I know, I know, the perennial National Conversation on Race is just getting started, but the Colorado GOP Senate primary would like to direct our attention on gender politics. CBS reports:
Jane Norton, who is facing off against Ken Buck in the GOP Senate primary in Colorado, has released an ad spotlighting Buck's comment that people should vote for him because he does not "wear high heels."
"Why should you vote for me? Because I do not wear high heels," Buck is shown saying in the spot, in comments he made last week. "I have cowboy boots. They have real bullsh** on them."
Says a narrator: "Now Ken Buck wants to go to Washington? He'd fit right in."
In a statement trumpeting the fact that the ad is going "viral," Norton campaign spokesman Cinamon Watson said, "Ken is going to have to use all of his best lawyer-speak to explain this really stupid statement." Watson went on to argue that the comment could have a significant impact on the race.
In an email to Politico's Ben Smith late yesterday afternoon, Buck spokesman Owen Loftus said, "Obviously, the comment was made in jest after Jane questioned Ken's 'manhood' in her new ad. The Norton campaign has routinely commented about her being a good choice because she is a woman, and [on] her choice of shoes."
Norton previously ran an ad in which she said: "You've seen those ads attacking me. They're paid for by a shady interest group doing the bidding of Ken Buck. You'd think Ken would be man enough to do it himself."
Buck, 51, began as the underdog, but two factors have made him a formidable rival to Norton. TV ads by a wealthy Buck supporter—so-called “independent expenditures”—have attacked Norton and touted Buck. And Buck began his campaign months before Norton got in the race, visiting most of Colorado’s 64 counties and often appearing at Tea Party events.
When Norton, 55, decided to run last September, she met with Buck and asked him to drop out of the race. He declined. She’s been endorsed by two of the state’s most popular Republicans, former governor Bill Owens and ex-senator Bill Armstrong. Buck is backed by Republican senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. “When I went around the Senate to talk to senators, his was the only door that was open,” Buck told me.
In precinct caucuses in March, Buck narrowly beat Norton in a straw poll. She chose not to compete in the Republican party assembly, where she would have needed 30 percent of the vote for a spot on the primary ballot. Instead, she collected petition signatures to get on the ballot.
In April, Norton fired her campaign manager, hired Penry, and emerged as a more aggressive candidate. Her new television spot is anything but docile. “Seen those TV ads attacking me?” she says. “They’re paid for by a shady interest group doing the bidding of Ken Buck. You’d think Ken’d be man enough to do it himself.” The Norton campaign, by the way, has accused Buck and the supporter behind the anti-Norton ads of illegal collusion. Buck and Walt Klein, his media consultant, deny the charge.
In a Denver Post poll in mid-June, Buck led Norton, 53 percent to 37. But Norton is counting on the mail-in vote to enlarge the turnout. She’s ahead by nearly 2-1 in the “next ring” of voters who don’t normally vote in a Republican primary, Penry says. “We think we can get to them.”
In truth, both Norton and Buck are good candidates. Both are conservatives. Either is likely to defeat Bennett, a lockstep liberal who has a bitter primary battle of his own against Romanoff. “It’s as bad for Democrats in 2010 as it was good for them in 2008,” says Penry.