Money is pouring into Colorado as Michael Bennet and Ken Buck fight an extremely close battle for Senate. Republican Buck's small lead over Bennet, who was appointed to the seat last year, has crumbled after several missteps, including comparing gays to alcoholics and saying global warming is "the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated" (what about Balloon Boy?). Meanwhile, Bennet has been unable to to put enough distance between himself and President Obama, who is deeply unpopular in the state. Outside groups have dumped more than $25 million into the campaign, on top of the $11 million spent by the national parties. Bennet has dropped $500,000 of his own cash. Bitterly negative ads are blanketing Colorado's airwaves. Both parties are expecting a nail-biter, The New York Times' Michael D. Shear reports, quoting one strategist as saying, "I wouldn’t be surprised if this one goes into overtime. I don’t think anyone’s going to break away in the next week."
- Infighting Fractures Colorado's Tea Party Coalition reports Stephanie Simon at The Wall Street Journal. Despite its early victories—Republicans nominated Tea Party-backed candidates for governor and Senate, and three government-shrinking initiatives are on the ballot—the movement isn't rallying, it's splintering, "with rival camps accusing one another of betrayal, naiveté and failure of courage," Simon reports. The squabbles have cost the movement: Just six months ago, a third of Colorado voters considered themselves tea partiers. Now, only 23 percent do. Much of the infighting centers on gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, a businessman, whose nomination was initially hailed by many activists before questions about his professional record surfaced. That caused some Tea Party leaders to switch their allegiance to third-party candidate Rep. Tom Tancredo. Maes now has about 10 percent of voters' support, and those who remained loyal to him are angry and bewildered. "I've always hated politics and I probably actually hate it more now that I'm involved," one Maes-backer said. "Now I see what a total blood sport it is."
- The Closest Race in the Country is between Buck and Bennet, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight reports. Silver gave Buck a 79 percent change of victory as late as September 30, but his gaffes have cost him, particularly with women. Two new polls show the candidates tied at 47 percent; the polling wunderkind now gives Buck a 54 percent chance of winning.
- GOP Will Have a Tougher Time Retaking the Senate, thanks to Buck's slippage, explains Jon Ward at The Daily Caller. "The steep hill that always stood between [Republicans] and the upper chamber majority has gotten steeper in the last week or two, with races in Illinois, Colorado, West Virginia and Pennsylvania getting so tight they are essentially even."
- Outside Money Is Diluting National Party Influence Jesse Zwick argues at The Washington Independent. Paired with the ban on "soft money" going to the national parties, the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision has changed the balance of political power. "After countless election cycles in which the traditional party committees— the RNC, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and their Democratic counterparts—dominated the landscape of independent expenditures on behalf of candidates, they are being substantially outgunned this time around by a nexus of outside spending outfits that represent a variety of special interests," Zwick writes. "This election cycle, the bulk of independent expenditures—particularly among conservative groups—have in many ways mimicked the former role of the now-enfeebled RNC." And most notably in Buck's case, a "division of campaign labor" has developed, allowing "candidates in many races... pledge to run clean campaigns while relying on outside spending outfits to perform their dirty work for them."
- What Was that Rape Case All About? Nick Baumann explains the controversial decision Buck made as a district attorney, when he declined to prosecute an alleged rapist because the victim may have just had "buyer's remorse." Democrats have been using the case to hammer Buck, who says it's a nonissue. But Baumann reports Buck had evidence prosecutors "dream of," including a confession in which the suspect admitted the victim said "no" three times, that he knew she was drunk and half-conscious, and that he felt "shame and regret" after the incident. "But between this, his controversial 'high heels' attack ad against a female primary challenger, and his view that abortion should be illegal, even in cases of rape and incest, Buck's been beset by charges of sexism in his race with incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet," Baumann says.