Republicans Struggle to Keep Colorado Senate Race in Play
Michael Bennet's re-election race moves from Lean Democratic to Democrat Favored
The crowded GOP field to take on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet narrowed recently from a dozen candidates to four contenders.
Former El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn was the only candidate to secure a position on the primary ballot at the state convention. It was a surprise boost of support for the black, retired Air Force officer and former Colorado Springs city councilman. But it also may have been Glenn’s peak performance, considering he had just $11,000 in his campaign account on March 31.
The upside to Glenn’s convention showing was that conservative state Sen. Tim Neville did not make the ballot. Many Republicans believe he could have been a Todd Akin-esque candidate who would have said or done something during the campaign that would have put Republicans in and outside of Colorado on the defensive.
Wealthy businessman and former Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham was the first candidate to be approved for the ballot by gathering signatures. He contributed $1 million of his own money to the campaign, in addition to raising over $300,000, in the first quarter of the year and had $943,000 on hand at the end of March.
Young state Rep. Jon Keyser gets the most buzz in GOP circles in Washington because strategists believe he has the highest ceiling. But he came close to not making the ballot after an initial ruling had him short of the required signatures and Keyser had to sue to secure a position. Keyser had $200,000 in the bank on March 31.
Businessman Robert Blaha, who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Doug Lamborn in the 2014 primary, eventually submitted enough valid signatures to make the ballot, while former Aurora city councilman Ryan Frazier, who lost the 2010 race to Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, did not.
Blaha and Frazier used the same consultant for signature gathering, but it was no easy task when multiple candidates were vying for signatures across seven congressional districts and duplicate signatures were thrown out.
The June 28 Republican primary ballot will feature Glenn, Graham, and Keyser, but any of them will start the general election as the underdog against Bennet. Not only did the senator have $7.6 million in the bank on March 31, but none of the GOP candidates have demonstrated the ability to put together a campaign strong enough to knock off an incumbent in a state that looks likely to go heavily for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump.
The race certainly isn’t over and Republicans claim Bennet’s numbers are soft. But the senator’s advantage is significant and it’s hard to see how the GOP nominee will overperform Trump enough to win. We’re changing our rating from Lean Democratic to Democrat Favored.
Unless Republicans can gain some ground in Colorado, Minority Leader Harry Reid’s open seat in Nevada will be Republicans’ lone takeover target in the Senate. And that race could be a struggle as Democrats increase their edge in voter registration.