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FILE - In this May 22, 2010 photo, Ken Buck addresses delegates after he received top placement billing on the Republicans FILE - In this May 22, 2010 photo, Ken Buck addresses delegates after he received top placement billing on the Republicans' ballot for U.S. Senate at the Colorado Republican State Assembly in Loveland, Colo. Political "trackers" have played a role in elections from Virginia to Nevada, and this year, Colorado appears to be embracing tracking like nowhere else. In the Senate Republican primary, candidate Ken Buck's profanity-laced gaffes have become online sensations and TV fodder for his opponent, Jane Norton. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, file)  

Pollster: Ken Buck leads ‘thin’ GOP field to unseat Mark Udall

Greg Campbell
Contributor

Republican Ken Buck holds the early lead over what a Denver pollster called a “strange” field of GOP contenders hoping to unseat Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

But in order to stay there the pollster said,, he must avoid a repeat of his “mistake-prone 2010 race” against Sen. Michael Bennet.

Floyd Ciruli, a respected Colorado pollster with Ciruli Associates, wrote in a recent blog that Buck is the “least controversial and most competent” of those vying for the GOP nomination.

“Unless someone else gets into the race, neither State Senators Owen Hill nor Randy Baumgardner have the resources or network, at least at this stage, to be competitive,” he wrote.

During his last run for Senate, Buck went from being an underfunded dark horse who won the primary against an opponent with much stronger name recognition and a bigger war chest.

But his campaign collapsed in the end under the weight of several high-profile gaffes, including one on “Meet The Press” in which he compared homosexuality to alcoholism. He lost to Bennet by 30,000 votes. Buck ran well ahead of the Republican candidate for governor.

He entered the 2014 race last week in a much different position, facing a pair of Republican longshots who’ve done more to inspire conversation about their experience and facial hair than about the issues.

Baumgardner is a rural politician known best for his Wild West mustache who described himself as a working class Republican. He told The Daily Caller News Foundation in July that he’s running because Udall has failed to lead in the areas of energy, immigration reform and in protecting Coloradans’ Second Amendment rights.

Hill is a political greenhorn still in his first term as a state legislator whose focus is on smaller government and personal liberty.

Perhaps because of what Ciruli calls a “thin field” of contenders, the Senate race hasn’t drawn much national attention. That may change if Buck can avoid the sort of errors that derailed him the last time.

Ciruli credits Udall with being low key and — so far — mistake-free, if not exactly groundbreaking as a lawmaker lately.

“Mark Udall, while not high-profile, is respected in Washington and has avoided mistakes,” he wrote. “His issue of protecting individual rights from excessive government surveillance is topical and he regularly makes the talk show circuit.”

“His colleague Bennet tends to generate more buzz, but neither have had high impact in [a] system dominated by seniority and a town in gridlock.”

Ciruli quotes former state GOP head Dick Wadhams as saying he’s not crazy about Buck’s candidacy because “reruns of candidates don’t do very well.”

Buck’s challenge, Ciruli wrote, is in avoiding his past mistakes.

“The terrain in Colorado is now much different as it leans Democratic,” Ciruli told the Denver Post. “It’s not going to be 2010; room for error is much smaller.”

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