Bennet wins Senate race
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet will be elected to the U.S. Senate after pulling ahead of challenger Ken Buck this morning.
Long after most Coloradans – including the candidates and their supporters – had gone to bed, returns from Denver and Boulder moved Bennet past Buck and into the lead, 47.5 percent to 47.0 percent.
A recount would be required if the difference between the two candidates’ vote totals is less than one-half of 1 percent of the leading candidate’s vote total, or about 3,900 votes based on current tallies.
Bennet leads by nearly 7,000 votes.
“I am grateful to the the thousands of Coloradans who made this victory possible, who gave so much to our campaign, knocking on doors, making calls, and working tirelessly to ensure we leave more opportunity to the next generation,” Bennet said this morning. “Yesterday, Colorado chose to move our state and this country forward. I will do everything I can to live up to the confidence you have placed in me.”
Some mail ballots remain to be counted, but largely in counties that have favored Bennet. Provisional ballots, which traditionally favor Democrats, also still must be counted, as well as military absentee ballots, which may favor the Republican. The Bennet campaign expects his margin to grow rather than shrink as provisional ballots – voted by people whose registration was not clear, or who chose to discard their mail ballot – are counted in Denver, suburban counties and even Republican strongholds like El Paso County.
Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said he hopes to have statewide figures later in the day on the number of provisional ballots and military absentee ballots still to be counted. Coolidge said mail-in ballots – which require extra verification steps before they can be counted – that were dropped off at polling places yesterday slowed some of the counting overnight.
“There’s still a lot of those left to be counted,” he said this morning.
According to the Associated Press, there are only three counties in which regular ballots are still being counted — Arapaho, Boulder and Chaffee — and Bennet leads in each.
The only counties Buck leads in this year that were not won by Democrat Ken Salazar in 2004 are Bent, Mineral and Rio Grande. Bennet won in Ouray County and leads in Chaffee county, both of which were won by Republican Pete Coors six years ago.
The Buck campaign said they were still checking returns and not prepared to concede the race.
“I think we’re still out votes in Chaffee and Arapahoe,” said Buck campaign advisor Walt Klein. “But when you’re dealing with a margin as tight as this one, 6,000 or 7,000 votes, we’re going to double and triple check the numbers. At some point we’ll have an interim statement or a final statement.”
Bennet now leads in Arapahoe by a margin of 49-46.
As returns arrived late Tuesday, Colorado Republican head Dick Wadhams made the rounds at the GOP party, oozing confidence as he described the difference between 2008 and 2010 as “immeasurable.”
“We’re going to win,” he predicted. “Ken Buck is going to be the senator. You can’t even compare it to 2008 – I was waiting for the guillotine, hoping it wouldn’t be too painful.”
Already looking forward, he said that the constantly shifting political climate makes Colorado an interesting stage.
“It’s always completely different every year, different issues,” he said. “And it’s all going to be different again in 2012. We start tomorrow.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall added that the Democrats’ computer modeling suggested Bennet was hitting his projections in every part of the state.
“It appears our get-out-the-vote operation is producing,” Udall said. But he added that it felt odd not to be running a race of his own.
“You get used to being on the ballot,” he said. “I’m like a parent who’s watching his kids go out and battle. But I’m listening to voters as well. They’re saying get to work on jobs and please work together.”
While Democratic party leaders huddled behind a curtained off area of a hotel ballroom to check computer results, Jessie Ulibarri, from a coalition of Latino get out the vote groups, said high voter turnout among Latinos will help shape 2012 no matter who wins the Senate race.
“We’ll refocus and show how big the Latino voting bloc has become,” said Ulibarri. “It’s a long battle. We’ll continue fighting.
In Colorado, the very early advantage leaned strongly to Republicans, who mounted a more than 60,000-ballot advantage over Democrats in mail-in voting. Democrats were banking on a strong election-day turnout – and help from unaffiliated voters, particularly women.
Bennet, a relative political unknown when Gov. Bill Ritter plucked him from his job as Denver Public Schools chief and appointed him to the post 22 months ago, benefitted from his time in Washington to establish a solid financial base for what proved a costly campaign. He raised $6 million alone to fend off primary challenger Andrew Romanoff.
Buck, the Weld County District Attorney, tapped into the anti-incumbent anger of the Tea Party movement for early momentum and a primary win over Jane Norton before moving toward the center on several issues for the general election.
Cascading money was a theme throughout the campaign, as Colorado became the most expensive race in the country for outside spending by both conservative and progressive groups. Pro-business, union and other organizations spent more than $32 million in Colorado, on top of the more than $15 million expected from the Bennet and Buck campaigns.
Senate attack ads dominated local TV, funded largely by groups whose donors remain anonymous under current campaign laws.
In the general election, Bennet basked in visits from former President Bill Clinton, who drew the biggest rally crowd of the Colorado elections, and First Lady Michelle Obama, who raised $270,000 for Bennet on one October afternoon.
Buck, pursuing the first Republican Senate win in Colorado since 2002, spent considerable time roaming the Eastern Plains and Western Slope, mining support in small gatherings where his down-home personal style connected directly with voters.
But on the public stage, he committed some gaffes that contrasted sharply with his earnest straight talk aimed at conservatives and independents weary of a Democratic regime.
He backstepped on many red-meat positions he took to win the Republican primary – his support of the Personhood Amendment, the consumption tax, supporting a Constitutional Amendment to ban abortion and using an abortion litmus test for federal appointments.
In debates, he often came off as low-energy and vague about specific ideas to solve problems. During an appearance on “Meet the Press,” he compared the roots of homosexuality to alcoholism.
Bennet had his problems, too.
While he benefited from the in-place Democratic machinery, he was also immediately saddled with the Democrats’ perceived responsibility for high unemployment and ballooning deficits.
Bennet’s cerebral approach to the campaign trail didn’t always connect with voters. His lament that America had $13.5 trillion in federal debt “with nothing to show for it” was downbeat and complicated, without offering details on how he would reverse it.
From the first day of the general election, his campaign sought to shift the focus to Buck’s allegedly extreme views.
Democrats had spent the primary collecting “tracker” video footage of Buck veering right with friendly audiences, forcing Buck to waste valuable campaign time defending those positions or appearing to back away and flip-flop.
Those jabs may have scored Bennet some points, but the tactic left him vulnerable to Buck’s effective counter-punch that he was ignoring jobs and the economy.
Read more: Bennet wins Senate race – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16511547#ixzz14Enspi4s
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