appointed Senator Michael Bennet by something like 1 percentage point, the message many observers took from the swing-state race was that, despite major electoral gains in 2010, tea party politics could be a long-term liability for the Republican Party.

Buck seems now to be seeking a sort of do-over by proxy in Wisconsin.

Neumann, a former congressman, is running in the Wisconsin GOP primary against Tommy Thompson, former governor of the state and former Secretary of Health and Human Services under George W. Bush. Almost a year ago, when Thompson’s name was first floated for the U.S. Senate seat, the conservative Club for Growth attacked Thompson as a supporter of “Obamacare.” The Club cited an Obama radio address that pointed to Thompson as one of the Republican lawmakers who supported the legislation.

Thompson’s actual position on the bill was more complicated. He thought the health care status quo was insupportable and that the federal legislation would either fail to pass or it would be tweaked significantly and improved after passage.

Should Neumann best Thompson in the primary, he would face Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a progressive-politics champion of health-care reform for years before the passage of the Affordable Care Act and a candidate who has drawn much national support on the left.

[ Image: Ken Buck via Ken Buck at WikiCommons. ]