DENVER
10/18/2010 02:32 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Ken Buck's Debate Performance Gives Bennet Momentum, Heightens Interest In Colo. Senate Race

One statement by Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck is already being talked about as a potential turning point in the Colorado Senate race.

On Sunday, during a nationally-televised debate with Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet, Meet the Press host David Gregory asked Buck why he believed being gay was a choice. Buck responded by saying "I think that birth has an influence over it, like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically, you have a choice."

Buck spokesman Owen Loftus was quick to clarify that Buck did not mean to imply that homosexuality was akin to a disease. Rather "[Buck] was just saying there's an element of predisposition there and an element of choice."

Nonetheless, groups like the Washington D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign attacked Buck's comments as "ill-informed," "factually inaccurate" and "extremely dangerous."

Bennet wasted little time in declaring Buck's views to be "outside the mainstream."

Democrats have made attacking Buck's stances on social issues like abortion, gay rights and women's issues a key part of their strategy. Buck, the Weld County DA, spent much of last week parrying attacks that he had treated an alleged date rape victim insensitively when he decided not to take her case to jury in 2005.

After the debate, news organizations like the National Journal described Buck's performance as "defensive," claiming the Republican had "opened the door" for Bennet. Politico called Buck's performance "shaky."

Buck's debate woes comes on the heels of a new Rasmussen poll, released Saturday, which showed Bennet trailing by just two points, Buck's smallest lead in any of Rasmussen's polls this year.

Mark Blumenthal reports:

In Colorado, Rasmussen shows Buck's lead over Bennet narrowing to just two percentage points (47% to 45%), the closest margin obtained by Rasmussen in the race so far this year. Although most surveys conducted in September had Buck leading by between 4 and 8 percentage points, a poll from Democratic affiliated Public Policy Polling (PPP) two weeks ago gave Bennet a one-point edge (46% to 45%) and an internal poll released at about the same time by the Bennet campaign showed him with a three-point advantage (44% to 41%).

The new surveys narrow Buck's lead on pollster.com/Huffington Post's standard trend estimate to less than four points (48.1% to 44.5%), just enough to move the race back into the toss-up category.