By Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
LITTLETON — Three Republican senators — two current and one former — flanked GOP hopeful Ken Buck to rally voters Tuesday on the day county clerks sent out mail-in ballots across Colorado. Sounding a decidedly western theme, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, former Colorado Sen. Bill Armstrong and the event’s headliner, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, embraced Buck and urged supporters to add Buck to their number.
“There is today, ladies and gentlemen, going on in Washington D.C., a war on the West,” said Thune, who is exploring a potential 2012 presidential bid. “There are policies coming out of Washington that are completely counter, completely anti- to what makes this part of the country tick.” He listed federal proposals to regulate methane emissions from livestock and even a scheme to “regulate dust,” drawing laughter from the small crowd assembled at Clement Park.
“Sometimes there is a disconnect between what happens in Washington, D.C., and what’s going on in the real world. And right now that place couldn’t be more divorced from reality,” Thune said. “Which is why it is so important that we send someone like Ken Buck — give us an ally in the United States Senate, send us some reinforcements.”
Buck said he had heard earlier in the day from his son Cody, a cadet at the West Point Military Academy, who received that day and had already filled out his ballot. “So right now, folks, I am up one-to-nothing,” Buck said. “We plan on keeping that lead.”
Barrasso and his wife drove down for the rally. “Known as ‘Wyoming’s doctor,’” state Sen. Nancy Spence said, Barrasso “might be able to tell President Obama and some of his ilk a little about health care.”
“I tell him, but he doesn’t listen!” Barrasso exclaimed from the lawn, delighting the crowd.
Invoking the Code of the West — a list of rules adopted by the Wyoming Legislature, including “start what you finish” and “ride for the brand” — Barrasso said Obama and the Democratic Congress has “broken promise after promise after promise” and blamed the opposition for the sour economy and other policies he said were damaging the country.
“What’s the first step in actually repealing this health care bill?” he asked. “The first step starts today with voting in Colorado when we start to vote today to elect Ken Buck to the United States Senate.”
Claiming that capital denizens are attacking Western jobs and land, Barrasso added, “We in the Rocky Mountain West just want to say to Washington: Just leave us alone.”
Thune — who unseated Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in a campaign run by current Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams — has been crisscrossing the country stumping for a half dozen Republican challengers hoping to join him in the upper chamber. He attended a fundraiser for Buck at the Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in Greenwood Village after the rally.
Spence campaigned against Buck in the primary, supporting his rival former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. Asked whether she had lost the qualms she expressed over the summer about remarks Buck made about his choice of footwear, Spence smiled and gave a small kick. “I’m still in my high heels,” she said with a laugh. “Hey, I support Republicans, and Ken’s a good one. I’m 100 percent behind him.”
Though she expressed regret her chosen candidate hadn’t won the nomination, she dismissed any lingering concerns with a shrug.
“In the campaign world, in the political world, you get over it,” she said. “We have a good candidate. I don’t always say that, but we have a great candidate,” said Spence, who noted she has always backed Republican nominees, although some “with less enthusiasm.”