Ken Buck's looking more and more like your likely Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, and the national media establishment is starting to notice.
No less a magazine of record than Time is wondering if he's the latest Tea Party star -- and if onetime frontrunner Jane Norton will wind up as primary roadkill.
"A New Tea Party Star in Colorado?," penned by Michael Crowley, references a Denver Post-9News poll showing Buck stampeding over Norton by a 53-37 percent margin among likely primary voters.
In Crowley's view, "That's particularly impressive given that Buck joined the race as a long shot -- 'he was expected to disappear into the political ether,' as the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza recently put it. But Buck has tapped into Tea Party energy, working the movement's local events hard and winning the endorsement of South Carolina Senator and TP idol Jim Demint" -- or, more properly, Jim DeMint.
At the same time, Crowley is careful not to cast Buck as an extremist. According to him, "Buck's views aren't quite as conservative as those of other upstart Republicans with major Tea Party support, like Nevada's Sharron Angle or Kentucky's Rand Paul."
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One factor Crowley overlooks: Norton's close association with John McCain, who plenty of Tea Party members, as well as TP faves like Tom Tancredo, actively despise. The perception these days among many Party sympathizers is that McCain could have kept America safe from Barack Obama if he'd espoused true conservative values instead of trying to lure center-progressives into the fold.
Given Tea Party antipathy toward McCain, Buck doesn't have to be righter than right. Note that Norton hasn't gotten the much-coveted Sarah Palin endorsement for which she openly politicked.
According to Crowley, Buck's success suggests "that Tea Party politics are more than an entertaining media narrative." And that's potentially bad news for Norton.