Outside spending fuels negative ads in tight Colorado Senate race
Democratic US Sen. Michael Bennet trails GOP challenger Ken Buck by 3 points in a Colorado Senate race that has seen outside groups spend heavily on negative campaign ads.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
At $32 million in spending and counting, Colorado’s US Senate race between appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and tea party-backed challenger Ken Buck (R) has attracted more aggressive spending by outside groups than any race in the nation.Skip to next paragraph
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With outside groups more willing than candidates to go toxic with their campaign ads, it’s produced a continual negative stream of campaign ads. They have dubbed Mr. Buck an extremist and insensitive to women and painted Mr. Bennet as a mere appendage of the Obama administration.
"It’s led to saturation advertising on every possible medium: radio, television, blogs and websites – lots of social media. It’s battled the race to a standstill, and at this point it is now down to things that money helps a little but not too much.”
With control of the Senate in the balance, all Senate races are drawing attention from outside groups across the political spectrum, but as one of the closest Senate races for months, Colorado has drawn special attention.
It’s also a prize for conservative groups, because Bennet, appointed to fill the seat held by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, is viewed as especially close to President Obama, who helped Bennet in a contested primary.
Bennet quickly established a clear fundraising advantage, raising $11.5 million to Buck’s $3.8 million. But conservative outside groups helped level the playing field for Buck. As of Monday, outside groups had contributed $16.5 million for political ads and other activities to support Buck, $10.8 million of which was used for ads opposing Bennet.
The pro-Bennet groups used a similar formula, spending $14.7 million in the Colorado Senate race, $10.7 million of which to oppose Buck, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which is tracking outside money in the 2010 campaign. The race has received more outside money than any other in this election cycle, it found.
“Our suspicion is that there will be more and more outside groups formed after the election, and that 2012 is just going to be wild, wild wild West,” says Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation.
Despite a string of verbal gaffes, Buck, a tea party favorite, is up 3 percent, according to an average of recent polls by RealClear Politics.com. While the national news media was quick to lump him in the same category with less-prepared tea party candidates, Republican leaders say he has mainstream support as well.
“Ken was never a tea party phenomenon, he was a respected district attorney with a real resume and substantial support in our party,” says Dick Wadhams, Colorado Republican Party chairman. “Democrats have shamelessly misrepresented his record.”