In defeat, Colo. GOP gets set for victory

Two Republicans have lined up for the opportunity to challenge Mr. Bennet in 2010: Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck and Aurora City Council member Ryan Frazier. Neither has much in the way of statewide name recognition, but then again, neither does Mr. Bennet.

Republicans are also making a bid to oust Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey, who defeated Mrs. Musgrave in the predominantly Republican district. State House Minority Whip Cory Gardner and University of Colorado regent Tom Lucero have both entered the Republican primary race.

Avoiding contentious primary battles doesn’t seem to be part of the Republican strategy, which is fine with Mr. Wadhams. “I like contested primaries. I think it makes our candidates stronger,” he said.

Also helping is that the Republican message remains popular. As voters were pulling the lever for Mr. Obama in November, they were also voting down proposed tax increases and school bond initiatives.

“At its core, this state remains fiscally very moderate,” said Mr. Ciruli. “President Obama won here bigger than he did nationally; however, this is a difficult state to run in for anyone labeled a big spender. If it [his approval rating] is substantially below 50 percent, the swing voters, who are highly sensitive to national trends, could swing back to the Republicans.”

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