The news is out: Republicans have not given up in Colorado. They have gone to their bench to put Cory Gardner into the game, according to the scoop from Lynn Bartels and Kurtis Lee.
The shakeup doesn’t end there. The Greeley Tribune is quoting Ken Buck as saying he is dropping out of the race — and, get this, will run for Gardner’s seat in the 4th District.
When was this deal made? What back room? And there’s this: Does Buck’s move officially translate as an “imploding” campaign?
Even more to the point, can the GOP Colorado world get any stranger?
Definitely. The next move will probably be Bob Beauprez entering the governor’s race, which would shake up that race. And there’s more shaking: Amy Stephens said Wednesday night that she was dropping out of the Senate race, giving Gardner basically a clear path.
The Gardner move is a huge play for desperate Republicans. Gardner is their entire bench, and throwing him into the Senate race at this point against incumbent Mark Udall is a risk. The conventional wisdom was that Gardner was going to stay in his safe House seat and make the long climb into a House leadership position.
Gardner, who has turned down this race a few times, wouldn’t be getting in if he didn’t think that Obama’s numbers in Colorado make Udall vulnerable. Udall’s polling has been lukewarm. And there was the mini-Obamacare-exchange flap.
Despite his numbers, it’s fair to say Udall is a still a popular figure in the state. But Gardner is the Republicans’ best statewide hope. It suddenly looks like a race. But if Gardner loses, they don’t really have anyone else. (The Colorado Springs Gazette editorial board has compared Scott Gessler’s gubernatorial bid to that of Dan Maes, just to give you an idea.) No wonder Beauprez, who lost by 17 points to Bill Ritter, is considering his move.
Gardner is the huge surprise. He has been positioning himself very much on the Ted Cruz, shutdown wing of the party, which suggested that he wasn’t interested in going statewide, where being moderate, or at least moderate-looking, is usually rewarded. We don’t know how he made the decision — which the Denver Post says will be confirmed in the next few days — but national Republicans must be thrilled.
Two things were pretty evident from the Denver Post Senate debate Tuesday night: One, Buck was the heavy favorite to win the nomination. Two, he was never going to beat Udall.
Democrats have been rooting for Buck. Stephens, who doesn’t have Buck’s baggage from his 2010 Senate loss to Michael Bennet, looked like she could be a tougher opponent. Gardner changes all that.
Political guru Larry Sabato has already changed the Udall race from “likely D” to “leans D.” And we’ll see, as Gardner, who has never been tested on a statewide stage, leans in.