BENNET HANGS ON IN COLORADO…. Dems looking for good midterm news got some this morning in Colorado.

Appointed U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet will be elected to the U.S. Senate after pulling ahead of challenger Ken Buck this morning. […]

Bennet, a relative political unknown when Gov. Bill Ritter plucked him from his job as Denver Public Schools chief and appointed him to the post 22 months ago, benefitted from his time in Washington to establish a solid financial base for what proved a costly campaign. He raised $6 million alone to fend off primary challenger Andrew Romanoff.

Buck, the Weld County District Attorney, tapped into the anti-incumbent anger of the Tea Party movement for early momentum and a primary win over Jane Norton before moving toward the center on several issues for the general election.

A recount appears likely in the contest*, but the numbers look good for Bennet, in a race pre-election polls suggested was the closest in the country.

This is, by the way, another example that fits into a larger model — Bennet was in very deep trouble, but appears to have won thanks to Republicans nominating an extremist that made just enough mainstream voters uncomfortable.

Party leaders had hoped Buck would lose the primary. Now, it seems he’s lost the general election.

* Update: Actually, scratch that. A recount would start if Bennet’s margin was under about 3,900 votes, but at this point, it’s around 7,000. There are thousands of ballots that have not yet been counted, but they’re in a Democratic area of the state.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.