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Could high heels joke spike Ken Buck Senate campaign?

Colorado Republican Ken Buck made a crack about Senate primary opponent Jane Norton's shoes at a campaign event this week. Analysts ask whether enough women voters will take offense to tip the balance of a close race.

By Staff writer / July 23, 2010

Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck, left, is in hot water for poking fun at Republican primary opponent Jane Norton's shoes. The two are seen here in a TV debate on July 22.

Ed Andrieski/AP

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Washington

Note to guys: Never go after a woman about her footwear.

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Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck stepped in it this week at a campaign event when he was asked why people should vote for him over Lt. Gov. Jane Norton in the Republican primary. “Because I do not wear high heels,” he replied to laughter. Then, for good measure, he pointed to his cowboy boots and proudly stated he had real, local bull excrement on them, “not Washington, DC, bull****.” (Video below.)

But forget about the scatology. It was the high heels comment, caught on video, that made it a YouTube moment and gave Lt. Gov. Norton all the ammo she needed for a new campaign ad, posted on her website Thursday and launched on TV Friday.

Mr. Buck, district attorney of Weld County and a “tea party” favorite, had been surging in the polls against the establishment-backed Norton. But now, with mail-in ballots going out this week for the Aug. 10 primary, Norton is getting another look – and could get a boost from the crucial female vote.

There’s no doubt the footwear flap is “very distracting at a minimum and it could make a difference,” says Floyd Ciruli, a Denver-based nonpartisan pollster.

Buck says Norton started it. She had gone after him previously for attack ads paid for by outside groups, saying he wasn’t “man enough” to go after her himself.

“She has questioned my manhood; I think it’s fair to respond,” Buck told the crowd at the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms picnic sponsored by the conservative Independence Institute.

In a year with many strong female Republican candidates running for office, Norton has referred to her gender regularly in the race, though her campaign states that voters shouldn’t support her just because she’s female. This week’s dustup isn’t the first time high heels have come up. In April, Norton’s campaign manager, Josh Penry, said that the GOP “needs somebody to kick [Senate majority leader] Harry Reid in the shins and Jane is going to do that with her high heels.”

But it’s all about context. Mr. Penry wasn’t mocking her shoes. Buck was.

Whoever wins the great high heels versus cowboy boots smackdown will go up against the winner of the Democratic primary, which pits appointed Sen. Michael Bennet against challenger Andrew Romanoff, former speaker of the state House. The November general election is considered a tossup.

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