In a September 9th Rasmussen Reports survey of 500 likely Colorado voters
, Ryan Frazier, the ex-military small businessman and Aurora City Council member, leads incumbent appointed Senator Michael Bennet by 1%, at 40% to 39%. Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who had been widely expected to be dropping out of the race (including by people who apparently heard that from Buck) but changed his mind, trails Bennet by 6 points.
It's common wisdom (and Rasmussen notes) that an incumbent with less than 50% is a ripe target for tossing out of office. And that should be particularly true of a Senator with such low name recognition and higher negatives than positives.
Additionally, the rest of the Rasmussen survey has a couple of items which should bode well for Republicans: A majority of respondents believe the economy is getting worse and a majority believe the government will do too much in response to the economic downturn.
Of course, these polls still show a large number of undecided voters and there's still a very long time until the election...time during which each candidate will work hard to build name recognition and approval.
While it's going to be very difficult for Michael Bennet to increase his approval given his apparent left-wing positions (I say apparent because it's very hard to know for sure what positions he holds). But Bennet already has a large fund-raising lead, money of his own, rich friends, and, even for someone with the nickname "Senator Who?", there is value in incumbency, both because of the franking privilege and in fundraising in general.
It still seems likely that former Lt. Governor Jane Norton will enter the race and if so she may become the instant, though slight, front-runner for the Republican nomination because she's held state-wide office and she, like Bennet, has friends who are huge political fund-raisers. That said, I think (and I hope) Ryan Frazier can overcome Norton's strengths with his own: He's a good speaker and, maybe more importantly, a good listener. I believe his political views will resonate much better with the broad Colorado electorate than would the views of the other GOP candidates. That means that some Republicans might have to decide whether they want a candidate to emerge from the primary who is their dream of a pure fire-breathing conservative, especially on social issues, but who will lose to Bennet, or whether they want to go with a solid candidate who might have one or two areas of difference with the most conservative members of the party but who stands a very good chance because of his wider appeal to knock out "Senator Who?".
I would also note that rumors of the National Republican Senatorial Committee's endorsement or quasi-endorsement of Jane Norton even before she had officially entered the race were damaging to Norton's chances. While it's not clear whether they initially directly endorsed her, they did register two Internet web sites
to be used for her campaign. The NRSC explained
that they do this on occasion to make sure that Democrats don't register the sites, but one has to wonder how they choose which candidates to do this for. Colorado is a caucus state, not just a go-to-the-voting-booth primary state. This means that perceptions of grassroots GOP activists, precinct captains, etc., are extremely important. And I think most Colorado Republicans are sick of DC know-it-alls, particularly since those know-it-alls have destroyed the party by abandoning fiscal responsibility during the reign of George W. Bush. To the extent that GOP activists feel that Beltway politicians are trying to anoint a candidate, it's a big negative for that candidate. In other words, the NRSC did Norton no favors by actions that allowed the inference of favoritism, even if none was intended (and I'm not
saying I think none was intended). Even the chairman of the Colorado GOP, Dick Wadhams, said as much
. And Norton did herself no favors by staying mostly silent on the matter.
Personally, I support the latter choice which is why I support Ryan Frazier.