Could Ken Buck be Colorado's Sharron Angle?

Since Sharron Angle won the Republican Senate primary in Nevada on the back of strong Tea Party support, her campaign has been imploding under the weight of her verbal gaffes.

In political betting on Intrade.com, during the two weeks before Angle's victory, Harry Reid was trading between 30 and 40% to win re-election.  Angle's victory alone caused those odds to jump to about 50%, and that was before she started doing a lot of talking.

In the past two weeks, Reid's betting chances of re-election have jumped to 62%, based on a combination of Angle foot-in-mouth episodes followed by a full retreat from answering any questions of the media and then a return to her gaffe-prone ways.

Some of Angle's unforced errors included:

  • Threatening to sue Harry Reid for re-posting a prior version of Angle's campaign web site, an odd position for someone who presumably favors the First Amendment over almost all campaign finance and communication restrictions
  • Saying that the DISCLOSE Act, which has recently failed to pass the Senate, is existing law
  • Suggesting that the US might be, and possibly should be, moving towards armed revolution.
  • Saying that "Thomas Jefferson has been misquoted -- like I've been misquoted -- out of context" regarding the issue of separation of church and state.  Essentially, Angle seems to be arguing that separation of church and state is unconstitutional even though it is not only comes directly from the Constitution but is also strongly supported by Jefferson's own words in private writings (and Madison's as well.)
  • Saying, or at least appearing to be saying, (and then somewhat retracting) that unemployed people are spoiled.  (Presumably she meant to say that over-generous or over-lengthy unemployment benefits have negative incentives for seeking employment...)

Many people said, going into the primary, that the opponent Reid would most like to have is Sharron Angle.  They're being proven right. Let me be clear about something here: While some of Angle's views may be wacky, they're not all wacky. Some of these errors are mistakes in rhetoric rather than in policy position, but they're still politically very damaging.  The ability to muzzle onesself is an important characteristic of a candidate. This is not to say a candidate should lie, but he or she should be able to explain a position in a way that can appeal to voters without being hyperbolic or being easily demonized by the media whose favorite game to play with Republicans is "gotcha."

I'd also add that Harry Reid is so unpopular that with some decent coaching and a bit of common sense, it's still possible for Angle to win this thing.  I hope she does, although under most circumstances I probably wouldn't vote for her for dog catcher.

While Ken Buck is smarter than Sharron Angle and not nearly the fringe figure or boneheaded rookie that she seems more to be with every passing day (in part because the media loves to help boost both of those unflattering portrayals in order to help Harry Reid), I can't help but wonder whether Mr. Buck's string of bonheaded remarks makes him the candidate that Michael "Who?" Bennet or Andrew Romanoff would most like to run against.

Some of Ken Buck's recent unforced errors:

  • Walking away from, then around, then toward Tom Tancredo's statement made at a Buck fundraising picnic that Barack Obama is the greatest threat facing America
  • Calling Tea Party members who question President Obama's place of birth "dumbasses" in a moment when he didn't realize he was being recorded.
  • And a foot-in-mouth moment which may perhaps be more important than I first expected when Buck said that people should vote for him because he doesn't wear high heels, an obvious jab at Jane Norton, and one of the most boneheaded things I've heard in some time.  Indeed, Time Magazine (no friend of Republicans generally) is calling it Buck's "Macaca" moment.

The primary reason for my endorsement of Jane Norton was, all else being equal -- since I think she and Buck are remarkably similar on policy positions -- that she is more electable.

While some argue that Buck's primary campaign experience will serve him well in a general election, the past couple weeks have increased my fear that a Buck win will leave not just the Senate seat more vulnerable to Democratic retention but that when combined with the horrendous GOP Governor situation, it could damage the Republican's chances to take back one or both chambers of the state legislature.

Demotivating Republican voters is the last thing we need. Demotivating women voters, when conservatives desperately need to narrow the "gender gap" is especially damaging. There's already a move afoot on Facebook to "Undervote Colorado's GOP Governor Primary", a position I understand and might end up agreeing with (after further digesting my meeting with Dan Maes last night.)  If we get a Senate candidate who is also unmotivating to a substantial segment of CO Republican and independent voters, that could spell the difference in turn-out needed to keep the GOP from taking back one or both chambers of the General Assembly.

Again, Ken Buck is smarter than Sharron Angle, but I wonder if we might be having a peek into our potential future if Ken Buck wins the nomination and keeps stepping on his own tongue as we watch Sharron Angle take the GOP from a huge favorite to a big underdog to unseat Harry Reid.

I hope Buck starts getting a little better rhetorical self-control, whether he wins or loses the primary.  In the meantime, I continue to believe that Buck and Norton are nearly identical on policy matters but that Norton has a better probability of beating the Democrat canddiate in the general election.

  • Airbus
    Comment from: Airbus
    07/29/10 @ 04:01:47 pm

    Goes to show you experience counts so you know how to handle yourself. I think Nevadans know deep down the alternative of Harry Reid, 14% unemployment and illegal immigration is not a good alternative to Angle.

  • ken smith
    Comment from: ken smith
    07/29/10 @ 04:53:05 pm

    Comparing Ken Buck to Sharron Angle is like comparing the Lakeland Tigers to the New York Yankees. Before Rand Paul, Angle was in a class by herself. It is an axiom of politics that, whenever a politician utters the truth, a retraction and apology is in order. Few do it gracefully, and Buck is more inept at it than most. But as none of his faux pas have risen above the amusing and venial, they will have no effect on the general election. The bra-burning battle-axes who would take offense wouldn't be voting for him, anyway. That having been said, Buck does appear to wear the stilettos in the Party. If he had just owned his statement and admitted that he is no Al Franken, the story would have had no legs. The main problem I have with Jane Norton is that she doesn't seem to have the skill set for the position. In my experience, when you ask her something that isn't found in Cinamon's or Josh's briefing books, she generally sounds the part of the clueless cheerleader. Comparisons to Pete "deer in the headlights" Coors come to mind. IMHO, the nightmare match-up for Republicans is Romanoff v. Norton, as her unsavory ties to Phil Anschutz and lack of skills leave her far more exposed than Buck. Buck isn't exactly the policy wonk Romanoff is, but with twenty-five years as a prosecutor under his belt, he can think on his feet pretty well. In a normal year with a gubernatorial candidate with coat-tails, it probably wouldn't matter overmuch, but Scott McInnis is a 150-lb. albatross (see "http://www.youtube.com/v/DI8VX4qGsBw).

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/29/10 @ 04:57:08 pm

    Interesting analysis, Ken. RGK

  • tldavis
    Comment from: tldavis
    07/30/10 @ 10:40:47 pm

    Considering the new poll shows Angle within a point of Harry Reid, that isn't a negative.

  • sarce Nevada Voter
    Comment from: sarce Nevada Voter
    10/01/10 @ 01:31:41 am

    I agree that experience can really put someone on top with proven track records. I've started reading The Nevada Voter also, it's great. http://www.thenevadavoter.com. It also talks more on the upcoming election. This is where the public get more information of their candidates and maybe can change their minds to other candidates once they see review of it. Blogs and articles may help a lot in this upcoming election so check more reviews of your own candidates.