Roll Call has an early rundown of where the 2014 Senate races are ranked in order of competitiveness. Colorado is listed as “Likely Democratic” among the 33 Senate races, which puts Sen. Mark Udall’s seat well outside the top tier:
The early read from both sides is that Udall is in a strong position for re-election. Even Republicans concede that he has deftly positioned himself as a moderate on fiscal and social issues.
But the DNA of Colorado is a swing state, and midterm races are typically difficult for the president’s party, especially during a second term. Republicans fell just short of ousting Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010. Therefore, the GOP is optimistic and several names have already surfaced. The Republican who strikes the most fear in the hearts of Colorado Democrats is Rep. Cory Gardner.
Other possible challengers include 2008 Senate candidate Bob Schaffer, former Rep. Bob Beauprez and state Attorney General John Suthers.
Nothing new there (at least not to readers of Colorado Pols). Republican Rep. Cory Gardner is mentioned as the “scariest” potential GOP candidate, and also picked up a mention in a similar story on The National Journal (subscription required).
Is Gardner really “The Republican who strikes the most fear in the hearts of Colorado Democrats?” On the whole, of course not. But this is all relative to other potential GOP candidates, and with that background Gardner is definitely the one that would be most worrisome for Udall.
Gardner’s relative strength is key in this discussion, because Udall would still be a heavy favorite for re-election if Gardner was the GOP candidate. And that is exactly why Gardner won’t run for Senate in 2014. He’s doing the smart thing by letting his name float out there for 2014, because any discussion of Gardner as a Senate candidate only enhances his name ID and perceived strength among Republicans.
Gardner won’t run against Udall because it is too big of a political risk. He can hold his current House seat for as long as he wants, so there’s no rush to move up. If he did decide to run against Udall and lost, Gardner would be out of elected office without having had time to grow his political network (a Republican would likely replace Gardner in CD-4, which would preclude him from trying to retake his old seat in 2016).
Gardner is in a great position to be mentioned as a top Senate challenger, which is only happening because the GOP has no bench in Colorado. He won’t run, but for now there’s no benefit to officially removing his name from the rumor mill.