Pumping Up a Struggling Democratic Senator's Prospects in Colorado

A neutral headline hides a warm profile by Kirk Johnson of Susan Daggett, wife of Democratic incumbent Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. Western-based reporter Johnson has a history of reporting that's skewed against conservative candidates.

The headline over perpetual anti-conservative prognosticator Kirk Johnson's story from the Colorado Senate race in Colorado Springs, "Small Efforts Add Up in Colorado Senate Contest," may lead you to believe it's about the get-out-the-vote efforts of both Democrats and Republicans in the state.

But the neutral headline hides a warm profile of the Democratic candidate, incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, focusing on his wife Susan Daggett's visit to a modest Democratic gathering at a gay bar in Colorado's "most conservative city." That slant is revealed by the original online headline visible at the top at the link, "Bennet Makes Headway in Colorado Senate Race."

The Senate race in Colorado has seen as intense a barrage of television attack ads as any race in the country, tens of millions of dollars worth, numbing voters with the din.

But on a recent evening at the Underground Bar, a brick-walled gay hangout here in Colorado's second-largest and perhaps most conservative city, a quieter political strategy reigned.

Against a background of clinking wine glasses, a group of perhaps 40 women - lesbian and straight, but Democratic enthusiasts all - had gathered to meet and listen to Susan Daggett, the wife of Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat struggling to hold on to his office in a tight race against Ken Buck, a Republican prosecutor and Tea Party favorite.

Ms. Daggett, 46, an environmental lawyer who met her future husband in law school, has come to this area dozens of times in recent months to cultivate votes and volunteers in what might seem hard and rocky soil; Colorado Springs and the surrounding county, El Paso, gave Senator John McCain, a 58 percent majority in 2008, in a year when President Obama won this state.

Johnson let a spokesman for Republican Ken Buck argue that "drilling down to the small scale for voter allegiance and loyalty" was a trouble sign for Bennet. Johnson then helpfully relayed comments by Buck construed by some as anti-gay, before concluding with an apparently cute anecdote about new star Susan Daggett.

As the evening wore on at the Underground, it was also clear that Ms. Daggett had moved into a kind of celebrity status, however much she talked about her husband.

"When are you going to run for office yourself?" one woman leaned in to ask as Ms. Daggett made the rounds.

Ms. Daggett immediately demurred, saying, "I don't think so."

"But you're so much cuter," the woman replied.