By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 6:40 PM
Ken Buck has a message for President Obama and the leadership of his own party: He'll make no compromises if he gets to Washington.
Obama and some Republican leaders might feel pressure to work cooperatively on various major issues next year, including the deficit. If the comments by Buck, Colorado's Republican Senate nominee, are any indication, the conservatives trying to win races this fall have a different view of what their mandate will be.
Buck, who is in a tight race with appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D), said in an interview that he would be willing to work with Democrats on some issues of importance to Colorado, but not on the issues that have defined the midterm elections.
"I think it's wrong to compromise your values to fit in with the social climate in Washington, D.C.," he said. "When it comes to spending, I'm not compromising. I don't care who, what, when or where, I'm not compromising."
Buck said his goal is to bring the Republican Party back to conservative principles, almost as much as it is to roll back the Obama agenda. "I think the Republican Party is every bit as much to blame for the mess we're in now as the Democrats," he said.
When Republicans were in power, he said, they spent too much money, allowed the government to grow too much and made commitments that are unrealistic. "I think Republicans drifted, and I think we're bringing them back to the base and the core message," he said.
If Buck wins, he could join what is shaping up to be one of the most conservative groups of freshman senators in a generation. Many, including him, were opposed by the party leadership in the primaries. "We haven't fit the mold the [National Republican Senatorial Committee] originally intended," he said.
But the prosecutor insisted that the conservative insurgents are not all cut from the same mold. "It's something I get frustrated about. You want to lump all of us together and say we all think alike. We have a lot in common, but there are differences within that class and I will be very proud to join that class."
Asked to describe the differences between the tea party favorites and the other conservatives running for the Senate, Buck said, "We are diverse in terms of geography. A senator from Alaska, a senator from Florida. . . . Can I tell you what we agree on or disagree on? I can't, because I just haven't studied other candidates."
Buck has been criticized for changing or modifying controversial statements and clarifying off-the-cuff comments. The Denver Post, in an editorial endorsing Bennet with qualifications, summed it up this way: "He'd trip over his feet more often in his march to the center if they weren't in his mouth. Buck's critics now call his tap dance 'Buckpedaling.' "
Asked whether he would be in a more comfortable position in the race without some of his verbal miscues, he said, "What's a verbal gaffe?" Later he said his opponent and his critics are trying to cloud the debate. "So many of these quote-unquote gaffes are made-up nonsense to distract voters from the economic issues that are so important," he said.
Buck said the contest with Bennet is competitive for two reasons: "I think the race is where it is because they're outspending us on commercials and lying about the record and they're trying to keep it close by not getting to the issues that people care about."
Buck's assessment overlooks the fact that outside groups have been spending millions on television ads to promote his candidacy and attack Bennet, according to a recent article in The Washington Post. Colorado is among the states that have the most outside money funding negative ads.
Trevor Kincaid, Bennet's campaign spokesman, responded by saying, "If Ken Buck is having trouble keeping track of all his extreme positions, we're more than happy to play the tapes for him and send him a packet of news stories."