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Colorado provides primary fireworks a-plenty

Colorado is single-handedly keeping political junkies from falling into the typical August doldrums with a trio of fascinating intraparty fights.

The most compelling -- in the sense that a slow-motion political car crash can be described as compelling -- is the Colorado Republican primary for governor.

Former Rep. Scott McInnis' campaign has been hamstrung by plagiarism allegations but, despite a number of his staffers jumping ship, he is refusing to leave the race. Which might be just as well given that the other GOP candidate -- Dan Maes -- has had to contend with campaign finance violations. Add former Rep. Tom Tancredo, who is running as a third party candidate this fall, and you have what amounts to a political soap opera.

The two Senate primaries in Colorado are slightly less dramatic but are interesting nonetheless.

On the Republican side, Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck's comments about Lt. Gov. Jane Norton and the Tea Party movement have drawn unfavorable publicity and raised the possibility that he might fall short in 10 days time.

Friday Line

For Democrats, appointed Sen. Michael Bennet has held a steady lead for months over former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff but polling suggests the challenger could -- if he can catch the outsider wave -- pull an upset.

Colorado places all three races on our Friday Line of the 10 best primaries in the country.

Have suggestions? Additions? Subtractions? Try out our new (and hopefully improved) comments section.

To the Line!

Coming off the Line: Alaska Senate (Republican primary), Minnesota Governor (Democratic primary), New Hampshire Senate (R)
Coming onto the Line: Tennessee Governor (R), Colorado Governor (R), Georgia Governor (R)

10. Kansas Senate (Republican primary, Aug. 3): Rep. Jerry Moran has outspent Rep. Todd Tiahrt in this primary, $4.5 million to $2.2 million. If Tiahrt can somehow beat the polls and pull this off on Tuesday, he'll have former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who endorsed him in June, to thank for his Senate seat. The winner is a lock to succeed Sen. Sam Brownback (R), who is running for governor. (Previous ranking: 10)

9. Arizona Senate (R, Aug. 24): It's amazing what $16 million can buy you. For Sen. John McCain, it's some peace of mind in his primary with former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. Anything but a healthy McCain win would be a big surprise here, after the incumbent spent eight figures in the second quarter alone bludgeoning Hayworth over the former Congressman's free-money infomercials and other issues. (Previous ranking: 1)

8. Tennessee Governor (R, Aug. 5): This race has long been on our radar, but even we didn't anticipate it becoming such a spectacle in the weeks before the primary. After Rep. Zach Wamp said last week that states may be "forced to consider separation from this government" if Washington continues on its current path, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey upped the ante by suggesting at a town hall meeting that Islam may be a cult and that Muslims might not merit religious freedoms under the Constitution. Recent polling shows both Wamp and Ramsey trailing Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam. (Previous ranking: N/A)

7. Florida Governor (R, Aug. 24): Wealthy former health care executive Rick Scott has spent better than $23 million of his own money on ads that have introduced him to Sunshine State voters and catapulted him past state Attorney General Bill McCollum in the upcoming gubernatorial primary. McCollum and his allies released two polls this week that suggested he was closing the gap but a new Quinnipiac poll put Scott ahead by 11, which seems about right. (Previous ranking: 4)

6. Florida Senate (Democratic primary, Aug. 24): Looking for a race that is going to get a lot nastier before it's all over? The battle between free-spending billionaire Jeff Greene and Rep. Kendrick Meek should be on your radar screen. Meek went up with his first television ad of the primary this week, a blistering negative detailing Greene's checkered political past (he ran as a Republican for Congress in the 80s). Greene responded with an ad that begins: "Just how corrupt is Kendrick Meek?". A Quinnipiac poll showed Greene ahead by 10 so expect Meek to fill the airwaves with negatives over the next few weeks to try and make up the difference. (Previous ranking: 6)

5. Colorado Senate (D, Aug. 10): Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff recently sold his house and loaned his campaign $325,000. That's a pretty drastic move, but Romanoff needs the money if he's going to knock off appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). (Romanoff has been outspent four-to-one so far.) Polling suggests Romanoff is withing shouting distance but he probably needs a break to get over the top. (Previous ranking: 2)

4. Michigan Governor (R, Aug. 3): With only four days remaining until primary day, the battle for the Republican nod has become a three-way race. Two polls -- one from EPIC/MRA, the other from the Detroit News -- show wealthy businessman Rick Snyder, state Attorney General Mike Cox and Rep. Pete Hoekstra running neck and neck. Cox has been hit with an eleventh-hour allegation that he received a lap-dance from an exotic dancer at an alleged 2002 party at the Detroit mayor's mansion -- also known as the Manoogian mansion. (Cox responded by comparing himself to Shaquille O'Neal). Whoever wins the GOP nod next Tuesday will be the favorite to win in the fall given the lackluster offerings of the Dem field and the state's dismal economic climate. (Previous ranking: 7)

3. Colorado governor (R, Aug. 10): What happens if you hold a primary and the party regulars don't want either candidate to win? That's what's happening in Colorado at the moment with scandal-plagued Scott McInnis (plagiarism) and Dan Maes (campaign finance violations) battling it out. A survey shown to the Fix and conducted by a Republican pollster in the last few days put McInnis ahead by 15. If he manages to win the nomination, there will be a major push by establishment Republicans to push him out. But will McInnis go? (Previous ranking: N/A)

2. Georgia Governor (R runoff, Aug. 10): Former state Secretary of State Karen Handel surged in recent weeks -- aided in part by an endorsement by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- to go from third place in polls to taking the top spot in the July 20 primary, besting former Rep. Nathan Deal 34 percent to 23 percent. Things between Handel and Deal had gotten nasty even before Primary Day, with Handel accusing her rival of sexism after the former Congressman claimed that "real women" supported his campaign, not Handel's. Now, Handel's latest TV ad continues to play up her gender, and both candidates are facing ethics troubles. And we thought South Carolina politics were messy. (Previous ranking: N/A)

1. Colorado Senate (R, Aug. 10): Just when Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck looked like he was going to pull off an upset against former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, he made a series of impolitic comments -- the most potentially damaging of which was calling elements of the Tea Party "dumbasses". A poll conducted by a major Republican firm looking in at the governor's race in the last few days showed Norton ahead 45 percent to 40 percent, which suggests that Buck has incurred considerable political damage. (Previous ranking: 3)

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 30, 2010; 2:24 PM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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