Norton campaign counters with poll showing lead over Buck

A primary election of all mail-in ballots would give Jane Norton an advantage in her contest with prosecutor Ken Buck for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, Norton’s campaign said Tuesday.

Norton campaign officials outlined their approach after unveiling poll results that showed Norton with a six-point lead among likely GOP primary voters. The Norton poll by Public Opinion Strategies comes on the heels of a Denver Post/9News poll showing Buck up 53 percent to 37 percent over Norton among likely Republican primary voters.

The poll touted by her campaign showed Norton, a former lieutenant governor and a Grand Junction native, up 39 percent to 33 percent over Buck, the current Weld County district attorney, among Republicans in general.

Buck’s campaign said the poll misses the bigger picture, which shows Buck trending upward and Norton sliding down in the polls.

Key to the Norton campaign approach and the polling data is the mail-in ballot, Norton campaign manager Josh Penry said. Experience in other states, notably Oregon, suggests participation will rise sharply with mail-in ballots over traditional polling-place balloting, and that will work to Norton’s advantage, Penry said.

“The more people vote, the better Jane Norton does,” Penry said.

In particular, Norton leads among women by 12 percentage points, while she is one percentage point behind Buck’s 40 percent among men, pollster Nicole McCleskey said.

In a mail-in election, more women than men tend to vote, McCleskey said.

Norton also holds an edge among Republican tea party supporters, 38 percent to 36 percent, McCleskey said.

Norton’s edge in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes much of the Western Slope and southern Colorado, is 50 percent to 17 percent, McCleskey said. Buck enjoys similar strength in his home grounds of the 4th Congressional District, she said.

Most western Colorado counties, including Mesa, Delta, Garfield, Montrose and Rio Blanco, are among the 47 counties that will conduct the primary by mail-in ballot. Weld County is among the seven counties conducting the primary by vote centers.

Buck’s general campaign consultant, Walt Klein, said the polling he is seeing suggests an entirely different conclusion than the one drawn by Norton’s campaign. Norton competes most closely with Buck among older voters, but she is on the low side of ever-wider margins as the ages of respondents decrease, Klein said.

“It’s clear to me that Ken is headed in the right direction,” he said. “I’m not so sure Norton is headed in the right direction.”

Norton aggressively will court conventional GOP primary voters and then target the people more likely to vote in mail-in elections than in more traditional methods, such as polling places and vote centers, Penry said.

Other than qualifying questions, respondents were asked only whether they supported Buck or Norton, McCleskey said.

The poll surveyed 400 likely Republican voters by telephone Sunday and Monday. It lists its margin of error at plus or minus 4.9 percent.


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