Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, says Ken Buck lost his Senate races because independent women voters flocked to Sen. Michael BennetMichael BennetMcAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Bacteria found ahead of Olympics underscores need for congressional action for new antibiotics MORE (D-Colo.) on Election Day.
“Ads attacking Buck on abortion and rape and all those issues were targeted to unaffiliated women and it worked. Buck became unacceptable and they voted for Bennet,” Wadhams said in an interview.
“It was pretty clear that he was winning men pretty handily,” said Wadhams. “In Colorado, unaffiliated women are most of the time the last voter groups to decide to vote in a given close election.”
The Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund, a political group dedicated to mobilizing unmarried women, launched a television advertising campaign in late October attacking Buck for controversial comments — including his famous statement during the GOP primary asking voters to support him over former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton “because I do not wear high heels.”
The group bought at least $800,000 worth of airtime in the final weeks of the campaign featuring Leslie Allen, a mother of three from Colorado.
Allen criticized Buck's “high heels” comment and his justification for not prosecuting an alleged rape in 2005 while serving as district attorney for Weld County, Colo. (He told the Greeley Tribune that a jury might reject the victim’s claim as “buyer's remorse”.)
Wadhams analyzed the results of Election Day and sent a memo to state Republican leaders Friday.
“Bennet and his leftist allies spent millions during the final three weeks with despicable ads narrowly targeted to undecided unaffiliated women voters attempting to make Ken Buck unacceptable,” Wadhams wrote. “They wanted to move the debate from the economy and spending to abortion and other social issues with those voters.
“That narrow slice of the electorate was still up for grabs as Buck was clinging to a narrow lead going into Election Day,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, their strategy worked.”
Wadhams noted that Buck won fewer votes than other statewide GOP candidates, such as state Attorney General-elect John Suthers, state Treasurer-elect Walker Stapleton and Secretary of State-elect Scott Gessler.
Robert Duffy, chairman of the political science department at Colorado State University, noted in a pre-election interview that social issues have been a vulnerability of statewide Republican candidates in recent elections — especially for federal office.
He said candidates have often run hard to the right on social issues to attract conservative primary voters only to find it a liability in the general election.
Democrats attacked Buck for his statements during the primary that he would sponsor a constitutional amendment to ban abortion and support a proposed state “personhood” amendment that many feared would outlaw the use of IUDs and birth-control pills.
Bennet defeated Buck by one percentage point — 48 percent to 47 percent, making it the closest race in the country.
The Democratic and Republican senatorial committees and third-party political groups spent more than $33 million on the race, according to The Washington Post. More than $15 million in expenditures supported Bennet.