Senate-race shock waves come with territory

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When U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner changed course last week from re-election mode to pursuit of the Senate, it was a reminder of just how critical Colorado is in the national political landscape.

Gardner was well on his way to being voted back to Washington in the 4th Congressional District, a Republican stronghold made up of farming-based eastern plains counties and conservative Denver suburbs. The congressman’s decision was a personal gamble — if he loses, he’s out of a job — but not so much for the GOP, which seeks to regain control of the upper house.

For the Republicans, it was simply putting their best foot forward. The 39-year-old Gardner, labeled a “rising star” in the party in virtually every media report, gives the GOP a against Democratic incumbent Mark Udall. That’s something that couldn’t be said with any confidence about the previous field of candidates, which included Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.

Meanwhile, Buck has shifted his sights to Gardner’s House seat, which, unless a high-profile Republican primary challenger emerges, he should be able to garner.

The maneuvering strikes us as shrewd, but with Colorado’s primary elections still nearly four months away and the general election eight months off, it’s enough to give some the purple-state blues.

Indeed, until the first Tuesday in November, it’s going to be all politics, all the time in this battleground state. If you’re squeamish, you might want to look away as:

• Republican Congressman Mike Coffman wages a fight for his political life against Democrat Andrew Romanoff, Colorado’s former speaker of the House. The race is for the 6th Congressional District seat, a post that represents residents of Aurora, Centennial, Highlands Ranch and Littleton, among other areas. Like the Senate battle, it is one that looms large on both major parties’ national radar, and campaigning is already at a fever pitch.

• Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper works to fend off a Republican challenger chosen from among a slew of contenders. The field already includes former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler.The race now includes former Congressman Bob Beauprez, who announced his run this week. His entry certainly enlivens the race and perhaps gives the GOP a better shot at unseating Hickenlooper, which if achieved, would be a coup celebrated by Republicans across the country.

• Republican lawmakers, fueled by the frustration of taking a pounding in consecutive sessions, pull no punches in their attempt to take back the state Legislature. Many issues will be discussed, but make no mistake, the centerpiece is the Second Amendment. The GOP will try to turn gun control legislation passed by the state’s Democratic lawmakers in 2013 against them, and national party leaders on both sides will be watching. This could get really nasty.

There’s an old phrase, one we embrace, that says, “All politics is local.” To that, given the current political climate, we add, “… unless you’re in Colorado.”