The Tea Party Cares About Electability?

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GREELEY, CO - OCTOBER 27: Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Ken Buck (C), talks with supporters at the Weld County Victory Office before casting his ballot in early voting on October 27, 2010 in Greely, Colorado. 
National Journal
Julie Sobel
Feb. 11, 2014, 10:32 a.m.

Ken Buck is of­ten called a tea-party fa­vor­ite. But he’s no longer the Tea Party Ex­press’s fa­vor­ite.

The con­ser­vat­ive group en­dorsed Buck back in 2010, when he beat the GOP es­tab­lish­ment can­did­ate in Col­or­ado be­fore nar­rowly los­ing the gen­er­al elec­tion. But the or­gan­iz­a­tion an­nounced that in the 2014 Col­or­ado Sen­ate race, it’s back­ing his primary op­pon­ent Owen Hill — and has launched a $100,000 ad buy in sup­port of the state sen­at­or.

But this goes bey­ond en­dors­ing a dif­fer­ent can­did­ate. While tea-party groups of­ten get tagged as not caring about elect­ab­il­ity, the tele­vi­sion spot and an­nounce­ment make it clear they want an elect­able can­did­ate without bag­gage.

“Time to start the Sen­ate race with a clean can­vas,” says the ad’s an­noun­cer, as pic­tures of Hill get colored in on a can­vas.

The ad’s ref­er­ence to a “clean can­vas” is a shot at Buck, who blew a po­ten­tially win­nable Sen­ate race in 2010 with his con­tro­ver­sial com­ments com­par­ing be­ing gay to al­co­hol­ism. The group’s press re­lease an­noun­cing the en­dorse­ment con­tains more veiled swats at their 2010 choice. “Over the past two elec­tion cycles, Hill has out­per­formed all oth­er Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates in Col­or­ado,” says Tea Party Ex­press chair Amy Kre­mer. “He is not only a prin­cipled con­ser­vat­ive, but also he has shown an abil­ity to put to­geth­er com­pet­ent cam­paigns and win even where oth­ers have lost.”

And Kre­mer told the AP that Buck is “a good con­ser­vat­ive” but that the group thinks Hill “is the one who can win this race.”

Buck is cur­rently the front-run­ner in the primary and leads the field. An­oth­er Re­pub­lic­an run­ning, state Sen. Amy Steph­ens, has got­ten some buzz as a po­ten­tially strong gen­er­al-elec­tion can­did­ate, but her fourth-quarter fun­drais­ing num­bers were dis­mal. Hill is just 31, and serving his first term in the state Le­gis­lature. While there’s an op­por­tun­ity for the GOP in Col­or­ado this year — a re­cent Quin­nipi­ac poll shows Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mark Ud­all hold­ing slight leads over his po­ten­tial op­pon­ents — there’s cer­tainly a ques­tion as to wheth­er the Re­pub­lic­ans will have a can­did­ate who can cap­it­al­ize on the op­por­tun­ity.

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