While Tom Tancredo and Scott Gessler declined to attend the debate, we still see them as the frontrunners for the GOP nomination. But the second tier has a new leader: Sen. Greg Brophy. His strong performance in the GOP debate made him stand out significantly from former state Sen. Mike Kopp, whom we had previously listed as being on the heels of Gessler and Tancredo.
While Brophy performed well in the debate, Kopp was downright awful. One debate does not a candidate make, of course, but this was the first chance the public had to see of Kopp, and perception matters a great deal in politics. Kopp was surprisingly ill-at-ease and unprepared for many of the questions. One of the more telling lines from Kopp was a reference to his claim that he has broad Republican support. "[Former U.S. Senators] Hank Brown and Bill Armstrong will support me," said Kopp. Armstrong has officially endorsed Kopp, but Brown has not — perhaps waiting to see what he does with his campaign before lending his name. It may be that many Republicans expected more from Kopp and have not seen it (Kopp had a pretty weak first fundraising quarter).
Regardless of what happens with Kopp, Brophy has seized the spotlight on the GOP side as we near the Republican caucuses, and that momentum gives us cause to move him up on the Line.